It’s hittin’ season once again in Philadelphia

The winningest manager in Phillies history is once again in the dugout.

Charlie Manuel has returned to coaching and has taken over as hitting coach for the Phillies after the team fired John Mallee on Tuesday. The move was first reported by Todd Zolecki and later confirmed by the team. Manuel will join the team on Wednesday and will remain in his new position for the rest of the season. 

The Phillies currently rank near the bottom of baseball in average (24th), slugging (23rd), and home runs (23rd). Those rankings are even worse since the All Star Break (27th, 27th, and 24th respectively). Many of their star players are under-performing offensively, and the team sits in 4th place in the NL East but is just 2 games out of an NL Wild Card spot. 

Analysis

A change needed to be made. The Phillies’ front office had to hold someone accountable for the team severely under-performing to preseason expectations, especially following a big offseason. Mallee was the logical scapegoat as the team does not appear willing to pull the plug on manager Gabe Kapler just yet.

Mallee had success in his previous stints with the Astros and Cubs, winning the World Series in 2016 with Chicago but was curiously fired not long after. The main thing that doomed him in Philadelphia was the under-performance of big name players. Bryce Harper, Jean Segura, and Rhys Hoskins – to name a few – have played below most of their career averages. Meanwhile, former players such as Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford have found success elsewhere. 

Manuel, of course, knows a lot about hitting. He has overseen some prolific offenses and has been credited by numerous players with improving their game, including Phillies legend Ryan Howard and Hall of Famer Jim Thome. Thome was with the Cleveland Indians the last time Manuel was a hitting coach from 1994 to 1999. 

What’s new is old and what’s old is new

Manuel’s presence brings a curious clash of old school vs. new school to the Phillies. The Phillies have overhauled their fundamental philosophy in recent years to focus more on analytics over gut feeling and instinct. Hiring Manuel is a massive shift in that philosophy. Manuel doesn’t necessarily ignore analytics but is much less reliant on things like launch angle as Mallee was. 

Manuel, who is 75 years old, represents much more of the old school style of thinking than Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, who is as new school as it gets. It will be interesting to see how these two approaches mesh over the final two months of the season. Will a good balance of both help propel the Phillies into the postseason or will the two not be able to coexist?

Another factor at play is how is Gabe Kapler going to handle the inevitable “WE WANT CHARLIE!” chants in the ninth inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park that the Phillies are losing. Will the embattled Kapler be able to handle having one of the most beloved figures in Phillies history in the dugout with him?