PHILADELPHIA >> Rhys Hoskins has answered the question on at least several other occasions this season, and still he’s convinced that the way he and his Phillies teammates aren’t seeing the ball well enough has more to do with the other guys.
So how come you guys strike out so much?
“I hate to say the same thing, (but) guys have good stuff, man,” Hoskins said before Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. “A guy’s got a 97, 98 mph fastball and a pretty good breaking ball and that’s pretty hard to hit when (he’s) throwing the ball where he wants to. Obviously that’s our job as hitters to try to figure out how to do that, but sometimes the guy on the mound makes your job a little bit harder.”
Hoskins didn’t have to reach to hit on a convenient example, as it was just Monday night that the Phillies were left hacking and flailing and otherwise mostly missing for the first five innings against the Yankees. Twenty-year-old Bronx baller Jonathan Loaisiga was running it up there in the high-90s with excellent command and mixing in the occasionally diving breaking ball. As a result, he retired eight Phillies on strikes before departing with one out in the sixth inning of an eventual 4-2 Yankees win.
Hoskins was one of those eight Loaisiga strikeout victims Monday night, leaving him to keep repeating himself the next day.
“The guy’s got good stuff,” Hoskins said of Loaisiga. “I think there’s a lot of guys in baseball that have good stuff. Sometimes you run into a guy that throws the amount of strikes that he did last night and you just have to kind of grind through it.”
Hoskins would grind through an oh-for-4 night with two strikeouts, a few relatively civil words with home plate Joe West after one of those KOs and more than a few admittedly uncivil words to a fan/critic behind the Phillies dugout after his other strikeout.
It wasn’t exactly a night to remember for Hoskins, especially the uncivil part, which would subsequently move him to publicly chastise himself.
Only in the cool of the post-game moment, of course.
“I think I addressed it last night,” he said.
But addressing the strikeouts appears to be a longer-term project for this (in case you haven’t heard the manager call it this lately) very YOUNG Phillies club.
Heck, they only hacked away for 15 strikeouts Monday night in the series opening loss to the Yankees. Nothing new there.
Yet they had only 20 strikeouts over three games against the Washington Nationals last weekend, and 27 over three games against the Cardinals just previous to that. Believe it or not, in a sharp uptick year for strikeouts league wide, a nine strikout per game clip by a team is just a touch above the league average.
MLB says its 30 league teams have averaged 8.56 strikeouts per game in 2018.
Overall, however, the Phillies are leaving that pace in the dust. They entered this second Yankees series game with the third-most strikeouts (737) among major league teams, humming along at 9.69 per.
Those 15 KOs achieved by the freeswinging Philly boys was matched by them on April 4. Afterward, they compiled 16 strikeouts each in games of April 19 and April 24, took it to season-high 18 in a game in Washington May 6, and collected 16 more strikeouts on June 6.
The Phillies have also struck out 14 times in two other games, and 13 times in six other games. That’s a lot of swingin’ and missin’.
According to modern manager Gabe Kapler, however, it’s not altogether out of the norm of expectations.
“We always want to put the ball in play as much as we possibly can,” Kapler said Tuesday. “The way we try to run our offense is ... we want to see as many pitches as possible and sometimes that leads to strikeouts. Any time you’ve seen six, seven or eight pitches, the liklihood is you’re in a two-strike count (for a while). So once you’re in a two-strike count sometimes you’re going to punch out. But if we can more often put the ball in play at the end of those counts, do some damage at the end of those counts, that’s when you have a really, really good team.
“If you look across the way into the Yankees dugout they have a couple of guys that fit that profile as well.”
Yeah, and as they would show again Tuesday night, they also have more than a couple of guys than the Phillies who fit the profile of successful hitter, more often shooting for targets beyond the fence than missing their targeted swings over and over and over again.
Despite all that power, the Yankees entered this game only in 10th place at 692 when it came to a strikeout count.
Like the Phillies, they prefer aggressive approaches at the plate. Unlike the Phillies, they usually know how to go about executing on that approach rather than spend so much time swinging at air.
Contact Rob Parent at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ReluctantSE