November 02, 2016
The Phillies new hitting coach is guaranteed to be a popular choice among Phillies fans: they’re putting one of the heroes of the 2008 championship team back in uniform.
The team announced on Wednesday that former pinch hitter extraordinaire (and recent Phillies broadcaster) Matt Stairs has been hired as hitting coach. Stairs replace Steve Henderson, who was fired after four seasons a day after the 2016 ended.
The Phillies scored 610 runs this season, 39 fewer than the next closest team (the last place Atlanta Braves) and finished in the bottom third of all of baseball in on-base percentage and runs scored during each of Henderson’s four seasons. The rest of Pete Mackanin’s coaching coaching staff – Larry Bowa (bench), Rick Kranitz (assistant pitching), Bob McClure (pitching), John McLaren (bullpen), Mickey Morandini (first base), Juan Samuel (third base) – have agreed to contracts for the 2017 season.
One minor change among that staff: Kranitz, last year’s bullpen coach, moves to assistant pitching coach while McLaren, the former catching coach, is the new bullpen coach.
Stairs, 48, has spent the last three seasons sharing television color commentator duties on Phillies broadcasts with Jamie Moyer and Ben Davis alongside play-by-play man Tom McCarthy.
With Stairs moving onto the bench, Comcast SportsNet obviously has a vacancy in its broadcast booth. But the network may be able to reel in a pretty big fish (and another popular former Phillie) to replace Stairs.
According to a source, John Kruk is in consideration for a job on the Phillies broadcast team. The 55-year-old Kruk, a Phillies Wall of Famer, three-time All-Star, and member of the 1993 NL pennant winners, parted ways with ESPN last month after working at the network for the last 13 years.
The Canadian born Stairs knowledge and wit made him a likable fixture on the boradcast, but he is obviously more well known in Philadelphia for hitting a two-out, two-run pinch home run off Jonathan Broxton to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium. Stairs was also a member of the 2009 NL pennant-winning Phillies.
Although his famous home run at Chavez Ravine doesn't count toward his total, Stairs hit 23 pinch-hit home runs in his career, the most in major league history. But the well-trailed Stairs, who played for 12 different teams in 19 big league seasons, was more than just a power-hitting pinch hitter in his career.
Stairs hit .262 with a .356 OBP and .477 slugging percentage in 1,895 games.
During his prime, from 1997 to 2008, when he played in at least 100 games each season, Stairs had 162-game averages of 26 home runs and 68 walks. In 1999, arguably his best season, Stairs hit a career-best 38 home runs and also drew 89 walks in 146 games with the Oakland Athletics.
After finishing in the bottom six in baseball in on-base percentage in each of the last three seasons, the Phillies will obviously be looking to Stairs to impart his plate discipline knowledge onto the team’s collection of young hitters. Among the 12 players who had at least 200 plate appearances with the Phillies in 2016, only four had an on-base percentage better than .310: Cesar Hernandez (.371), Odubel Herrera (.361), and utility man Andres Blanco (.316).