Phils backup catcher Chris Coste had himself quite a day yesterday. He tied a career high with four hits. He went 4 for 5 with a double, capping the day with a two-run homer off Astros closer Jose Valverde in the eighth inning.
Coste is now hitting .400 (8 for 20) with two home runs and four RBIs. The Phils’ starting catcher, Carlos Ruiz, is hitting .186 (8 for 43) with no homers and no RBIs.
So is it time go give Coste the starting job?
I say yes.
Charlie Manuel, he’s not so sure.
“I’ll kind of make that decision probably tomorrow,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “There’s no sense in rushing into it. We’ll let Coste think about it for a while.”
I don’t know what that means, exactly. Think about what? Regardless, I think it’s time to give Coste the starting job. Let’s do it today.
After all, we’re talking about a guy who has hit at every level. In 2002, he led the International League in hitting for most of the year — only to break his hand two days before he was to be called up to the Indians. He’s hit over .300 in seven of his professional seasons, and exactly .300 over his minor league career. During 2006 spring training he hit .467 with three home runs and 11 RBIs — and still didn’t make the team!
Since finally cracking the Phillies’ lineup, Coste has hit .314 (.358 OBP) with 14 HR and 58 RBI in 347 at bats.
So, really, how do you keep a guy like that on the bench? Especially when he plays a position where offense is at a premium?
Maybe it’s his defense? It’s true, Coste doesn’t have a rocket arm. Of the 60 guys who have attempted to run on him, Coste has thrown out 15 of them, or 25 percent. On the other hand, it’s not like Ruiz has been that much better. He’s only thrown out 30 of the 103 guys who have run on him — 29 percent.
Maybe Ruiz handles a pitching staff better than Coste? That’s possible. And, to be honest, I’m not sure how to measure that. I know Brett Myers threw his best game of the season yesterday, pitching to Coste. I know Phillies’ pitchers had an ERA of 4.62 when they threw to Ruiz last season, and an ERA of 4.93 when they pitched to Coste. I know both catchers had a zone rating of 1.000. I know Ruiz posted an impressive .997 fielding percentage and that Coste had an even more impressive fielding percentage of 1.000. Finally, I know that Ruiz had a slight edge in range factor, 7.32 to 6.27.
From where I’m sitting, it seems like Coste represents a significant offensive upgrade and a minimal defensive downgrade, if any. So why not play him regularly?
Here’s a theory: the Phillies just aren’t invested in Coste. It’s no secret that the more time, money and energy teams invest in a player, the more opportunities that player will get to succeed. The Phils have given Coste very little time.They’re paying him $415K this season, which is better than government work, to be sure, but far less than Ryan Howard, Chase Utley or even Jayson Werth are being paid (and way below what Philly Daily News columnist Bill Conlin makes, for that matter).
The Phils didn’t draft Coste. They didn’t sign him to a big free agent contract. And, as such, they just aren’t that invested in him. Frankly, I think the Phillies’ brass still don’t believe Coste is as good as he appears. That’s understandable. Take a look at Coste’s bio:
- He went to a high school that didn’t have a varsity baseball team;
- He wasn’t offered a college scholarship;
- He played baseball in a Division III conference that hadn’t produced a major leaguer in 40 years;
- He went undrafted out of college;
- His first pro team went bankrupt after 30 days;
- He didn`t play his first game in the minors until age 27;
- He didn’t play his first Major League game until he was 33 years old!
You know who is the anti-Chris Coste? Evan Longoria, who today received a long-term contract after six games in the bigs. I can’t even imagine what goes through Chris Coste’s mind when he reads a headline like that.
Coste didn’t take the normal route to the majors. He’s not young and he’s not flashy. He’s not the catcher of the future.
But he should be the catcher of the present. He’s earned it.