By: Chris Larson
Earlier this morning, the Philadelphia Phillies officially announced that they had fired their former hitting coach, John Mallee, and brought in beloved Philadelphia icon, Charlie Manuel. Manuel is beloved throughout the city and the Phillies fanbase because of his significant impact on the team during his tenure as skipper from 2005-2013.
During that span of time, Manuel helped lead the Phillies to a World Series Championship in 2008 and an NL Pennant the following season. Over that span, Manuel helped the organization amass a cumulative record of 780-636, good enough for a (.551) winning percentage during the regular season, and helped the organization achieve a 27-19 record, or a (.587) winning percentage, once the postseason rolled around.
To say that Charlie Manuel only had a little impact on the Philadelphia Phillies organization, the city of Philadelphia, and their entire fan base would be a massive understatement. During those seasons, Manuel showed that he can handle the pressures that come with playing in a big market like Philadelphia, that he has the charisma and personality to make tough decisions when they matter the most, and that he knows exactly how to get the attention of the entire fanbase. That's why he ended up becoming such an icon and why he is still so highly respected even in a different role, one that he held nearly 20 years ago with the same organization.
Beyond all of those obvious qualifications, the Philadelphia Phillies have been sluggish all season long at the plate and just haven't found a way to turn up the heat on their opponents especially over the past month. Heading into play tonight, the Phillies lineup has combined for a batting line of: .245/.322/.417 over the span of 4,050 at bats. When you compare that to the rest of baseball, it puts the Phillies 24th in batting average, 18th in on-base percentage, and 23rd in overall slugging percentage. Furthermore, the Phillies rank 23rd in home runs (149), 20th in RBI (530), 8th in walks (430), and 17th in strikeouts (1,033).
Beyond that, the Phillies hitters have combined for the third worst average in baseball with situations where there are runners in scoring position. In those situations, Phillies hitters have combined for a (.219) batting average putting them ahead of only the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers in that category. Additionally, since the All-Star Break, Phillies hitters rank 26th in baseball with (4.1) runs per game, 27th in overall batting average (.240), 24th in home runs (34), and 27th in slugging percentage (.395). Granted, over that span the Phillies faced off against some tough pitching during games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and division rival Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, but the hitting has still been a struggle.
To make the argument that the entire Philadelphia Phillies lineup has underachieved would be the right thing and it's been a significantly disappointing season for a fanbase that was really energized with the type of offseason that the team had last winter. If you recall, the biggest move that the Phillies made this past winter was inking free agent outfielder and the biggest fish on the market, Bryce Harper, to a 13-year, $330 million dollar contract. Beyond that, the team also traded for catcher, J.T. Realmuto, formerly of the rival Miami Marlins, brought in shortstop Jean Segura from the Seattle Mariners, inked free agent outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a 3-year, $50 million dollar deal, and spent $23 million dollars to bring in free agent reliever, David Robertson, to help bulk up the back end of the bullpen.
Unfortunately, many of those players have been injured at various points throughout this season and the entire plan of hoping that the Phillies defensive woes from last season went away, hasn't necessarily played out either to this point. One of the other significant moves from this past offseason was when the Phillies shifted, Rhys Hoskins from left field to first base - his natural position, but that hasn't even worked out without any flaws either. Hoskins has struggled overall from a defensive perspective at first base. Therefore, it's hard to put the entire blame on the offense because of the defensive woes and the struggles of the pitching staff, but the offense has certainly played it's part into why the Phillies haven't been able to keep up with the aforementioned Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, along with the recently surging New York Mets, in their pursuit of the National League East crown.
However, although they haven't been able to stay in the race for first place in the National League East, they remain in serious consideration for one of the NL Wild Card spots. Heading into play today, the aforementioned Washington Nationals currently occupy the first NL Wild Card spot, while the St. Louis Cardinals would have the second NL Wild Card spot if the postseason started today. Meanwhile, the Phillies sit just 2 games back in the race and with the change in hitting coach, anything is possible at this point.
Just a few weeks ago, Philadelphia Phillies General Manager, Matt Klentak, vouched for skipper, Gabs Kapler and his entire coaching staff, but over those past few weeks it has become more obvious than ever that a new voice was needed as was an entirely new game plan to the way that Phillies hitters approach opposing team's pitching. As the numbers mentioned above illustrated, the Phillies have struggled to find that spark in their lineup to this point, but with Charlie Manuel in the fold now, that might end up being the only spark the lineup needs.
After all, not only is Charlie Manuel back in the dugout where he helped lead the team to a World Series Championship back in 2008, but he is back on the field impacting the organization and the fanbase that sincerely appreciates him and all that he brings to the field everyday. While the season hasn't necessarily gone as planned for the Phillies thus far, the hiring of Charlie Manuel is a positive step in the right direction and hopefully one that results in much better results at the plate over the remaining 44 games of the season for the Philadelphia Phillies.
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