The San Diego Padres are now looking for a new hitting coach.
According to San Diego Padres beat writer Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribue, Matt Stairs will not return to the team for the 2019 season. Infield coach Josh Johnson will also not be returning to San Diego next year.
Stairs was the ninth hitting coach for the Padres over the last 15 years, and like his many of his predecessors, failed to improve one of the worst offensive ballclubs in Major League Baseball.
Under one season with Stairs, the Padres finished 28th in the league in team batting average (.235), 30th in on-base percentage (.297), 27th in slugging percentage (.380), and 28th in OPS (.677). Compared to the 2017 season, San Diego increased their team batting average by one point and lowered their OBP by two points. There was also a 13 point drop in slugging percentage and a 15 point drop in OPS.
The biggest success Matt Stairs seemed to have in 2018 was the adjustment of Manuel Margot and his approach at the plate, however, while it provided immediate success for the young center fielder, it appears that Margot’s biggest struggle came from within. His inability to string together consistent starts led an up and down sophomore season in San Diego.
Per Kevin Acee, the team is not expecting to search outside the organization for their 10th hitting coach in 16 seasons. The two leading candidates, at the moment, appear to be assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington and AAA El Paso Chihuahuas hitting coach, Morgan Burkhart.
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Promoting Morgan Burkhart may be the best option here, especially if the Padres decide to retain the services of a few specific players. Hunter Renfroe was sent down to El Paso early on in 2018 and proceeded to have a fantastic year in the pros, afterward (Fantastic meaning he showed a lot of growth, patience, and power at the plate. He still has a way to go but he showed some of the best growth in the organization).
Franmil Reyes was another success story for the 2018 San Diego Padres. He struggled in his initial stint with the big league club (40% strikeout rate) but hit .308 in August (17 strikeouts) and .326 in September (21 strikeouts) after being sent down to El Paso in July. Can we attribute this to Burkhart? We don’t know, but Renfroe and Reyes are just two examples of Padres hitters getting it into gear after working with the Chihuahuas hitting coach.