Steve Henderson, who is the Philadelphia Phillies new lead hitting coach, finished second in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 1977 while he was playing for the New York Mets. Thirty-six years ago he had a .372 on base percentage and an .852 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage).
This 60-year-old Texas native accepted the responsibility of trying to get a team that has been known for its free-swinging ways to change its plate approach when he was hired in last fall. The former Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs hitting coach will need more than well wishes to accomplish a challenging task that Milt Thompson and Greg Gross previously were hired to address.
On the plus side, some former energetic friends will no longer be in Charlie Manuel's lineup. By that I mean Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.
Last season's on base percentage team leader Carlos Ruiz (.394) will be serving a 25-game suspension for use of a banned stimulant to begin the year. It's not possible to know how “Chooch” will perform when he returns and attempts to play without the use of his ADHD supplement, or what his energy level will be during the ending “dog days” of summer.
Jimmy Rollins will either leadoff, or be asked to occupy some other key spot in the order this season. While he's productive in spurts throughout his career, he's not an ideal leadoff hitter. His inconsistent plate approach has affected the Phillies' fortunes over the years.
Chase Utley appears to have his knee condition under control. If that status holds, his compact swing should hopefully be seen throughout the upcoming full season.
Ryan Howard's full recovery from Achilles' tendon surgery should be complete. As the team's power hitter, it's natural to expect a feast or famine approach from the big man once again. If he hits 40+ home runs and drives in 110+ runners, Henderson won't have a problem with him.
Michael Young had more hits (169) with the Texas Rangers than any Phillies' player did last season, but he also produced a .682 OPS mark. That number needs to be upgraded this year. One hundred points is a lofty goal, but let's aim high.
Ben Revere and Darin Ruf have equally positive reputations, but different levels of plate potential. Both developing players (Revere as a slap hitter and Ruf as a bomber) seem likely to listen and hopefully learn from Henderson this season.
As for all of the men who were mentioned and some of the reserves who weren't, it can never be said that the past fully predicts the future.
Henderson's role (along with that of assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner) is to ensure that the Phillies' offensive production is consistent. Early results will be visible by April.