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Kapler gives hitting coaches vote of confidence

Franco doesn't have concussion; Crawford starts at shortstop
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have faded in the National League East since early August, and one reason why has been an issue all season.

The offense has struggled. Entering Wednesday's game against the Nationals, Philadelphia ranked among the bottom third in the Majors in runs (613), batting average (.238), slugging percentage (.397), Weighted On-base Average (.309) and Weighted Runs Created Plus (92). The Phillies are second in baseball in pitches per plate appearances (4.02) and fourth in walk rate (9.7 percent), which they believe is a recipe for future success. But a quick glance at Philadelphia's hitting corps shows many are not performing as well as last season, most notably Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have faded in the National League East since early August, and one reason why has been an issue all season.

The offense has struggled. Entering Wednesday's game against the Nationals, Philadelphia ranked among the bottom third in the Majors in runs (613), batting average (.238), slugging percentage (.397), Weighted On-base Average (.309) and Weighted Runs Created Plus (92). The Phillies are second in baseball in pitches per plate appearances (4.02) and fourth in walk rate (9.7 percent), which they believe is a recipe for future success. But a quick glance at Philadelphia's hitting corps shows many are not performing as well as last season, most notably Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr.

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It is natural then, particularly this time of year, that questions turn to hitting coach John Mallee and assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero.

"Oh my gosh, those two are an incredible tandem," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "They have done a tremendous job. I understand why a correlation with recent struggles would bring up questions about all sorts of things, 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."

Mallee was unavailable to comment before the game.

The Phillies do not consider their offense and personnel to be finished projects -- expect them to pursue free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this offseason, which would help immensely -- but they are looking to make changes to the way hitting is taught and how their offensive philosophies are implemented. NBC Sports Philadelphia reported on Wednesday that the front office told Minor League hitting coordinator Andy Tracy, assistant hitting coordinator Frank Cacciatore, Triple-A Lehigh Valley hitting coach Sal Rende and Class A Advanced Clearwater hitting coach John Mizerock that they will not return next season.

Field coordinator Doug Mansolino has also been told he will not return, a source told MLB.com.

More changes seem likely following the recent resignation of player development director Joe Jordan, whose philosophies and style had clashed with the front office. Jordan and Tracy notably asked Rhys Hoskins a few years ago to change his stance and incorporate a leg kick. A few years later, and Hoskins is the big league club's best hitter.

Does Kapler still believe seeing pitches and working deep counts is the way to go? Has it come at the expense of hitters being their true selves and perhaps not being aggressive enough in the batter's box?

"I don't think we do tell players to go up there and see pitches," Kapler said. "That's not the directive. The directive is to be selective on pitches. Well, the same thing that I've said all the way through. [Be] especially passive on pitches outside of the zone, especially assertive and aggressive on pitches inside the zone that you can drive. That's the approach. It's not to go up there and see pitches. Seeing pitches is a byproduct of being aggressive on in pitches in the zone and taking pitches outside the zone.

"When all of those things line up, you get what Rhys Hoskins has done recently or what Carlos Santana does at his best, which is see pitches, do damage, see pitches, do damage."

Franco update
Third baseman Maikel Franco took a nasty fall into the camera well along the third-base line Tuesday. He does not have a concussion, although he sustained a bruised right shoulder and is experiencing neck tightness. Franco was not in Wednesday's starting lineup.

• Franco flips into camera well, exits game

Video: WSH@PHI: Franco flips into camera well, leaves game

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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