Why Do We Think of .200 as the Mendoza Line?

~ THE MENDOZA LINE ~ Mario Mendoza's career batting average has become the symbol hitting futility over the past 30 years - but his actual career BA was .215 - not the .200 that most people think it was.

~ THE MENDOZA LINE ~
Mario Mendoza’s career batting average has become the symbol of hitting futility over the past 30 years – but his actual career BA was .215 – not the .200 that most people think it was.

Bill Borst of St. Louis, a colleague, academic and baseball author, professor of history and founder of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and Browns Fan Club is responsible for raising this very fair question: “Why do we think of .200 as the Mendoza Line for career terminal batting averages?”

~ BILL BORST ~ Advocate for Historical Correction

~ BILL BORST ~
Advocate for Historical Correction

In the nine seasons ((1974-82) that MLB infielder Mario Mendoza played his way into legendary status as the icon for the dropping off place in fatally anemic hitting, he needed only 680 total games to establish his career batting average of .215 as “The Mendoza Line” of batting proficiency failure.

Yes, we said .215 lifetime – not the .200 mark that probably most people who’ve even heard of “The Mendoza Line” think it is?

What happened to encourage a standard that was not only .015 points above the shudder-land drop into ugly averages that begin at .199 on their potential descent to .000?

Borst argues that, if we are going to think .200 as the jumping off the gravy train point, that we ought to get it right that .215 and Mario Mendoza were never the best mark and model for the archetype of baseball batting failure.

Look no further than Bob Uecker for a better named patron saint of puny batting. Borst suggests the wonderfully funny former catcher and modern day baseball broadcasting winner of the Ford Frick Award and movie broadcasting celeb in “Major League” as the accurately “statified” (our Pecan Park Eagle new word for it) performer on point to such an onerous accolade.

~ BOB UECKER ~ The Uecker Line Nominee

~ BOB UECKER ~
The Uecker Line Nominee

Bob Uecker batted exactly .200 in a six-year (1962-67) 297-game catching career in the big leagues. His average alone speaks for the relative-to-Mendoza shorter length of his career – and for Borst’s recommendation that we start thinking of .200 as “The Uecker Line.”

Makes sense to me, except for the fact, right and wrong, that we’ve had 30 years to hear, read  and convince ourselves that “The Mendoza Line” and .200 are one and the same – which they measurably are not.

Bob Uecker might have made this possible comment on Mario Mendoza’s .215 average as the standard for a measurable hitting nadir in a career, had he been asked. If you remember Uecker’s call on that wide wild pitch in “Major League”:

“Mendoza gets the call – but it’s a tad high!”

Bill Borst describes “The Uecker Line” (.200) in these words:

“The Uecker Line”  signals career futility and a future that centers upon never having anything more than bad views and cars that break down.”

Thanks for a wonderful suggestion, Bill Borst, even if the weight of hearing “Mendoza Line” and .200 mentioned and written about together too often over the past three decades works against people’s resistance to abandoning their comfort zones, even when they are being asked to correct what was never true in the first place.

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6 Responses to “Why Do We Think of .200 as the Mendoza Line?”

  1. gregclucas Says:

    George Brett “created” the Mendoza line from the days when the stats were only published in the Sunday papers. In those days it was Mario Mendoza who was often right around the .200 mark and thus George started associating Mario’s batting average with those below .200. It is really nothing technical or statistical at all…just something Brett came up with. Ironically after his playing days Mario Mendoza spent some time as a minor league hitting instructor.

    • Rick B. Says:

      Mendoza as a hitting instructor? !?! I immediately recalled the admonition that “When the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into a ditch.” Why that’s like Donald Trump teaching tact!

    • Bill Borst Says:

      Sorry that’s incorrect. Misses the whole point. See my earlier reply. Bill Borst

  2. Bill Borst Says:

    Bill:

    And Abner Doubleday(great baseball name actually–makes one think of Ernie Banks) founded the game of baseball. Paul Dickson’s mamouth BB Dictionary traces the Mendoza Line to G. Brett. It was .215 when I learned it. Lazy and ignorant broadcasters starting with Pale Sox’s Tom Pichorick sp. were responsible for miscue.
    Even Dickson equivocates and says it is a line from .200 to .215. Not a math guy but that is a range. As a prominent bb historian you should be leading the charge to get it right. BBPROF

  3. Anthnony Cavender Says:

    We could use a few Mendoza Line hitters on the Astros.

  4. Ira Liebman Says:

    He got the distinction because in 1977 and 1979 he batted .198 so he was right around .200 all year in both of those season. Also I interviewed Sean Wooten (the Angles catcher who helped them win 2002 World Series) about a decade ago and his manager in the minors was Mario Mendoza and he said he wore the “Mendoza Line” tag as a badge of honor.

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