There are very few catchers Mike Sciosica puts in Jeff Mathis’ class defensively. Offensively, Mathis has “underachieved” in his manager’s evaluation.
“He’s got more offense in him, for sure,” Scioscia said. “There are probably a lot of things contributing to it. He hasn’t come to the park knowing he’s going to get four at-bats. That’s obviously important to a young player. He has more than he has brought to the offensive end.”
After enduring nightmarish months of June (.158) and July (.147), Mathis has come alive in August. He was hitting .300 in 30 at-bats this month coming into his start on Saturday against Scott Richmond, with a .467 slugging percentage. Those numbers would be even higher if not for several recent shots and long drives that found gloves.
Overall, Mathis has brought his average to .211 with five homers and 26 RBIs in 175 at-bats. He’s batting .267 with runners in scoring position, continuing a career trend of doing his best work when it matters most.
Last season, for example, he batted only .194 – five points below his current career average – but he produced nine homers and 42 RBIs in 283 at-bats, a half-season.
“The power production we get from our two catchers [Mathis and Mike Napoli] is about as good as there is in the game,” Scioscia said.
Mathis came to Spring Training in a hitting groove, having spent the winter hitting in a home-made cage in the barn he calls home in Florida, and went through an intensive session with hitting coach Mickey Hatcher upon his arrival in Tempe, Ariz.
This translated into a brilliant spring, inspiring confidence that Mathis – a superlative athlete recruited to play football at Florida State – was on his way to a breakout season.
“I’ve gotten away from things I was doing in Spring Training,” Mathis said. “I feel like I’ve gotten back in a better place to hit. I’m shorter to the ball, letting the ball get deeper. The big thing is laying off pitchers’ pitches.”
Like all the Angels’ hitters, Mathis has been a study of Bobby Abreu, a textbook example of how to approach at-bats with his remarkable discipline.
“Watching him helps,” Mathis said. “He recognizes the pitch so quick, and you don’t see him getting fooled and taking bad swings very often. He gets in good counts, and even when he has two strikes, he’s confident he can find something to hit. He never panics.
“To appreciate what he does, you have to see him every day. Playing against him, you don’t realize everything he does. You know he’s a good player – just not this good. He doesn’t just do it in one game, one series. He does it every day. It’s 162 games with Bobby.”