I am relatively new to the mac, and other than writing python scripts I can't figure out how to automate certain tasks like I would have in windows with a batch file.
Pointers and links to documentation would be appreciated.
A simpler option is to use Automator, which allows you to create workflows for data and programs, so it's like graphical batch file creation. Some Automator tutorials:
If you're doing something heavily Unixy, you also have access to the Bourne shell, Perl, and (as you already know) Python. It'll be more difficult to manipulate other Mac programs this way, but you have all the text processing utilities you could ask for.