On August 13th, 2019, the Philadelphia Phillies welcomed back Charlie Manuel with open arms as the Phillies hitting coach, relieving John Mallee of his duties. On, August 14th, 2019, Philadelphia took to the diamond and batter’s box for the first time with Manuel as the hitting coach. What followed was an eruption of hits and runs to secure a win against the Chicago Cubs, 11-1. This isn’t a year that Cole Hamels has struggled on the mound. While Aaron Nola did his part through seven innings, he kept a Cubs team in check who usually is hitting the ball around the field. While this win was a team victory, the spotlight was on the hitting and the offensive production.
The eye test that is overlooked in the management of baseball teams. As obvious as that sounds, this is a game that is being overtaken vastly my analytics. A batter that works a pitch count to try to get on the base looks good on the stat line because of the on-base percentage. That doesn’t decay the batting average or help the batting average, however. A lot of times this season, the Philadelphia Phillies fans have watched called strike three’s or players swing because they are down in the count. Yesterday, a lot of the hits that resulted in runs were taken within the first two pitches of the at-bat. Charlie Manuel is telling his players to bully that pitcher off his mound.
Against Cole Hamels, who received a standing ovation in his return back to Philadelphia, struggling Philadelphia Phillies batters such as Rhys Hoskins, Roman Quinn, and even Aaron Nola were able to rake hits and runs. Hoskins crossed home plate twice and scored Cesar Hernandez on a sacrifice fly. Adam Haseley scored Quinn and so did Nola on a single to left field. It wasn’t only the players that have been struggling at the plate who showed up on Charlie Manuel’s 2019 debut. The players who the fans expected to perform at a high level seemed to come alive!
Let’s take a peek at Bryce Harper’s night. He went three for three, including a two-run home run to score Rhys Hoskins in the first inning and a solo home run later in the sixth inning. For all the times that Harper was told he was “overrated” this season, his work with Charlie Manuel could make him the hitter we know he is. JT Realmuto hit a grand slam to keep the trend going. Cesar Hernandez is still seeing the ball well. If improvement continues while Manuel is the hitting coach, the lineup could be as scary as it seemed at the beginning of this season. While analytics can help, the eye test is what matters. Numbers and situations can represent itself only when, at that moment, the actions are executed.
The Philadelphia Phillies know that Charlie Manuel is only going to be an interim hitting coach. As quickly as Manuel accepted to come back this season as hitting coach, it was determined that he had no aspirations to manage an MLB team. He isn’t coming for Gabe Kapler’s job. He isn’t even coming for the batting coach position for the long term. Next season, Manuel will be back to being “Cholly.” He feels an “obligation to John Middleton” and also the Phillies.
If the Philadelphia Phillies can make a run for the playoffs, let’s give one final deep drive for Charlie Manuel. Either way, the Phillies front office needs to realize that an eye for baseball, as Manuel has, is special for having a well-coached team. Analytics can only get you so far in building an efficient roster. Installing confidence along with talent creates a new identity, which is one that Philadelphia needs. This series against the Cubs will be a telling series about the influence “Uncle Cholly” has on the team for the remainder of the season. The Phillies have a stellar record when they score four runs in a baseball game. Eleven last night usually means there isn’t much left in the tank following. However, that can change. Gabe Kapler needs to take note of Manuel.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports