It’s September 14. Rhys Hoskins climbs into the batter’s box during the second inning of a game against the Marlins. The Phillies are totally overwhelming old friend Vance Worley in the midst of a seven-run inning. Hoskins is fucking feeling it. He’s homered in four of his past five games. He’s breaking records on the daily, ones previously held by players like Gehrig, Williams, and Ruth. Hoskins fouls the first pitch off and then takes an 88 mile-per-hour slider for strike two. Worley fools himself into believing that his third pitch, a 91 mph sinker, will extinguish Hoskins. It does not. The ensuing blast is his 18th home run in 34 Major League games. He finishes the night hitting .314 with a 1.247 OPS. He’s called an alien by teammates, opponents are in awe, and it’s a foregone conclusion that we are all witnessing the preface to the story of Philadelphia’s next baseball renaissance.

A lot has happened in the 13 days since that game.

The Rhys Hoskins poster I hung on the ceiling over my bed has since been replaced with one of Jake Elliot. The home run barrage has stopped. He’s five for his last 39 (.128), has watched his average plummet from .314 to .268, and has struck out in 36% of his at-bats during this stretch.

It’s been ugly. In fact, it’s been so ugly that you might have heard the name “Dom Brown” at some point over the past few days. Brown, of course, was not so long ago deemed the next savior of Philadelphia baseball. It was May 2013 when Brown hit .303 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. He rode that magical month to an All-Star appearance. We know how that story ended. Brown almost immediately flamed out, was labeled a bust, and hasn’t played a Major League game since 2015.

But there’s good news; Rhys Hoskins is not Dom Brown.

Hoskins is a superior hitter in all facets, both mechanically and in approach. Not once did Brown reach base via walk that May. Hoskins has walked seven times during his cold streak. Moreover, while there’s now evidence to suggest Hoskins isn’t going to show up next season and win the National League Triple Crown, there’s also no reason to panic about a player who has shown flashes of offensive brilliance with less than two full months of Major League experience.

Still, what gives? Why has Hoskins gone ice cold? Well, there are a few reasons.

1) This is Major League Baseball and pitchers adjust

It’s clear that pitchers are making adjustments to their approach with Hoskins. After opponents failed miserably by challenging him in various areas of the strike zone, the emphasis now seems to be on attacking him low and away, out of the zone. Have a look at these heat maps:

Not only is Hoskins hitless on pitches low and away out of the zone, his power numbers and exit velocity significantly dip, too. While Hoskins has demonstrated above-average plate discipline and a mature approach at all levels of professional baseball, he’s pressed a bit lately.

Here’s Gio Gonzalez exploiting this Tuesday night:

2) He’s probably tired

We tend to think of professional baseball players as impervious to fatigue, but Hoskins has played in a career-high 161 professional games this season – 26 more than a year ago. The wear and tear adds up.

We hear about the “rookie wall” in football, but baseball has its own grind. There’s also precedence for Hoskins wearing down. In 2016, he dominated in 135 games, hitting .281 with 38 homers for Reading before appearing (and struggling) in another 21 games with Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican League. His OPS dropped from .946 with Reading to .726 with Gigantes, while he homered only four times in 88 plate appearances. Factor in Hoskins’ sudden rise to fame in and outside of Philadelphia, and it’s not hard to figure that the guy is likely physically and mentally spent.

3) Young players deal with growing pains

I’m not here to argue whether Hoskins is or isn’t Aaron Judge. I can tell you, however, that Judge owned baseball through mid-July. Then he scuffled out of the All-Star Break and looked like an unusable player right around the time that Hoskins burst on the scene in August. Judge hit .185 for the month with only three home runs while striking out in 41 of his 92 plate appearances. This month, he’s returned to form, hitting .303 with 13 homers.

Ups and downs happen in baseball, particularly with young players. To think that Hoskins was going to sustain a pace in which he hit one home run every eight plate appearances is simply unrealistic.

The recent turn of events for Hoskins sucks. It’s disappointing. We all hoped he would ride his incredible stretch through the final game of the year and give us a full offseason to wildly dream about his talents. It hasn’t happened that way, but that’s fine. As the Phillies slog their way to the conclusion of a season that will watch them fall just short of 100 losses, it’s more than evident that Hoskins possesses the ability to be a key cog in this offense as the team reemerges from the abyss. That’s what is most important.

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