The folly of the Angels' Mike Scioscia

Jeff Mathis' defensive skills don't seem to make up for his lack of offensive production. Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire

For the most part, it's hard to criticize Mike Scioscia. The Los Angeles Angels' manager has reached the playoffs six times in his 11 full seasons at the helm (including a World Series win), and his club consistently outplays its Pythagorean record, which is a strong indication he knows how to manage bullpen and bench. It would be hard to name five managers in baseball who are better than Scioscia. Because of that, it makes his one glaring blind spot -- his insistence on playing Jeff Mathis regularly -- all the more mind-blowing.

As of today, the Angels are 1.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for first place in the American League West. More remarkable is that the Halos are this close to first despite allowing Mathis -- and his .495 OPS -- to bat 220 times so far this season.

It's hard to overstate just how poor a hitter Mathis truly is. For his career, he has a .197 batting average in 1,299 plate appearances. According to Baseball Reference, there have been just four others players in history to amass 1,300 PAs while batting below the Mendoza Line, and two of them, Mike Ryan and Ray Oyler, spent much of their careers in the 1960s, arguably the most pitcher-friendly era in baseball history. (Even the guy for whom the Mendoza Line was named actually had a career batting average of .215.) In other words, when you're that bad a hitter, they don't let you get the chance to amass 1,300 PAs because you've already proven you don't belong in the majors.