A pitch-by-pitch look at Rhys Hoskins’ insane Phillies start

Hoskins has a record 11 homers in 18 games to start his career. But his numbers are even better than that.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins has only been in the majors for a few weeks and already he’s made history. Heading into Monday’s game, Hoskins is the first player in MLB to ever begin his career with 11 home runs in his first 18 starts. The next-closest to that mark was 22 games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Hoskins also hit the 11-homer mark in 17 fewer at-bats than the next-fastest player. In history. It’s been an incredible start to his career.

“It’s just one of those zones where you try to ride the wave as long as you can,” Hoskins said after Sunday’s win. Understatement of the year.

Most likely, if you’ve cared to pay attention to baseball this August, you knew all this. The Phillies are really bad, so even with the sudden power surge by their new rookie, they’ve managed to lose twice as many games as they’ve won over the last 18. Hoskins has become one of the only reasons to watch this team — Aaron Nola, another reason, is pitching tonight, by the way — and the triple play Hoskins started in left field Sunday has served to add to his “OMG” lore. Remember, he just started playing outfield like a month ago.

The glove is gravy. What matters so far is the bat.

Hoskins has a home run in each of the Phillies’ last five games, something that hasn’t been done in nearly a decade when Chase Utley did it in the World Series-winning 2008 season. Only six players have hit five homers in five consecutive games in team history, a span of more than 130 years.

Hoskins has 19 hits in his 18 games, a .297 batting average, but with 11 homers and a double, he is slugging .828 with an OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) of 1.236. For comparison, Giancarlo Stanton leads the league with a 1.059 OPS. Granted, that’s in 127 games, but it puts into some perspective the kind of start Hoskins is having.

His numbers are even more impressive given how sluggish his actual debut was. His career started with a strikeout, a ground-into-double-play and a walk. The next game he had a walk, strikeout, flyout, lineout and strikeout. His third game saw another flyout, groundout, pop fly and strikeout.

Through three games in the majors, Hoskins was 0-for-9 with two walks. It wasn’t until the third at-bat of his fourth game that he got his first hit. He’s since reached base 29 times in 62 plate appearances. That’s an on-base percentage of nearly .500. His 11 walks are just two behind what Michael Saunders had in 61 games and just four behind what Nick Williams has in 50 games. Williams, the Phillies’ other rookie outfielder this season, is hitting a solid .286 with eight homers in 185 at bats, striking out 57 times. Hoskins has just 13 strikeouts in 64 at-bats.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Sunday’s game that he doesn’t remember seeing a young guy look as controlled at the plate as Hoskins. That’s saying something, considering the young stars Maddon manages on the reigning World Champions.

“Look at his walk to strikeouts,” Maddon said, via Phillies.com. “That’s the part that tells me he can sustain, not necessarily this pace, but he can sustain, because he doesn’t strike out. He will accept his walks. He doesn’t expand the strike zone. He uses the whole field. He’s a big guy with short movements to the ball. Pretty impressive.”

We looked at the first 76 plate appearance Hoskins has had in the majors, through Sunday’s win, and the numbers mirror what Maddon sees. Hoskins has faced 347 pitches so far in his career and 145 have been taken for balls. The remaining 202 have been either called strikes, fouls, swinging strikes or balls put in play. Just once has Hoskins struck out on back-to-back plate appearances, and just three times has he struck out more than once in a game.

Outside of his first three games — 12 plate appearances — Hoskins has 9 strikeouts, 9 walks and 1 hit-by-pitch in 64 trips to the plate.

Of the remaining 45 plate appearances, he has 10 groundouts, 10 fly ball or pop fly outs, 5 lineouts, 1 base reached on an error, 7 singles, 1 double and 11 homers. That’s 25 outs and 20 times reaching base when the ball is put in play. And ELEVEN have left the park.

That’s incredible.

What’s more incredible is how patient he has been during his home run at-bats. Of his 11 homers, Hoskins has hit eight on the fourth pitch of the at-bat or later, with six — including Sunday’s long drive — coming after the fourth pitch.

Hoskins has seen an average of 4.6 pitches per trip to the plate this season. He has just 23 plate appearances in which he’s seen three pitches or fewer, and has reached base in eight of them.

He has just eight plate appearances in which he’s seen fewer than three pitches and he’s reached base in five, including two home runs and a two-run double.

He has 25 plate appearances in which he’s seen more than five pitches and he’s reached base safely 13 times, including six walks, three singles and four home runs.

And still, while Hoskins has been incredibly patient when at the plate, he’s been able to  take advantage of pitchers early in games. Seven homers have come in his first or second at-bat of the game. Three times, including Sunday, Hoskins hit a homer in his fourth plate appearance of the game, and just once has a homer come in his fifth plate appearance.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This is obviously unsustainable long term, but with just 33 games left to play in the season, there’s a chance he could maintain this hot streak through the rest of August and into September. Of course, on his current pace he’d still hit another 20 homers, giving him 31 for the season. Tommy Joseph currently leads the Phils with 19 this year.

Hoskins might clear that total by Labor Day.

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