Analysis

Phillies desperately need Rhys Hoskins to re-engage offensively



Rhys Hoskins hits a home run at the 2018 Home Run Derby

Rhys Hoskins hits a home run at the 2018 Home Run Derby / Photo: Brian Michael

He wasn’t selected to play in the actual MLB All-Star Game this year. But as one of baseball’s most exciting young sluggers, Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins was invited to participate in the Home Run Derby the day prior to that game at Nationals Park.

Hoskins put on a strong showing, beating top-seeded Jesus Aguilar in his opening round match-up by a 17-12 margin. In the semi-finals, Hoskins was even more impressive, blasting 20 homers. However, he was knocked out when Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber got hot at the end and put up 21 of his own.

There were some who worried that Hoskins might have problems with his swing following that performance. Those concerns seemed to be completely alleviated when the 25-year-old ripped eight home runs in his first 13 games following the break. His slash line of .346/.452/.923 over 62 plate appearances during that span seemed to portend a big second half.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Not only has Hoskins cooled off since the calendar turned to August, he has virtually disappeared. Over his last eight games, Hoskins is slashing .037/.212/.037 and has not homered or driven in a run.

The Phillies dropped four of six games at Arizona and San Diego last week. Hoskins went 1-21 during the losing trip that saw the club lose their month-long grip on first place in the NL East race.

Since the team scored just 15 total runs over those half-dozen games, the blame for losing can’t rest solely on Hoskins’ shoulders. But the fact remains that the young star is the most dynamic offensive player in the current lineup. They need him to produce in order to win consistently.

Hoskins got engaged on the beach right in the middle of the trip, prior to the first game in San Diego. You don’t do something like that on the spur of the moment. There had to be some planning involved on his part. Could the anticipation of such an extremely significant personal moment have been distracting in any way?

With 45 games remaining in the 2018 regular season, Hoskins is on pace for roughly 31 homers and 101 RBI. Especially considering that he missed nearly two weeks earlier this season, and factoring in the poor offensive performances surrounding him in the lineup, that’s a pretty strong sophomore campaign for the player who finished fourth in last year’s NL Rookie of the Year voting.

But Hoskins numbers are mostly down across the board from a year ago. Last season he slashed .259/.396/.618, and in 2018 he has produced a .253/.365/.492 slash to this point. His OPS is down from 1.014 a year ago to its current .858 mark. Hoskins produced 2.0 WAR a year ago and has 0.8 WAR in the 2018 campaign.

To be fair, Hoskins ambushed opposing NL pitchers, coaching staffs, and advance scouts in 2017 when he wasn’t promoted until the second week in August. Clearly those pitchers, coaches, and scouts are adjusting.

It’s now Hoskins turn to adjust back. His big right-handed bat is entirely capable of carrying this team over the final seven weeks. If the Phillies are actually going to reach the postseason, he is going to have to figure it out.

Manager Gabe Kapler stated that Hoskins is feeling “very comfortable and confident at the plate” per Philly.com’s Scott Lauber. That may be so, or it just may be more of the rookie manager once again protecting his young players. Either way, they have to translate comfort and confidence into results at some point.

The next seven games will come at Citizens Bank Park, where the summer air and friendly confines might normally be expected to provide exactly the cure for what ails him. But the Red Sox and Mets at home, and then the Nationals in Washington the following week, are scheduled to throw some talented starting pitchers at the Phillies.

The Phillies are a poor offensive team to begin with as currently constructed. With their best hitter slumping badly, the offensive desert that has become their 2018 season is even drier than usual. If Hoskins can heat back up, the entire offense is likely to pick up. The Phillies desperately need him to re-engage offensively sooner rather than later.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tony

    August 14, 2018 at 4:50 am

    It’s not just Rhys that has been struggling of late. Santana and Odubel have been in a funk as well.

    They better wake up as the Braves just swept a doubleheader from the Marlins to open a 1 game lead & knock the Phils out of 1st.

    The Braves, who can hit scored 15 runs in the sweep beating up a last place club which the Phils didn’t do in San Diego.

    The Phils, who are better at home will need to put some runs up against the best team in baseball.
    A tall task for a team that has trouble scoring.

    • Ken Bland

      August 14, 2018 at 11:39 am

      You got quite the understatement in there when you say the Phils are better at home. In short, 38 wins against 18 drops, and the rest of the way, 5 more games at home than on the road. Not that home W-L is a be all stat, lots of underneath stats add up to it. But it’s hilarious to listen and read the know it alls bitch and moan at their negativest when the club is on the road, or a negative cycle is closer to the end than not.

      So now back home, off those selective numbers, one could feel pretty good about things. In balance, Boston is Boston (Phils played so well in splitting up there…was that overachievement..maybe) then you have a slightly improved Met squad that will throw Thor and Jacob this time. Being as the 25 in the clubhouse seems to have a grip on the negative bullshit spewed forth by so many following the club, they will for the most part rise up over the next few rather than basically collapse. I guess splitting with the BoSox and winning the series against the Mets would be decent.

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