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October 27, 2017

Why the Phillies lost popular hitting coach Matt Stairs on Friday

The coach who stood the best chance of surviving the Phillies managerial change is instead heading west.

Matt Stairs is taking a job as the hitting coach for the San Diego Padres, a source confirmed on Friday afternoon. The impending hire was first reported by Fan Rag Sports.

Stairs, a popular member of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies, was hired as the team's hitting coach just a year ago, replacing Steve Henderson. Under Stairs tutelage, the Phils offense improved across the board in 2017.

After scoring a National League-worst 610 runs in 2016, the Phillies scored 690 runs this season. After the All-Star break, only five NL teams (the Cubs, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals) had more extra-base hits than the Phillies.

The Phillies scored 4.26 runs per game in 2017, up from 3.77 in 2016. In ’17, the Phils slashed .250/.315/.409 with 174 home runs, 494 walks, and 497 extra-base hits. They had slashed .240/.301/.385 with 161 home runs, 424 walks, and 427 extra-base hits in 2016.

Stairs’ work began prior to spring training, working with prospects Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro before camp opened in Clearwater, Fla. He also helped adjust Aaron Altherr’s mechanics, giving him a stance and set-up similar to former teammate Jayson Werth, which played a part in fueling Altherr’s breakout season.

Stairs seemed to be a safe bet to return in 2018, but when general manager Matt Klentak announced that Pete Mackanin would not be back as manager (four weeks ago today), he said that the members of the coaching staff were the equivalent of free agents and could seek work elsewhere while they were in limbo. The eventual, new manager would make the final decisions on his coaching staff, Klentak said.

And so Stairs is gone and the Phillies will need a new hitting coach for the second straight year.

It’s worth wondering if Stairs would have been an even better bet to return if the Phillies hired an in-house candidate for their new manager. The thinking: the in-house managerial hire would obviously have had a relationship with Stairs and understand his own relationship with the young players that populate the Phillies lineup.

But that is is pure speculation as the front office conducts their managerial search quietly. One in-house candidate and one outsider appear to be the finalists as the decision nears, and could arrive as early as the beginning of next week.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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