Rhys Hoskins is playing like a man possessed in this recent stretch for the Phils and has been one of if not the critical cog in shouldering the offensive output for a unit in totality that’s struggling to find consistency. His two-homer night in the opener of this series against the Cardinals propelled him to the top spot of homerun hitters so far this season with eight alongside Ronald Acuna, Byron Buxton, and Ryan McMahon.
It’s not only the long ball, though, Rhys is driving the ball from foul poll to foul poll with authority. For the first time in a long while and possibly for the first in his career for an extended stretch, Rhys finally looks like he has a plan approaching each at-bat. Last season and especially before, I’d see Rhys take countless hittable pitches right in his wheelhouse and could never understand why he wasn’t swinging. There was a lot of chatter coming into this season that Rhys went back to the swing mechanics that brought him his initial success in 2017.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic also noted during that tumultuous streak of poor performances for Rhys, confidence and mental fortitude stood as a significant roadblock for Hoskins to circumvent. Baseball is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical; If Rhys walked to the plate with any doubt creeping into the back of his mind, he already defeated himself. Especially when challenged by the best in the world, Rhys’s lack of confidence may explain the multitude of moments where he looked like a dear in the headlights.
Thankfully for Phils’ nation and Rhys, his torrid stretch as of late reminded fans and media outlets of the dynamic offense can produce. Plus, complimented with the other heavy hitters in the lineup when healthy, they can all feed off themselves. Harper’s success becomes Hoksins’s success, which transfers to JT and so on. No pitchers want anything to do with those guys, and when they’re on, each of them will see far more pitches to hit. Versus before, when each would take turns having a streak but weren’t able to piece it all together at the same time.
Currently, Rhys boasts numbers that are near or above his career highs from before. His batting average right now is the highest it’s ever been at .250 (.259 being the highest). The hard-hit percentage is the highest it’s ever been at 52.4 percent; it’s been around 43 percent the last three seasons. The most telling stat for me, though, is the percentage of where Rhys is hitting the baseball. 52.4 percent of Rhys’s hits are to centerfield; Three to five percentage points above where it’s been the previous two seasons.
These numbers, and mainly the last one, portray Rhys having a much more balanced approach to his plate appearances. He’s avoided the easy urge of becoming pull happy and flying his front shoulder open too quickly. Finally, Hoskins is trusting his hands, keeping the front shoulder in, and allowing the ball to travel deep to where he can explode and unleash the full bore of his power.
Rhys so far has been the man, to put it simply, and with the unfortunate events of last night that took out Harper and Didi, the Phillies will need Rhys to continue this level of play and possibly more. If anything, Rhys has shown the fanbase and media around him this season he’s more than capable of defying our expectations and outperforming the criticism; it’ll be intriguing to note if Hoskins can stay on this streak the rest of the season.