Rhys Hoskins entered Monday with an on-base percentage more than 100 points better than the major-league average and the highest walk-rate in the National League after reaching base in nine of the first 10 games.
And that is why Phillies manager Joe Girardi placed Hoskins on Monday in the second spot of the lineup -- the place Hoskins has hit in each of the team’s first 10 games -- despite his slow start to the season.
“That’s the one thing that Rhys has continued to do,” Girardi said. “He’s still gotten on base even though his average is low.”
Hoskins’ on-base percentage improved Monday to .435 after reaching base in two of his four plate appearances via a walk and a single. But his OPS is just .685 thanks to a .250 slugging percentage. Hoskins popped up Monday with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
He entered Monday as one of five regulars with an OPS below the league average. But Girardi does not seem in a rush to move Hoskins from the lineup, or even the No. 2 spot.
“Obviously, we want to see more production with his average and hitting the ball out of the ballpark. But he is still getting on base,” Girardi said. “And I mean, how many games have we played? Ten? I mean, that’s not really that many. It seems like a lot because we only have 60 games, but it’s really not that many. And you could pull a plug too quick on someone and you may miss out on what they’ve done in the past and some big numbers. And that’s what I’m not going to do.”
Hoskins’ early struggles this season follow a .180 average and .679 OPS in the second half of 2019. He found success after reaching the majors in 2017 thanks to a patient, grinding approach. But this season, that approach has been even more passive as Hoskins has the major-league’s lowest swing rate on pitches in the strike zone. Nearly 55% of his plate appearances have been with two strikes. Hoskins is reaching base via walks, but his decline in slugging percentage might be due to a less-aggressive approach.
“I think it’s probably his timing’s not quite there. He’s seen a lot of 2-0 breaking balls for strikes. It’s not something that you tell your hitters to whack at if it’s not a hanger,” Girardi said. “I think they pitch him pretty tough. I really do. They’re worried about him hitting the ball out of the ballpark. So he sees a lot of 2-0 breaking balls, a lot of 2-1 breaking balls, 1-0, 3-1. And if it’s not a pitch that he’s looking for necessarily in the area that he wants, he takes it. I’m not sure how many times he’s walked in these 10 games, but I’m gonna guess it’s at least 10. So he is still getting on base, and I really believe his patient approach will pay off.”
The Phillies are planning to have Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez prepare this week as if they both are starting Friday’s series opener with the Mets. The Phillies could elect to have the pitchers piggyback on Friday after starting on Sunday’s doubleheader. The Phillies need a sixth starter next week for a doubleheader against Toronto, so they want to keep both stretched out.