Phil Plantier

Phil Plantier is a hitting coach? Really?


In case you missed it, the Padres announced over the weekend that they had hired Phil Plantier as their new hitting coach, replacing Randy Ready. It was a pretty meteoric rise for a guy who was coaching at Point Loma Nazarene University three years ago. Plantier was the Mariners’ minor league hitting coordinator in 2010 and the hitting coach for high-A Lake Elsinore in the Padres’ chain to start the 2011 season.

But while that’s interesting enough, the more notable fact is that the Padres are hiring Phil Plantier as their hitting coach. This is a guy who competed with catchers to see who could squat lower when he was at the plate. It’s like he was sitting on an imaginary chair two feet off the ground.

Plantier was my favorite player in the early-90s. When he burst onto the scene with the Red Sox in 1991, the New Hampshire native created a minor sensation in New England. Living in Maine at the time, I met him and got his autograph at a card show. I had a Plantier t-shirt that I adored.

(Even today, Plantier’s page in the Rotoworld database is my Internet Explorer home page. I wanted a player page that was completely empty, making it quicker to load, and since Plantier has been out of baseball since 1998, it doesn’t get any emptier than that. I have no idea why he wasn’t purged from the database a decade ago.)

Plantier was also really, really good, if only for a brief spell. As a 22-year-old rookie, Plantier hit .331/.420/.615 with 11 homers in 53 games in 1991. That was before the offensive explosion that followed, and Plantier’s slugging percentage and OPS would have led the AL at those rates.

Plantier, though, had a rough go of it in 1992, hitting .246/.332/.361 with seven homers in 349 at-bats. The Red Sox opted to trade him to the Padres for middle reliever Jose Melendez after that season. It was probably the first baseball trade that I absolutely loathed. Melendez proved completely worthless to Boston, getting hurt and throwing just 19 innings in two seasons before his career came to an end.

Meanwhile, Plantier busted out in San Diego, hitting .240/.335/.509 with 34 homers and 100 RBI in 138 games. He finished seventh in the NL in homers and ninth in RBI.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much it for him. Injuries limited Plantier to 96 games the next season, and he hit just .220/.302/.440. He became a journeyman afterwards, playing for Houston, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis again. Something of a “Moneyball player” before Moneyball, he ended his career with a .243/.332/.439 line and 91 homers in 1,883 at-bats. But Plantier was more a victim of injuries than of managers not appreciating him because of his low average.

Now the guy with the funky stance who struggled to hit better than .250 is going to try to teach others to hit. And I’m finding myself rooting for him again.

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
1 Comment

John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
1 Comment

Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

cardinals logo

The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.