From start to finish, Jeff Mathis did everything right. He had ten or more RBI's in every month except September – he had nine in four games the final month – scored 12 runs or more in all but month nine and notched more than 20 hits in all but April (only 12 games) and September.
In fact, Mathis' .276 average on the year was three points below his career average as a minor leaguer.
Head in the game!
Some players benefit from being on the field as opposed to sitting in the dugout waiting for their next at bat. The tendency is to think too much about their recent failures at the plate when they are forced to watch, while in the field they have other duties, which preclude them from taking a bad at bat with them through to the next time they take a cut.
Mathis logged 17 games as the designated hitter and rewarded his team by hitting .197 in those games. He hit .288 when he was the backstop. Mathis, needless to say, performs much better when he is calling the game and can leave his offense behind.
Setup or power bat?
There were two spots in the lineup that Mathis could call home. He batted second in the order in 22 games and fifth on 82 occasions.
As a table setter, Mathis was not at his best. He hit .244 with nine runs scored and seven RBI's. Over 82 games that would translate to 32 runs scored and 25 RBI's. Good thing no translation was needed. Mathis drove in 62 and scored 66 in his 82 game stretch when he was hitting in the five-hole.
The Florida native has no preference as to whether the pitcher he faced was a lefty or righty – his ability to hit was nearly identical. Mathis hit .277 off left-handed pitching and .276 off righties.
The only real difference was his power numbers. The frequency of extra base hits off left-handed pitching was far greater. If he was only facing lefties on the year he would have logged 41 doubles – as opposed to the 26 he had – along with six more homers to increase his total to 27 on the year.
Alas, there is no lineup with all lefties so we will gladly take the production received.