The Nationals, including hitting coach Kevin Long and players such as Juan Soto, praised Dillon’s work this season. Hitters occasionally credited his work for helping them remain productive. In late August, Dillon joked with catcher Kurt Suzuki that he hadn’t hit a home run in a while, and he suggested a drill to fix it. Suzuki kept his hands tight to his body in the cage, andnot long after, he teed off against the Baltimore Orioles. He acknowledged the home run and double, which netted him four RBI on Aug. 28, were “to Joey.”
The Phillies need Dillon’s help. The Nationals’ offense ranked eighth in the majors this season, according to one of their favorite advanced metrics, weighted runs created, while the Phillies ranked 21st. The simple statistics bear that out too — the Phillies scored nearly 100 runs fewer than the Nationals’ 873 despite the Phillies having talent in their lineup with J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper.
Dillon will bring to the Phillies the same novel approach he applied to the Nationals in 2018 when new Manager Dave Martinez hired him. Dillon used science and game-speed practice reps to connect with hitters, which is an uncommon approach in baseball. Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and Matt Adams were among the three who really responded to Dillon’s methods. The 44-year-old joining the Phillies appears to be unrelated to star outfielder Bryce Harper, who made the same switch last offseason. Harper didn’t incorporate Dillon’s drills into his routine last season.
Long said this season he expected Dillon to get a chance like this. He told The Washington Post in 2018: “I’ve got the best assistant in baseball."
Dillon is a baseball lifer. He played college ball at Texas Tech and, after being drafted in the seventh round by the Kansas City Royals in 1997, spent the next 13 years bouncing around professional baseball in the United States and Japan. He retired in 2010, then joined the Nationals organization three years later as a hitting coach for then-Class AAA Syracuse. He briefly departed the team for Miami, but in 2018, Martinez brought him back.
Dillon’s responsibilities expanded this season when Martinez left the team in September with a heart condition. Chip Hale, the team’s bench coach, stepped up to replace Martinez. First base coach Tim Bogar filled Hale’s slot, so Dillon jogged out to first base. He was a fill-in then, but now, as the lead hitting coach, he has a role of his own.