In late May, Alex Coffey, who covers the Phillies for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reached out to us for a piece she was writing about Rhys Hoskins and his improved defense at first base.
I’ll be honest. I had questions at the time whether his early-season success was a fluke. Hoskins finished last in Defensive Runs Saved among first basemen in 2021 and rated similarly in 2020, offsetting an alright 2019 when he totaled 3 Runs Saved.
But I have to give credit where it is due. Hoskins has been good enough at first base such that he ranks tied for second in Defensive Runs Saved this season (Christian Walker is the runaway leader).
Hoskins’ success is largely based on improvements in his range around first base. The data shows he’s been better on balls hit to his right, on balls hit that we’d call “at-em’s,” and also a little bit on balls hit to his left He’s making the kinds of plays he needs to be successful, like this one on Friday night.
We can illustrate Hoskins’ success further with data and show some more video examples.
Hoskins’ top 10 plays made in 2021 were worth 5.4 Runs Saved. His top 10 plays in 2022 have been worth 5.0 Runs Saved.
But the 2022 version of Hoskins makes up for that as we go further through his defensive ledger. His 30th-most valued play in 2022 is better than his 20th-most valued play in 2021.
Hoskins has made 18 plays this season in which the run value ranged from 0.3 to 0.44 Runs Saved.
He totaled only 6 of those in 2021.
A play whose value ranges from 0.3 to 0.44 Runs is often a nice play, usually with an out probability from 40 to 60%. This is an example of a play at the higher end (0.44), one which had a 43% out probability based on where the ball was hit, how hard it was hit, and how fast the batter was.
One thing that Hoskins has done this season comes through in this clip. He’s diving for balls less and sliding for balls more. He’s found a more efficient (and probably less taxing) way to make plays.
|Diving Plays Made/Attempts
|Sliding Plays Made/Attempts
And this is an example of a play at the lower end (0.3), one which is still a nice-looking play. It has a 60% out probability based on those same criteria.
Now this isn’t to say that Hoskins doesn’t miss balls or make mistakes. He’s done plenty of that too. But just because he has 9 errors* doesn’t mean he’s defended poorly.
* Hoskins has 26 Defensive Misplays and Errors. Our Video Scouts track approximately 60 categories of Misplays based on video review. Hoskins’ frequency of Misplays & Errors ranks 7th-highest among the 35 first basemen with the most innings played.
Take a look at this chart, which shows how many plays Hoskins has made with a run value of 0.3 runs or better compared to how many plays he’s failed to make on which he got dinged at least 0.3 runs.
|Plays Made >=0.3 Runs
|Plays Missed <= -0.3 Runs
Hoskins almost certainly isn’t going to win a Fielding Bible or Gold Glove Award this season, but he does deserve some credit for the improvements he’s made. He’s among the most improved defenders in baseball this season.