Gabe Kapler considered sitting Rhys Hoskins on Wednesday night but opted against it after having a conversation with his struggling first baseman.
Hoskins is 12 for his last 100. His batting average has dipped 30 points in 31 days. On Tuesday night, he dropped a catchable ball at first base which led to the Pirates' game-winning run in the ninth inning. It was the second time this season that a muffed catch on a standard play at first base by Hoskins helped lead to the Phillies' demise. It also happened in the fifth game of the season in D.C. when Hoskins couldn't handle a routine ball at first base and it tied the game in the bottom of the eighth.
Kapler was asked Tuesday night whether the error was an example of Hoskins' slump at the plate carrying into the field. It was asked whether the miscue was symbolic of Hoskins' being beaten-down mentally.
Hoskins was adamant after Tuesday's loss that a day off would serve little purpose. He said there's no time for it in a playoff race.
After reporters left the Phillies' clubhouse, Kapler had a similar conversation with Hoskins.
"The first question basically I wanted to get answered was, 'Do you think a day off could help you?' The answer to that question was a pretty strong no," Kapler said.
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"I went back and looked at his at-bats from last night, looked at how his body's been moving over the last couple weeks. He looks pretty fresh physically. There's no question in my mind and I acknowledge that it's been a grind for him mentally. But I always like having Rhys Hoskins in the lineup and always like having him in the top five spots in the lineup. Given the fact that he feels pretty strongly that he should be in the lineup and performing for us, we're aligned and that was enough."
Hoskins was moved down in the order from the leadoff spot to cleanup. It is in that spot where Hoskins has had his most success. As a cleanup hitter, Hoskins has hit .265/.401/.558 with 49 of his 77 career home runs.
"It's certainly natural for him to be in a run-producing spot," Kapler said. "When he is his most natural, he's a really, really good hitter. We're trying to create that natural feel for him."
The other aspect of this is giving a player an immediate chance to get right after a rough game. You don't want that error lingering in Hoskins' head for 48 hours if there's a chance to get him back in the field, making assists and putouts a night later.
Kapler compared it to getting a closer a second chance one night after blowing a save. We have seen that work multiple times with Hector Neris. Neris has five blown saves this season and after three of them, he came in the next night to pick up a save or a win.
"Yes, yes," Kapler said when asked if there's value in getting a guy right back out there. "It's very similar to the value you get after a closer comes in and gives up a big home run, or you strike out with the bases loaded.
"It demonstrates a confidence level in the player. And I've had a lot of conversations recently with players about how important it is to instill that confidence, getting it from the manager, getting it from the coaches and your teammates.
"Oftentimes, you'll see an infielder make an error, and if the pitcher is on point and is a good teammate, he'll say the ball's coming right back at you and we want you to have that opportunity again. And what does the infielder feel in that moment? He feels like, 'Yeah, (expletive) yeah, I want that ball hit at me.' So I think there's a tremendous amount of value to getting him right back out on the horse."
The fact remains that, despite the prolonged slump, Hoskins is one of the Phillies' best hitters. His 25 home runs this season, 59 homers the last two seasons and .378 on-base percentage on the year are not negated by a bad month. These last 100 at-bats do not carry more predictive meaning just because they are Hoskins' most recent 100 at-bats.
Sitting Hoskins and giving Logan Morrison four plate appearances is no lock to make the Phillies a better offensive team Wednesday night, and getting Hoskins right carries more big-picture importance than seeing if Morrison can go deep in consecutive games.
The Phillies have no choice but to ride it out with Hoskins and remain hopeful that he can get hot again like he has all three years of his major-league career.
Perspective is important. We're still talking about a guy whose OPS is 17 percent better than the league average even after one of the coldest months you'll see a power hitter have.
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