Tuesday, October 30, 2007
In his career, Coste played a lot of minor-league ball. He was in Triple-A Buffalo in 2000-2002 before going to Pawtucket in 2003, Indianapolis in 2004, and Scranton in 2005. Between 2000 and 2006, Coste played in 510 Triple-A games! All without achieving his dream of being a major leaguer. He played in several teams minor league systems before finding his way to the Phillies. It really looked like his career was over in 2006 before he made it to the majors. He had started the 2006 season as a minor leaguer once again in Scranton. After hitting well in Scranton in 2005 – 20 Home Runs, 89 RBI, .292 Batting Average – Coste was struggling in 2006, having hit just 2 home runs, 18 RBI and batting .177, but the Phillies called him up due to injuries and incompetent play amongst the Phillies regular catchers, Mike Lieberthal (injuries) and Sal Fasano (incompetence) along with Carlos Ruiz.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
As a Phillie in 2006, Coste hit a robust .328 (.376 OBP) along with 7 Home Runs, 14 Doubles and 32 RBI in 213 At-Bats. He hit .356 with runners in scoring position (BA/RISP). Coste also logged 434 innings behind the plate as the Phillies catcher. According to Win Shares, Coste had eight in his rookie season, four better than a bench player. He clearly made important contributions to the Phillies playoff march.
In 2007 the Phillies once more stuck him in their Triple-A affiliate, which now became Ottawa. Coste split time between Ottawa and Double-A Reading. Here is now his stats shaped up:
Ottawa: 0 Home Runs, 10 RBI, .233 BA (.317 OBP), .056 ISO in 90 At-Bats
Reading: 5 Home Runs, 31 RBI, .287 BA (.319 OBP), .185 ISO in 108 At-Bats
Simply put, they weren’t good, especially his performance in Ottawa. Interestingly, his struggles in Ottawa didn’t carry over into play with the Phillies. Called up once more due to terrible play from the Phillies replacement for Fasano and Lieberthal, Rod Barajas, Coste once more stepped into the breach.
Coste didn’t play as well in 2007, but that ought to have been expected: in 2006 .363 of the balls he put into play became hits (BA/BIP), a very high percentage. That regressed to .298 BABIP, a pretty average percentage, in 2007. Consequently, Coste’s batting average declined to a still-respectable .279 in 2007. He hit 5 Home Runs, 3 Doubles, and 22 RBI. His on-base percentage also declined to .311.
Coste’s problem as a player is that his is a far too aggressive hitter at the plate. He doesn’t work enough counts and draw enough walks. In 2006 he drew just ten walks in 213 plate appearances: .047 BB/PA. In 2007 he drew just four walks, a .029 BB/PA, one of the worst percentages I’ve ever seen.
In certain respects he played better in 2007 than the year before. In 2006, Coste logged 434 innings at catcher and committed four errors. In 2007, he logged 242 innings, but committed no errors. He also caught 29% of the base-stealers against him, against 19% in 2006, and he cut down on the wild pitches and passed balls he allowed per game from .270 to .190 in 2007. So there was improvement, but only defensively. His Fielding Win Shares per 1,000 innings went from 3.456 to 6.611.
In terms of overall Win Shares, Coste got four in 2007, just one better than a bench player. His Win Share Percentage dropped from .720 to .548.
So what does the future hold for Chris Coste? He is a good backup catcher, so if the Phillies don’t re-sign another catcher in the off-season, he’s the logical choice to back up Carlos Ruiz, who looks ready to assume the full-time mantle of the Phillies backstop. Somehow, I am skeptical of the Phillies plans for Coste. They don’t seem like they fully trust or believe in him, as evidenced by the fact that they went out and got Barajas, a mediocre player at best. If Chris Coste is playing behind the plate for the Phillies in 2008, it will be because the team could not find an adequate replacement for him and Chris Coste became an option of necessity.
It is a shame, because although Coste’s numbers in 2007 at the plate weren’t what they had been, he’s still a good bat and his defensive skills are steadily improving. I hope that the Phillies give him a chance to backup Ruiz in 2008. But I doubt it.