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Jeffrey Stephen Mathis (born March 31, 1983 in Marianna, Florida) is a Major League Baseball catcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and made his major league debut on August 12, 2005, with them. He bats and throws right-handed.
After playing both football and baseball for Marianna High School (winning four district titles, a regional title and appearing in the state championship game in football in 2000, as well as a 1999 state title in baseball, on a team that featured fellow first-round pick Alan Horne), he became a first round draft selection by the Angels in 2001, Mathis moved up the ranks to Triple-A Salt Lake by 2005. He earned the Angels' minor league Defensive Player of the Year award. Noted for his defensive skills at the catcher spot, he also had a career-best year with the bat, hitting .276 with 21 home runs.
Following the 2005 season, the Angels declined to pursue the return of their free agent starting catcher, Bengie Molina, ensuring Mathis would make the roster for the 2006 season. After a solid 2006 spring training, Mathis was expected to see substantial playing time at catcher, sharing the position with José Molina. However, once the regular season began, he struggled greatly on both defense and offense. With Mathis batting only .108 and the team compiling just a 2-9 record in games that he started, the Angels demoted him back to the minor leagues one month into the season. Mathis was replaced on the Angels roster by catcher Mike Napoli.
In 2008, he batted just .194, below the Mendoza Line.
Mathis's most noteworthy major league moment occurred on October 19, 2009 when his 11th inning walk off RBI double in game three of the American League Championship Series defeated the New York Yankees 5-4.
His impressive 2009 playoff offensive statistics became important in his 2010 arbitration hearings. In spite of poor regular season stats (.211 average), he used his strong playoff offensive performance and excellent defensive skill to bolster his case for a raise to $1.3 million, beating the Angels management in arbitration. The arbitration hearing was also something of a watershed in the amount of consideration paid to Mathis' defensive statistics. The LA Times highlighted the stark comparisons with competing catcher Mike Napoli: "in 657 innings with the agile Mathis behind the plate, Angels pitchers had a 3.99 earned-run average; they had a 4.86 ERA in 758 innings with Napoli catching. Mathis also caught 17 of 69 attempted base-stealers for a 24.6% success rate; Napoli, who will make $3.6 million in 2010 but is coming off two 20-homer seasons, caught 13 of 87 attempted base-stealers for a 14.9% success rate." Mathis has been among the AL leaders in pitchers' earned run averages while he's been behind the plate.