56 days after relieving Alan Zinter of his hitting coach duties, the Padres have reportedly hired Matt Stairs to fill the position.
As a player, Stairs set a position player record by playing for 12 organizations. If the name sounds familiar to Padres fans, it should. Stairs played the role of a pinch-hit specialist for the 2010 Padres, a team that narrowly missed the postseason. He is most famously known for his 2008 NLCS home run off of Jonathan Brotxton of the Dodgers; a home run that was instrumental in the Phillies eventually going on to win their second World Series in franchise history. All in all, the Canadian hit 265 career home runs. 23 of those home runs were of the pinch-hit variety, which is an MLB record.
In 2018, the 49-year-old Stairs will be entering his second season as a MLB hitting coach. In the 2017 season, he debuted as hitting coach for the Philadelphia Phillies. Although the Phillies finished with 96 losses, the team saw improvements in nearly all of their offensive statistics across the board. Per FanGraphs, the young Phillies ballclub had a higher team batting average, more home runs, a higher BB%, an identical strikeout rate, a higher on base percentage, and a higher slugging percentage in 2017 compared to 2016. Their weighted runs created plus (wRC+) spiked up from 81 to 88 as well.
Perhaps more importantly, reports say that Stairs seemingly developed good relationships will nearly every player he worked with.
The Padres are seeking stability at a position that has had anything but that in the last decade, and they are also hoping Stairs will help their young roster develop and improve. In 2017, the Padres struggled mightily at the plate. Although they set a franchise record with 174 home runs, they struck out at a 25.2% clip (2nd worst in MLB) and hit a league-worst .234 with a .299 OBP.
The Phillies, who are seeking a new manager, told the coaching staff that the new manager will get to pick his own staff. In doing so, they allowed all of their 2017 coaches to look for jobs elsewhere. San Diego is hoping that the Phillies’ loss is their gain.