San Diego Padres Made The Right Hire In Matt Stairs

PHOENIX - APRIL 06: Matt Stairs
PHOENIX - APRIL 06: Matt Stairs /

The hiring of Matt Stairs as hitting coach may be the best offseason acquisition for the San Diego Padres. After finishing dead last in team batting average for the past several seasons, the Friars should see instant change in their offensive output.

The San Diego Padres have been one of the worst teams in baseball for a long time. However, the fan excitement has quickly risen after the signing of All-Star first baseman, Eric Hosmer. There’s also the inevitable eruption of some #HotTalentLava, who has showcased silky smooth defensive hands and brute strength at the plate early on this spring.

On October 30th, 2017, the Padres officially named Matt Stairs as  their new hitting coach. Stairs, who held the same position with the Philadelphia Phillies last year, becomes the ninth hitting coach in San Diego since 2004.

What exactly is Matt Stairs walking into? Well, the Padres have ranked 30th in Major League Baseball in team batting average each of the last four seasons.

  • 2017: .234
  • 2016: .235
  • 2015: .243
  • 2014: .226

Last season, the Padres also ranked last or near the bottom in on-base percentage (.299), slugging (.393), OPS (.692), runs scored (604), and strikeout rate (25%).

What does Matt Stairs bring to the San Diego Padres?

A 19-year veteran of the major leagues, Stairs wants to bring the mentality that made him a very good pro-player to San Diego.

He finished with a career slash line of .262/.356/.477/.832 and holds the league record for career pinch-hit home runs with 23. He added 265 career home runs, 294 doubles, and a K/BB ratio of 1,122/717. That’s an average of just 96 strikeouts per 162 games over the course of his career.

In just one season with the Phillies, Stairs made great strides in improving the Philadelphia offense. As a team, the Phillies increased their batting average10 points, on-base percentage by 14 points, slugging percentage by 24 points, and OPS by 38 points.

One can attribute the early success of Matt Stairs as a hitting coach to his approach to coaching. In an interview with Dennis Lin (then of the San Diego Union-Tribune), Stairs explained,

It’s about “working the count, being a stubborn hitter, hitting off the fastball in a certain area and if they make a mistake in that area with off-speed, you’re still ready to hit.”

During the first spring training broadcast, Stairs reiterated that the biggest focus of Padres’ hitters needs to be on limiting the number of wasted at-bats. He noted how quickly wasted at-bats add up throughout a season, leading to less runners on base which leads to fewer runs. A simple and obvious point, but one obviously not followed by San Diego hitters over the last few seasons.

Padres’ manager Andy Green commented that Stairs communicates “clearly, plainly, and effectively.” Even as a fan, you walk away highly impressed after Matt Stairs speaks. His down-to-earth and straight-forward personality works in connecting with his athletes.

Just ask Freddy Galvis. Galvis worked with Stairs in Philadelphia last season and is highly impressed with his coaching abilities. In an interview with San Diego Union-Tribune Padres‘ beat writer Kevin Acee, Galvis claimed that Stairs is “a guy you want to have on the bench. He knows how to read the pitchers. He knows almost everything about hitting.”

The early impact on the San Diego Padres.

We’re only a week into spring training, however, early results are positive for the Padres.

More from Friars on Base

As of February 27th, they lead all teams in walks, with 21 through four games. The team batting average currently sits at just .227, but their .338 on-base percentage is ranked 16th best in baseball. San Diego sits eighth in slugging percentage at .461 and 12th in OPS at .799.

In each of their first four games of spring training, the Padres have drawn more walks than their opponents. If this trend continues, San Diego will quickly find themselves climbing up the major league ranks in every offensive category.

Next: Can The Padres Find A Spot For RHP Tyson Ross?

If you’re a subscriber to The Athletic, Dennis Lin conducted a great interview with Stairs just a few days ago. You can check it out here and see for yourself ($) just how passionate about hitting Matt Stairs is. His discussion of launch angles and squaring up the barrel of the bat will, hopefully, have the biggest impact on Eric Hosmer. We’ll take a good look at his early at-bats this spring and see if he’s taking Stairs’ advice.