The Phillies made a handful of moves last offseason, many with the intention of improving the offense.
Perhaps the biggest move — and the most surprising — was when they elected to promote Matt Stairs from the television booth to the Phillies’ hitting coach. It was a move that faced questioning early on, but after nearly a month and a half of baseball, the move is quietly paying off.
Now there’s no one stat, or really any true way of determining a coach’s impact — but the raw numbers suggest the Phillies are on an improved offense, and some of that surely is a result of Stairs.
The Phillies enter Sunday five games below .500 but just two games back of the second-place New York Mets. That may not seem like much, but for a team who has one eye toward the future, any progress is good progress.
That progress can be seen in their offensive numbers. The Phillies are batting .253, which is 13 points higher than they did last season. They’re also averaging 4.52 runs per game, good enough for ninth in the National League. In 2016, the Phillies were last in the league at 3.77 runs per game.
“It’s good to see the offense come alive like that,” said manager Pete Mackanin after the Phillies put up seven runs on the Marlins a week and a half ago. This also has been a statement that the skipper has said more than once, a sign of the strides this offense has made.
Across the board, the numbers all seem to be better than last. Their slugging percentage is up nearly 40 points, on-base percentage has increased by 20 points and their OPS is close to 50 points better.
Cesar Hernandez has really seen his swing come full-circle this season with a team-high .339 average after batting .294 the season before. So, too, has Aaron Altherr, who also can credit being 100 percent healthy and has earned the playing time, even garnering some praise from general manager Matt Klentak during the Cubs series.
How much has Stairs’ presence impacted any of those two?
Again, it’s hard to pinpoint anything, but it’s also tough to rule it out as just a coincidence when the team’s overall numbers all have seen a tick upwards with a lineup nearly identical to 2016.
Now there’s still the inconsistencies that haunt this team and keeps them as a middling-to-below average team on the whole, but the positive trajectory is certainly refreshing.