The Phillies are finally getting production from the catcher position thanks to 33-year-old rookie Chris Coste. The biggest surprise is how well his bat compares with the rest of baseball.
Small sample size be damned, in 79 plate appearances, a guy that wasn’t even a speck on the Phillies radar has established himself as the club’s most productive catcher this season. He’s more than held his own defensively and appears to be on the same page as the maturing staff.
The greatest revelation is how well Coste has handled the stick. My first order of business this morning, following a night in which Coste hit his fourth home run, was to log on to Hardball Times and check Coste’s advanced numbers. My hunch was correct: Right now, Coste is holding his own with the best catchers in baseball.
Hardball Times has a stat called runs created per game, which is useful for players like Coste who haven’t played all season. After yesterday, he’s second among all catchers with 9, as in, a lineup of 9 Costes would create 9 runs a game. That’s second behind Josh Bard, and ranks right ahead of Joe Mauer. He’s also 9th among catchers with a .305 GPA (gross productive average), which is a stat similar to OPS, but takes into account park factors, etc. He’s also stepped up huge in the clutch. He’s hitting .500 with RISP.
Coste's standard line is extremely solid, considering he started out 0-for-14: .349 BA, .392 OBP, .562 SLG, 4 HR, 16 RBIs.
Granted, that’s after just 73 at bats. The thought of comparing Coste with a guy like Mauer is a real stretch, but last night, he started his third straight game in baking heat. Coste has officially graduated from journeyman minor-leaguer to Major League starting catcher, at least for the Phillies. He hasn't looked overmatched at all, making pitchers like John Smoltz pay for mistakes. So why not start comparing him with the likes of baseball’s other starting backstops?
Back on the field, the the difference is clear. There hasn’t been a bigger difference maker between the Phils first-half offense and what we’re seeing now. This was a position that was getting absolutely nothing at all between Mike Lieberthal, Carlos Ruiz and Sal Fasano. At least for now, they’re getting good, even great production from Mr. Cinderella, or as I prefer to call him, George W. Coste, for his resemblance to a certain President.
His surprising production is a development well worth monitoring. The Phils need a No. 1 and No. 2 catcher next season. Coste certainly looks like a capable enough No. 2.