Phillies hitting coach sees positive signs, says, ‘The worm is going to turn'


Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long knows the numbers, good and bad.

He knows the team was held to one or zero runs in seven of its first 25 games, including Wednesday night in a 2-1 loss to the Texas Rangers in 10 innings.

That’s frustrating.

But he also knows the team ranks at the top of the National League in hard-hit balls.

That’s encouraging.

“We hit 11 balls over 95 mph Wednesday night,” Long said. “Does that sound like a shutout? It sounds to me like the worm is going to turn.

“I trust the guys. I trust what we’re doing. It’s not fun getting shut out. It’s not fun getting one-runned. That’s not what we’re looking for. But it’s not for lack of effort, or our approach not being good, or not knowing what the opposition is going to do. We’re just a bit inconsistent at this point, but there’s some luck involved, which I think will change.”

Through 25 games, the Phillies hit 269 balls that came off the bat at 95 mph or better. That’s the most in the NL. Their hard-hit percentage (95 mph or better) was also tops in the league at 43.7 percent.

“We just have to hope the ball hits the grass a little more,” Rhys Hoskins said after Wednesday night’s loss.

If not on the grass, then over the wall.

Hoskins nearly hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night. According to Statcast, the ball came off the bat at 105 mph at an angle of 27 degrees. Since this type of data began to be recorded in 2015, that ball had been a home run 91.2 percent of the time.

A year ago, Hoskins’ ninth-inning drive likely would have been a game-winning homer, not an out at the warning track.

Major League Baseball mandated the use of a humidor to store baseballs in all stadiums this season. Balls are stored at 57 percent relative humidity for several weeks before being used in a game.

The humidor has taken some of the jump out of the ball.

“It has affected the ball 100 percent,” Long said. “These balls are all stopping at the warning track. And it's because of the balls. They're not going as far. The ball is softer. You can feel it.”

The humidor could conceivably affect a team that is built to slug, like the Phillies, more than others.

Pre-humidor, “the ball doesn’t have to be perfect on the barrel and a lot of times it’ll go out,” Long said. “But now they’re having to absolutely crush them and even when they crush them they’re still not going out.

“It’s affecting offense for sure. But it’s equal for everybody.”

Offense is down across the game so while the Phillies have been inconsistent offensively, they still entered Thursday ranked in the top 10 in the majors in runs per game (4.44), batting average (.244), OPS (.718) and homers (26).

Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber, both hitting under .200 entering Thursday, ranked 13th and 26th, respectively, in the majors with hard-hit percentages of 54.2 and 49.1. Bryce Harper ranked 15th at 52.9 percent.

All of this leads Long to believe that brighter days are coming for the Phillies.

“Everybody is frustrated because you want to win and we’re not winning,” he said. “But I’m excited about this team and our offense. I’m not discouraged at all. I like the cast of characters we have and I know they’re good.”

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