PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Phillies have turned to the most successful manager in franchise history to revive their feeble offense.
The Phillies hired Charlie Manuel to replace John Mallee as hitting coach on Tuesday before a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Manuel, who was working as senior adviser to general manager Matt Klentak, will join the team Wednesday.
“We have 44 games remaining and we’re two games out of the playoffs,” Klentak said. “We have not hit well but we aren’t buried and we are not out and in my judgment with 44 games remaining, it makes sense to try something different. We are very fortunate we have Charlie Manuel as a colleague who is willing to step in, is excited to do it and feels he can help.”
Klentak said the 75-year-old Manuel is assuming his new position for the remainder of the season. Mallee joined manager Gabe Kapler’s staff last year after serving as the hitting coach for the Cubs from 2015-17.
Manuel led the Phillies to five straight division titles, two NL pennants and the franchise’s second World Series championship, in 2008.
His 780 wins as Philadelphia’s manager are the most in team history. He was 1,000-826 in nine seasons as manager of the Phillies and three seasons managing the Cleveland Indians.
Manuel previously served as hitting coach for the Indians from 1988-89 and 1994-99.
“Charlie is a great resource,” Kapler said. “I was with the Tigers when Charlie was in his heyday with the Indians. Those guys scored 1,000-plus runs. They had that confidence when they walked up to the plate, from Travis Fryman to Jim Thome to Robbie Alomar. Those guys felt good about themselves and you can see it in the batter’s box. Charlie was instrumental in that.”
The Phillies are fourth in the NL East at 60-58 but only two games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card spot with Milwaukee and the Mets also ahead of them in the race.
Their offense has underperformed despite the addition of slugger Bryce Harper, All-Star J.T. Realmuto, two-time All-Star Jean Segura and former 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in June.
The Phillies are 19th in runs, 24th in batting average (.245) and 23rd in home runs (149).
Mallee brought a philosophy that emphasized launch angle and exit velocity. While that’s considered by some to be new-school thinking, Manuel recently told The Associated Press he also believes in launch angle at the point of contact. Manuel said he has taught hitters to lift the ball on their follow through. He said too many hitters now go wrong because they uppercut before they even make contact.
“I know there is a simplistic viewpoint that we are shifting from new school to old school but it’s not that simple,” Klentak said. “I think the messenger is changing but the message will largely be the same.”
Kapler and Mallee also believe strongly in analytics, but that may have complicated things for some hitters.
“We have a balance of players who want more information and some of them who want very little,” Kapler said. “Some will literally plug their ears. They want to go up to the plate, see the ball, hit the ball. Some are thinking about their mechanics when they go up. They want to know where their elbow is, how soon their front foot gets down. Some guys devour the information.
“We can’t simplify the approach for every hitter because they don’t all want it simple. We’re going to give them information how they want it.”
Harper said he doesn’t rely much on statistics.
“Every guy is different,” Harper said. “I try to go up there, see the ball, hit the ball. You can’t put all the pressure on the hitting coach. Guys have to go out there and perform.”
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