Who is Mark Mathias and where did he come from?
The Oakland Athletics are probably asking that question after last night’s game in which Mathias hit a game-tying two run homer in the bottom of the seventh and a game-winning solo shot in the bottom of the ninth.
Mathias is a twenty-eight-year-old journeyman minor leaguer who got his first taste of the big leagues in 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers, hit .278 in sixteen games, without a home run by the wat, and was generally thought of as a no-bat utility player.
He tore a shoulder muscle before the 2021 season and didn’t play at all last year. That led him to being left off the Brewers forty-man roster at the end of 2021. He was recalled from Triple-A in May, got into six games, hit .125 with an anemic.430 OPS, then was sent back down to Triple-A.
He was the “who?” that was traded for Matt Bush at the deadline. Since he’s been a Ranger, he’s somehow turned into an All-Star caliber hitter.
After last night’s two-home run game, Mathias is batting .366, with a .485 on-base percentage, and a Hall-of-Fame-level OPS of 1.190.
So, which is the real Mathias? The one who came to the Rangers with a career OPS+ of 53, meaning he was barely over half as productive as the average major leaguer. Or the one with an OPS+ of 235, making him more than twice as productive as the average major leaguer?
Mathias bring DJ Peters to memory. The Rangers picked up Peters last year from the Dodgers, a .192 hitting outfielder with a bit of pop. In 52 games with the Rangers, DJ hit twelve home runs and seemed to find his power stroke. Unlike Mathias, he never turned the corner with his average or OBP. But, Peters was gone after the season was over, never to be heard from again.
It’s hard telling what happens to Mathias. Probably, traded in a package over the off-season. But, he’s is having quite a year with the Rangers.
The Rangers need to ride it while they can.