2016 Stats: 132 PA, .238 AVG, .601 OPS, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 0.1 WAR
Jeff Mathis finished his fourth consecutive season as the Marlins backup catcher in 2016 and yet again was able to stay healthy and do his job.
Mathis appeared in 41 games this season, which was an increase from the 32 games he played in 2015. The increased playing time gave Mathis 29 more plate appearances than the previous season and he was able to up his average by more than 70 points.
With the emergence of J.T. Realmuto as Miami’s starting catcher, Mathis did not have very much pressure on him in 2016, and he was able to thrive in the true backup role. His .238 batting average was the highest of his 11-year career and his .601 OPS ranked third.
The 33-year-old’s increased average can be explained by some advanced plate discipline metrics. His chase percentage was down to 30.6 percent, his lowest since 2009, which shows how he was laying off bad pitches and was getting better pitches to hit. Mathis was also making more contact this season (71.4 percent) than he has since 2011, showing how he was making contact with the better pitches he was getting.
Along with his offense, Mathis was solid behind the plate in his limited playing time in 2016. He did a fine job of handling the pitching staff and threw out 30.3 percent of runners attempting to steal, while only allowing one passed ball in 310 innings.
The Marlins now have a tough decision to make with Mathis becoming a free agent. The front office will want him back, but will also not want to shell out too much money for a backup catcher. But, they would be wise to bring back Jeff Mathis for at least another year before Tomas Telis is ready to come up to the majors on a full-time basis.