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Why isn’t Rhys Hoskins walking?

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The Phillies first baseman – typically an on-base machine – has yet to record a walk this season.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Rhys Hoskins has been an elite walker over his career. Since 2018, Hoskins has tallied 232 walks, which trails only Bryce Harper and Juan Soto for the National League lead. That’s why it’s so surprising that Hoskins still hasn’t walked in the 2021 season.

He’s the only qualified hitter in the Phillies lineup without a single base on balls, and he’s one of only 12 qualified hitters in the National League who hasn’t walked yet. Of those 12 players, Hoskins is the only one who was projected to have an above-average OBP.

Thankfully, Rhys’ lack of walks hasn’t been a serious problem, since he’s still been a productive offensive player. In fact, he’s leading the Phillies with 10 runs produced (RBI+R-HR). However, his walk drought is still worthy of mention, if for no other reason than because it is completely unprecedented.

In 2021, Hoskins has gone eight games without a walk. That alone would already register as the worst walk-less streak of his career, but it gets worse. Dating back to the 2020 season, Hoskins has gone 13 straight games (and 56 straight plate appearances) without a walk. Prior to this, his longest walk-less streak was just six games.

For a player who typically walks as often as Hoskins, 56 plate appearances without a walk is a crazy long time. As a comparison, that would be like 2001 Barry Bonds going 56 at-bats without a home run. (In his career, Hoskins averages a walk every 6.69 PA. In 2001, Bonds averaged a home run every 6.52 AB.)

So why isn’t Hoskins walking?

Here are some of Rhys Hoskins’ plate discipline numbers from this season compared to his career averages.

Rhys Hoskins Plate Discipline

Plate Discipline Statistic 2021 Career Average
Plate Discipline Statistic 2021 Career Average
Called strike % 19.9% 19.2%
Swing strike % 13.0% 8.3%
Swing % 47.3% 39.4%
Zone swing % 60.9% 60.5%
Outside the zone swing % 36.6% 24.1%

As you can see, the clear difference this season is that Hoskins is swinging more often at pitches outside the strike zone. The result has been an increase in hits and strikeouts, but a decrease in walks.

As of right now, this approach is working for him. Despite his high 31.3% strikeout rate, Rhys Hoskins has still put up a stellar .384 wOBA. However, his underlying statistics paint a less flattering picture. His .384 wOBA is the result of an unsustainably high .429 BABIP, and his .318 expected wOBA is actually below league average. If Hoskins continues to swing this often at pitches outside the strike zone, he’s probably won’t be able to maintain his current level of success.

So what should we take away from all this?

It’s clear that Hoskins is swinging more freely than he has in the past, and this can explain his why he isn’t walking right now. However, while plate discipline statistics do stabilize more quickly than many other stats, it’s still too early to say if this is the result of a new approach for Hoskins or simply a blip in the data. For all we know, he’ll walk three times tonight and make my entire point moot.

Regardless of how truly meaningful this walk-less streak is, however, I think it’s a noteworthy statistical anomaly. Just as it is fun to pay attention to positive streaks, like hitting streaks, I think it’s interesting to follow droughts as well, especially in this case, when it isn’t really hurting the team.