In a year full of streaky performances and comments to the media, Rhys Hoskins is quietly putting together what could be a career-best year.
When Rhys Hoskins spoke to the Phillies’ media following his game-losing error against the Mets on June 26th, he implored the writers present to “Write about the good things too.” While the comments may have appeared as a player who is letting the negative press get to him, it appears to actually be a player who saw the diamonds under the rough of recent performances.
Hoskins is seemingly speaking from experience. Despite hitless streaks and poor defensive play in the first half, Hoskins is on pace to have a career-best year in a number of categories.
Rhys Hoskins’ Struggles Throughout the First Half
If we’re going to get to the ‘good things,’ we do need to recognize the ‘bad things’ as well. At the time of Hoskins’ comments, he owned a .230/.304/.457 slash line on the season. Earlier that month, Hoskins had a 33-at bat hitless streak that stretched from June 5th through June 15th. Then, over a week later, Hoskins had another 0-for-23 streak from June 23rd through June 29th.
Comparing this season to the last full season (2019), you can see that Hoskins has experienced an increase in his overall batting average and slugging percentage while also seeing a sharp decline in his on-base percentage.
The major factor in the drop in Hoskins’ OBP is his walk rate. Hoskins, known as a patient, disciplined presence at the plate, has struck out 93 times this season while having walked only 34 times. He is only walking 9.2% of the time this season. In 2020, Hoskins walked 15.7% of the time, much closer to his career average 14.2 BB%.
Hoskins is also striking out at a slightly larger rate, striking out 25.3% of the time, a 2.1% increase from 2020. For added context, from 2017-2020, the right-handed bat averaged 1.54 strikeouts per walk. So far this season, Hoskins is averaging 2.93 strikeouts per walk. Overall, he has dropped from the 93rd BB% percentile in 2020 to the 53rd percentile in 2021, and has also dropped from the 45th to the 27th percentile in K%, indicating that he is walking less and striking out more.
One reason contributing to Hoskins’ dropping walk rate is his shifting approach. The ever-patient batter is swinging at more first pitches than ever before in his career. A trend that began in 2020, Hoskins is now swinging at 26.1% of first pitches. In 2019, when Hoskins led the National League in walks, he swung at only 18.1% of first pitches. Additionally, Hoskins is swinging at 45.3% of pitches seen this season versus 39.2% of pitches in 2019.
Essentially, Hoskins is putting more balls in play than he had even a year ago. Overall, the first baseman is putting the ball into play in 59% of his overall plate appearances.
Typically, when a batter is striking out more, hitting for a low average, and striking out more, that means that they are focusing in on launch angle and power hitting. While Hoskins does own a team-leading 20 home runs this year, he is not doing so well in the launch angle department.
|Launch Angle||Batted Balls (%)||Hits (BABIP)||Home Runs|
|0 or lower||66 (28.6%)||10 (.152)||0|
|10 to 19||24 (10.4%)||15 (.625)||0|
|20 to 29||35 (15.2%)||24 (.686)||9|
|30 to 39||36 (15.6%)||21 (.583)||11|
|40 to 49||31 (13.4%)||7 (.226)||0|
|50 or higher||39 (16.9%)||0 (.000)||0|
With a 21.3-degree average launch angle, Hoskins is hitting his lowest launch angle since his 2017 rookie season.
|Year||Hard Hit %||Line Drive %||Ground Ball %||Fly Ball %|
Looking at his hit profile, it is clear that Hoskins is hitting into more ground balls and fewer line drives this season than in the past. That indicates that Hoskins is getting on top of the ball on a more consistent basis than in years past.
Projecting a Career-Best Year
So Rhys Hoskins is walking less, striking out more, making contact more, and grounding out more. On the surface, that looks like a recipe for disaster for a patient power-hitter known for walking and hitting an occasional home run. And yet, looking past the surface-level statistics, it appears that Hoskins is poised for a strong second half.
Entering the All-Star Break with 20 home runs on the season, Hoskins leads the team in homers and is currently tied for fifth across the National League.
Rhys is hitting the ball for an average exit velocity of 98.8 MPH on the year, placing him in the 85th percentile across Major League Baseball. His 46% Hard Hit % also has him in the 75th percentile in that category.
When a batter has the right combination of exit velocity and launch angle, that is known as “barreling” the baseball. Hoskins has a Barrel % of 14.3%, placing him in the 89th percentile across the League. So while the batter is grounding out at a higher rate, he is also hitting the ball faster, more often, and with more power than in years past.
If Rhys Hoskins performed exactly how he had in the first half of the season for the duration of the second half, complete with the ebbs and flows of a streaky hitter, Hoskins would have a career-best year in multiple categories.
|First Half (87 Games)||49||77||22||20||55||93|
|Season Pace (162 Games)||91||143||41||37||102||173|
The underlying metrics, however, indicate that Hoskins will improve upon these results in the second half of the season, however. At the end of the first half, Hoskins owned a .485 SLG. He owns an XSLG (expected slugging percentage) of .521, however. This difference indicates that Hoskins, all things considered, should have been slugging 36 points higher than the results indicated.
Hoskins’ xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average) is .353 on the season, 12 points higher than his wOBA. Looking at both stats together indicate that Hoskins is performing slightly better than it appears, and he is already on pace to break several career-bests (including a career-worst in strikeouts).
Over the past ten games, Hoskins has batted for a .324 average and a 1.179 OPS while hitting three home runs. If Hoskins can sustain the hot streak heading into the second half of the season, not only will he help the Phillies continue the team’s hot streak, but he will be even closer to a career year than he is currently.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire