Tao-Approved Nicknames: Somehow, we can’t stop calling him “Mike Mathis”, which is some sort of synaptic misfire that mashes together Jeff Mathis with his former manager Mike Scioscia and beloved catch-and-throw guy Mike Matheny. It has nothing to do with the former NBA referee.
History: Seven MLB seasons and 426 games played, all with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Contract Status: $1,500,000 for 2012. Free agent following the season.
Career Stats: .194 AVG, .257 OBP, .301 SLG, .557 OPS. 26 homers and 139 RBI in 1360 plate appearances.
2011 Stats: (Contains disturbing numbers. Reader discretion is advised.) .174 AVG, .225 OBP, .259 SLG and a .484 OPS in 281 plate appearances over 93 games. -1.0 WAR (Fangraphs edition.)
Nerd Stats: Fangraphs assessed Mathis at a dollar value of -$4.4 million last year. If the Angels can ever collect on some of that money he owes them, it might help to offset a small portion of the Vernon Wells deal.
Somewhat Surprising Stat: Hit nine home runs in 2008 in 328 plate appearances, and still posted a meagre slugging percentage of .318.
What the what?: His isolated power number in 2011 (.085) was higher than Joe Mauer’s (.081).
Looking Back: It can’t be easy being Jeff Mathis. On the one hand, your best attributes as a ballplayer are truly intangible, because there are precious few metrics that can fully measure the admiration of his former manager Mike Scioscia. Scioscia’s insistence on playing Mathis in recent years over better offensive options like Mike Napoli or Hank Conger became a laugh line for many of the more progressively-minded baseball fans.
It’s difficult for us to truly assess the value of a good catch and throw guy who is so inept at the plate, because even the counting stats that are available only tell a small part of the story, or so we’re led to believe. Sure, Mathis only allowed six passed balls in 698 innings squatting behind the plate (versus the eight that former back up José Molina gave up in 399 innings). But does that make up for the hole in the lineup that he leaves?
Looking Forward: With just one year left on his contract, Mathis is truly a backup and a stop gap until Travis d’Arnaud is ready to take the next step into the Majors. Moreover, we’d expect for J.P. Arencibia to get a heavy load of work this year, so don’t be surprised if Mathis makes only a token weekly start.
Just don’t spend too much time thinking about what happens if the Jays need to go to him in an everyday role for an extended period of time this year. Because those are the things of which nightmares are made.
Maybe that’s too harsh, because we really do respect the role that Mathis is supposed to play. As a stellar defensive catcher and a man who can whisper into the ears of pitchers to set them straight along their course, we may yet find that thing that made Scioscia so starry-eyed over the past few years. Let’s hope so.
2012 Expectations: Even with his deficiencies, the Jays made a point of going out to get Mathis, and we’d expect that by the time the team breaks camp, he’ll be designated as the personal catcher for at least one of the starting staff. Aside from that, anything better than terrible at the plate will have to be considered a plus.