Joe Mather a Bright Spot in a Frustrating Season

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Ah. I see your game now, Tony.

You give Ryan Franklin the vote of confidence, causing me to go into a raging tirade about making Kyle McClellan the closer, then you come out a couple of hours later and make Izzy the closer again. I see what you did there.

Tony La Russa is trying to destroy my brain.

I've obviously become too much of a thorn in the side of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and the order has now come down from the top to take me out. I and my army of literally tens of readers have attracted a bit too much attention from The Man.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what they do to those they wish to censor! Sure, today, it's just some humble blogger living in a fortified underground bunker, but tomorrow it could be you! It could be anybody!

I must say, even with Bill DeWitt's shock troops likely on their way here to eliminate me from the equation permanently, last night's game was a pleasant respite from the recent struggles of the local nine.

What I found most encouraging of all was the performance of Joe Mather. I saw a fair amount of Joe Mather in spring training, and went so far as to advocate for him making the big league club as a Scott Spiezio type utility guy, minus the goofy facial hair and Keith Richards tendencies. (Although that actually sounds sort of boring, doesn't it?)

Of course, Mather didn't make the Cards out of spring, as we've been treated to the slappy middle infielder equivalent of the hydra all season. When Mather did finally get his call-up, I thought he looked pretty good, but his swing was a little long, and he looked like he needed a bit more time to make some adjustments.

Well, he got sent back down, and continued to crush Triple A pitching. He's obviously too good for the minor leagues. He was recalled prior to the Milwaukee series and immediately got thrown into the fire with a start against CC Sabathia. Against Sabathia, Mather didn't look so good. Then again, neither did the rest of the Cardinal bats.

Against the Brewers' Johan Santana a few days later, Mather failed to get a hit (again, much like the rest of the team), but I actually thought he looked far less over-matched than the rest of the hitters. He seemed to do a much better job of staying back on the ball and letting it travel well into the zone before taking a swing at it. I was impressed with the work he did that day, and now he has a big breakout game. Of course, Atlanta's Charlie Morton wasn't particularly sharp last night, so maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there. It's pretty easy to look good against a pitcher that can't get his shit together.

Still, though, I think that Joey Bombs may be turning that corner. He now has 60 at bats in the major leagues, scattered over quite a few games. That's obviously too small of a sample size to draw many conclusions from, but we can begin to spot some trends:

Since coming back up, Mather has struck out only twice, both in last night's game. In both the game against Sabathia and the one against Santana, Mather managed to avoid striking out. That's pretty impressive in itself, as both of those guys have built their careers largely on the ability to generate swings and misses. Unfortunately, in that same time frame, Mather hasn't drawn a single walk either. Of course, part of that could be the fact that his only starts have been against Sabathia, Santana, and in last night's game. The first two guys generally throw enough strikes that trying to wait for a walk probably isn't the best idea, and as for last night, well, I'll trade extra base hits for walks any day.

Mather's overall line in those 60 at bats now stands at .250/.318/.450. That's a pretty ugly on-base percentage, but that slugging percentage shows that he is at least driving the ball with some authority.

His walk rate is low, at only 9.1%, and his strikeout rate is too high, at over 21 percent.

All of that jibes pretty well with what you see when you watch Mather play. What is encouraging, though, is that at Triple A this season, Joey has a nearly 1-1 walk to strikeout ratio, with 32 walks to 36 strikeouts.

That's encouraging because plate discipline usually follows a player up the ladder. It's always tough to predict whether or not a guy will be able to hit major league pitching, but a good batting eye doesn't usually disappear. I think Mather is still firmly in the "figuring it out" phase of his major league career, but the plate discipline he's shown this season at Triple A is an excellent sign.

He's already making hard contact when he does make contact, and he's put the bat on the ball much more effectively since being recalled. I think the plate discipline will continue to improve as he settles in.

So, what have we learned? Well, to be honest, not a whole lot. The jury is still out on Mather, but I have to say, I like what I see more all the time. He still seems to have some holes in his swing (he looks like you could beat him in on his hands in particular), but I think he's cutting down on the empty swings. If it isn't just an illusion, and he continues to make contact to go along with his athleticism and power, I think that Mr. Bombs could very well find himself with a place on this team after all.

Hmm? Hey, hold on a sec. Someone's at the door.

Hey! It's Domino's! Cool, I didn't think they delivered pizza this early, without you even having to call them! Awesome! Got me a pizza. I'll finish this after I eat some delicious pizza that these six huge Domino's delivery men have brought me. Boy, those guys are big. No wonder they needed that panel van to deliver my pizza. I'll be right back.

Editor's Note: This article was retrieved from the hard drive of Mr. Schafer's computer after it was found in the smoking wreckage of his underground bunker. There was also a pizza box found outside, which did not appear to have ever contained pizza. The current whereabouts of Mr. Schafer are unknown, though he is assumed to still be hungry.

- Aaron Schafer

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