On the day it was learned that the Phillies parted ways with four minor-league hitting coaches (see story), it was only natural that Gabe Kapler be asked about the hitting coaches on his big-league staff.
Kapler threw his enthusiastic support behind head hitting coach John Mallee and assistant Pedro Guerrero.
"Oh, my gosh, those two are an incredible tandem," Kapler said. "They have done a tremendous job."
Under third-year general manager Matt Klentak and first-year manager Kapler, the Phillies have stressed an offensive approach that involves being selective, grinding out at-bats, working deep counts, wearing down pitchers, getting on base and, of course, driving balls in the strike zone.
The Phils entered Wednesday night's game against Washington ranked second in the National League in both walks (518) and pitches per plate appearance (4.02).
But the team ranked well below average in a number of other categories. The Phils' .238 team batting average ranked 13th among 15 teams. The team ranked 14th in hits (1,153) and 11th in runs per game (4.26) and OPS (.713). It ranked second with 1,350 strikeouts.
Over the last five weeks, the offense has struggled as the Phillies have gone from 15 games over .500 to just four over .500. The team's postseason hopes have all but died in that span.
But Kapler remains high on his hitting coaches and the offensive style the Phillies want to employ.
"I understand why a correlation with recent struggles would bring up questions about all sorts of things," he said. "But in this particular case, I think you're talking about one of the better hitting coaches in John Mallee and a guy who has supported him in Pedro Guerrero that is off-the-charts good.
"Seeing pitches is a byproduct of being aggressive on pitches in the zone and taking pitches outside the zone. That's the approach."