CINCINNATI -- First-year Phillies hitting coach Matt Stairs oozes positivity when he talks about approach and game plan with his hitters.
But on Friday, before the Phillies play their home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park, Stairs will mention a couple of negatives.
Like the team's home batting average of .230 last season.
And the team's home on-base percentage of .291 last season.
Not only were both marks the worst in the majors last year, they were the worst in franchise history since official record keeping began in 1913.
"I'll remind them, absolutely," Stairs said. "I'll pull up the numbers. Numbers don't lie.
"That's the only negative thing I'll bring up, though. This is a new year."
The Phillies scored a majors-low 610 runs last season and finished 29th out of 30 clubs in batting average (.240) and on-base percentage (.301), so it stands to reason they would not have been very good at home.
But there was a serious discrepancy in their home and road splits. On the road, they hit .250, which ranked 21st in the majors, and had a .310 on-base percentage, 23rd in the majors. They scored 52 more runs on the road than they did at home.
So what gives?
Stairs, who spent the last three seasons in the broadcast booth, thinks the reason was actually rather simple.
"Smaller park," he said, referring to the cozy dimensions at Citizens Bank Park. "Guys over-swing trying to hit the ball out. That's what it looked like to me watching from the booth. On the road they used the whole field more."
Bench coach Larry Bowa saw the same thing.
"Small ballpark," he said. "Swings get long and loopy.
"We're basically a line-drive hitting team. We're not going to win, 9-8. We're going to win, 4-3, 3-2. Good pitching, catch the ball, runner on third with less than two outs, get him home. That's how we'll win. If you hit a good line drive, it will go out.
"Also, in fairness, we have a lot of good pitching in our division. It's not like we're facing patsies."
He's right about that.
The Phillies face reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on Friday. He is 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 career starts against the Phillies and 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts at Citizens Bank Park.
Cameron Rupp's home-road splits did not match the team's last season. He hit .266 with a .776 OPS at home as opposed to .239/.725 on the road.
"If you stay with your approach and your plan, you'll have success anywhere," he said. "When you get off it, you give away at-bats. That's what Stairsy has been preaching: have quality at-bats. In a hitters park sometimes you try to do too much. We can't do that. We have to stay with our approach."
That's what Stairs will tell his hitters as they head home to face Scherzer on Friday.
"Stay gap to gap," he said.