Jay, in his first full season as the Cardinals' center fielder, has shined with his defensive steadiness and impressed with how routinely he has made highlight-reel-type plays. The whole package, Matheny said, should warrant Jay strong consideration in this fall's Gold Glove Award voting.
"If you're just talking about the impact defensively that a player has made, I just can't imagine that anybody has had more of an impact than he has," Matheny said. "I'll lobby for him whenever I can, because I have been more than impressed."
Gold Glove winners are voted upon by managers and coaching staffs, though Matheny, by rule, cannot vote for Jay.
Jay's chances of earning his first Gold Glove honor could be hampered by two factors. Recent changes in the voting rules mean that Jay has to go head to head in the voting against Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, whom many anticipate is the front-runner for the award.
For many years, the top three outfield votegetters, regardless of position, earned the honor. Now, there is a separation to where one Gold Glove is handed out to a right fielder, another to a center fielder and the other to a left fielder.
Also a potential factor is the time Jay missed while nursing a shoulder injury. That cost him the chance to showcase his ability in front of several teams. Thursday marked just the 71st start Jay has made in center field this season.
"He's made enough good plays that have gotten national attention, too, that I think people are going to take a look at the statistics," Matheny said. "I just have a hard time, as you go through the league, [finding] many guys who are better."
Still, Jay entered Thursday as the only National League center fielder to make at least 48 starts at the position and not commit an error. Jay's Ultimate zone rating, a defensive metric that measures how a player compares to an average player at the position, is 6.7, the second-best UZR among NL center fielders.
"I do my homework out there," said Jay. "I try to go out there and trust myself and make plays. I try to work hard so that when these things do happen, I've been there before."