Phillies: Making sense of Rhys Hoskins’ streaky start

Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Thanks to the pandemic-shortened schedule and a season-ending September elbow injury, Hoskins played in only 41 games in 2020. He’s already more than halfway there this season, which makes comparing the following numbers more effective than if we were comparing totals from a 162-game season, because the sample sizes are more similar.

Rhys Hoskins, 2020 season (41 games) vs. 2021 season (22 games)

The good…

Hard-hit percentage is up: 42.6% → 56.1%*
Barrel percentage is up: 14.8% → 19.3%* (Top 7% of League)
Average exit velocity is up: 89.8 mph → 93.1 mph* (Top 10% of League)
Weak contact percentage is down: 3.7% → 1.8%

*Best marks of career

If you’ve watched Hoskins hit this season, especially over the last week, it’s easy to see that he’s making solid contact and driving the ball with authority quite often. His Statcast numbers back up the eye test. Hoskins’ hard-hit percentage is up 13.5 percent and his barrel percentage is up 4.5 percent in 2021, leading to a healthy jump in his average exit velocity as well.

Hoskins is posting career-best marks in all three categories, and he’s Top-10 in the majors in both barrels per plate appearance percentage and barrels per batted ball event percentage. His hard-hit rate has increased by almost 14 percent while his weak contact rate has almost been chopped in half, down from 3.7 to 1.8 percent. All encouraging trends as we head into May.

Rhys is producing these numbers while his launch angle has decreased from 24.8 to 19.9 percent, a considerable difference for a guy whose launch angle percentage has been above 22 percent every year from 2018-2020. A players’ launch angle often has to increase for their power numbers to increase, but it’s been the opposite for Hoskins so far, something to keep in mind.

Although, we can’t tell the whole story without mentioning the following trends as well.

The bad…

Walk rate is down: 15.7% → 4.3%**
Chase rate is up: 22.2% → 25.9%**
Strikeout rate is up: 23.2% → 33.7%**
Zone contact percentage down: 79% → 73.2%**

**Worst marks of career

Hoskins led the National League with 116 walks and posted a walk rate of 16.5 percent in 2019, followed by a 15.7 percent mark in 2020. But this season, that number has dropped to 4.5 percent.

Hoskins’ overall swing percentage is up almost six percent, from 41.5 to 47.3, and his whiff rate (overall swings and misses) is up from 26.6 to 31.1 percent, showing a more aggressive approach at the plate this season. That’s fine for a power-hitting first baseman, he’s just had to sacrifice some of his patented patient approach to do it.

His chase rate is also up 3.7 percent, meaning he’s swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone, and his contact percentage on pitches in the zone, which has decreased every season of his career, is down almost 6 percent. Both of those trends have led to more strikeouts and fewer walks. Again, not terribly concerning as long as when he does hit the ball, he hits it hard, because hard contact generally leads to more hits and homers over time.