May 16, 2021

Erasing the Mendoza Line | FanGraphs Baseball (FanGraphs)


When Mario Mendoza played his last season in the majors in 1982, he appeared in just 12 games and batted a paltry .118/.118/.118; his wRC+ was -41. If all you know about the former shortstop is that his name has become synonymous with failure at the plate, those numbers likely aren’t all that surprising.

During Mendoza’s time with the Mariners in 1979 and ’80, he struggled to keep his average above .200, inspiring teammates Bruce Bochte and Tom Paciorek to tease him, dubbing the elusive mark “The Mendoza Line.” The joke might have ended there, but Royals slugger George Brett caught wind of the phrase when he got off to a sluggish start to the 1980 season, to the amusement of Bochte and Paciorek. According to Mendoza, his Seattle teammates told Brett, “Hey, man, you’re going to sink down below the Mendoza Line if you’re not careful.” Brett later mentioned it to ESPN’s Chris Berman from ESPN; it spread from there.

There’s a bit of a poetic twist to Brett being the one who helped popularize the expression. He started the season telling Berman, “The first thing I look for in the Sunday papers is who is below the Mendoza Line.” And while his early-season…

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