By the time you are done reading this story, Rhys Hoskins might have homered again. Knowing full well that risk, let's take a look at the primary reason to believe that the big guy's historic start to his career will prove to be no fluke.
With his second-inning home run off former Phillies starter Vance Worley in Thursday's matinee against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, Hoskins became the third player in MLB history to hit eight dingers in his first 15 games, joining former Blue Jays and Mets star Carlos Delgado (1994) and current Rockies infielder Trevor Story (2016).
While Delgado's debut performance proved to be a harbinger of doom for MLB pitchers — he finished his career with 473 home runs and a .929 OPS — Story has followed his up with a slump that is not uncommon among rookies who got off to similar starts. After finishing 2016 with 27 home runs and a .929 OPS in just 97 games, Story is muddling through an underwhelming sophomore campaign, hitting .225/.308/.420 with a league-leading 142 strikeouts in 413 plate appearances, albeit with 18 home runs.
Among the forgettable names who opened their careers with a bang are Taylor Teagarden, Sam Horn, and a gentleman named Bucky Jacobsen, the three of whom are among the nine players to homer at least once in six of the first 15 games of their careers. Besides Hoskins, Delgado, and Story, the other players who accomplished this feat were Matt Kemp, Chris Davis, and former Mariners star Alvin Davis.
Baseball is a funny game, as evidenced by the careers of some of the names on that list. But there's plenty of reason to think that what we are seeing from Hoskins is a lot more sustainable than what we've seen from some of these other characters. Just as impressive as the results that Hoskins has generated is the process by which he has arrived at them. Flash back to his first two at-bats against Marlins lefty Justin Niccolino on Wednesday night. After taking three straight balls, Hoskins got a belt-high 3-0 fastball that he flinched at but took for a strike. Niccolino followed it up with a change-up in the exact same location, prompting a big swing-and-miss to run the count full. The payoff pitch was out of the zone, and Hoskins took it, drawing a two-out walk that moved a runner into scoring position, which Tommy Joseph capitalized upon by driving him home.
In his next at-bat, Hoskins fell behind 0-2, then took a ball, then fouled one off, then took two more balls, then fouled off another. The eighth pitch of the at-bat traveled 445 feet to left field for a three-run homer.
The approach is the thing. In the minors, Hoskins walked almost as often as he struck out. In the majors, he's doing the same, employing an approach that resembles far more than ones we saw out of those 2008-11 teams than the ones the Phillies have fielded since.
In the table below, you'll see how rare this was among the players we mentioned above. In the first four columns, each player's numbers through the first 15 games of his career. In the last two columns, his ultimate career OPS and home runs.
Aside from Alvin Davis, who went on to have a damn good career for the Mariners, Hoskins has the strikeout rate that is by far the lowest of the group.
While there might not be much predictive value, given the random criteria of our sample (there are a heck of a lot of good players who didn't happen to homer in six of their first 15 games), it's a good example of what Hoskins is doing right even when he isn't hitting home runs.