The Philadelphia Phillies continued to overhaul their coaching staff this week, hiring former Washington Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long to the same role, the team announced Wednesday.
Long is an intuitive fit with the Phillies, as he has connections to both manager Joe Girardi and superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Long was a member of Girardi's staff with the New York Yankees for several years, and he was widely credited for helping longtime outfielder Curtis Granderson tap into his raw power. Long later had multi-year stints with the New York Mets and with the Nationals, where he worked with Harper for a season before Harper departed via free agency.
"I have had a long-standing relationship with Kevin and have seen his work up close and in person for years," Girardi said in a statement. "I truly believe he is the best in the business and will have a huge impact on our offense."
Long will be attempting to improve a Phillies offense that sputtered under former hitting coach Joe Dillon. The Phillies as a unit ranked 13th in the majors in runs scored as well as 20th in wRC+. (wRC+ is a FanGraphs metric that adjusts for ballpark, among other variables, and properly weighs on-base percentage.) The Phillies had two particular disappointments in their lineup, in third baseman Alec Bohm and shortstop Didi Gregorius.
Top executive Dave Dombrowski has since admitted that Gregorius may not enter next spring slotted in as the Phillies' starting shortstop, and that the team will pursue a "middle-of-the-order" hitter this winter.
The change at hitting coach isn't the only alteration the Phillies have made this offseason. They also hired Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly's son, Preston, to run their farm system. The Phillies still have to hire a new infield coach after dismissing Juan Castro, and will work with Long to find a new assistant hitting coach.
The Phillies' moves come in response to them extending their playoff drought to 10 years in a row. The Phillies have finished with a .500 or better record just three times over that stretch, including this season.