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The Mendoza Line is an informal term used in baseball for the threshold of incompetent hitting. Even though Mario Mendoza's lifetime batting average is .215, the Mendoza Line is said to occur at .200, and when a position player's batting average falls below that level, the player is said to be below the Mendoza Line. It is often thought of as the offensive threshold below which a player's presence in Major League Baseball cannot be justified despite his defensive abilities. National League pitchers are not held to the Mendoza Line standard, since their specialized work and infrequent batting excuses less competence in hitting.[1]


Origin of the term

The term is named for former shortstop Mario Mendoza, a flashy defensive player but a poor hitter who struggled at the plate. Although Mendoza's batting average was .215 lifetime, he was known as a sub-.200 hitter whose average frequently fell into the .170 to .180 range during any particular year. That proved to be true in 1979 when Mendoza managed to finish the year with a meager .198 average.

Baseball legend George Brett is believed to have coined the term early in that season when asked about his own batting average.[2] Brett is said to have remarked "The first thing I look for in the Sunday papers is who is below the Mendoza line".[3] Bruce Bochte and Tom Paciorek have also been credited as creators of the expression.[4]

One explanation for the expression relates to the historical presentation of numerous batting averages in the Sunday newspapers. Not all batting averages were presented. The theory holds that Mario Mendoza was at the bottom of those that were published and players with lower batting averages did not appear. They were "below the Mendoza line".[5]

An alternative explanation refers to the concept of a player failing to "hit his weight." Bob Prince, a Pirates announcer, used this meaning in the 1970s when Mendoza played for Pittsburgh. According to his player page, Mendoza weighed 187 pounds. Mendoza ended his 1975 season with the Pirates with a batting average of .180 and batted only .185 in 1976, so this was a frequent occurrence. Since then the Mendoza Line has been arbitrarily set at values ranging from .180 to .215.

Other Uses

A variant of the phrase appeared in the CBS TV show How I Met Your Mother; Barney Stinson describes a new girlfriend of Ted Mosby whose craziness outweighs her hotness as "below the Vicki Mendoza diagonal," referring to a woman he once dated.[6]

Keith Olbermann, host of the MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann cable television news program used a "Mendoza Line of presidential politics" metaphor in reference to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's withdrawal from the 2008 U.S. presidential primaries after winning only one delegate. Olbermann, a baseball historian and member of the Society for American Baseball Research, credited George Brett for popularizing the "Mendoza line" term, and said it referred to Mario Mendoza.[5]

In the movie business, the Mendoza Line is used to describe a movie that earns a per theater average of less than $2,000 over a weekend. For movies released by major studios, it costs about $2,000 to create and ship a print to a movie theater, so, taking into account the revenue earned over the whole week, and the share of revenue kept by the movie theater, if a movie earns less than $2,000 in a theater over a weekend, the studio would have been better off never playing the movie in that theater. Similarly, for movies in limited release, earning over $2,000 in a theater is enough to encourage theater owners to continue booking the movie for additional weeks. Movies earning below the Mendoza Line therefore tend to disappear quickly from theaters. The term was coined by C.S. Strowbridge of box office tracking web site The Numbers.[7]


  1. ^ "The Mendoza Line: Bad in Sports, Bad For the Budget". Retrieved 2009-12-02.  
  2. ^ Mario Mendoza at Baseball
  3. ^ Sklars, Robert &, Waggoner, Glen; Eisenberg. Lee. Rotisserie League Baseball (Bantam 2nd ed ed.). Toronto; New York:: Bantam Books. ISBN 9780553343939. Retrieved 2009-06-24.  
  4. ^ Pepper, Al. "The Curious Origins of the Mendoza Line". Retrieved 2009-06-24.  
  5. ^ a b Olbermann, Keith (2008-01-30). "The fall of Rudy" (video). Countdown with Keith Olbermann (New York City: MSNBC). Retrieved 2008-01-31. "It was the Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett who popularized it, the so called Mendoza line, the guy with the lowest batting average who still got his name on the list published in the Sunday newspapers. Named for Mario Mendoza..."  
  6. ^ YouTube - The Hot / Crazy Scale
  7. ^ The Numbers - Even Horror Films Can't Survive the October of Terrors

Further reading

  • Mendoza's Heroes: Fifty Batters Below .200, Al Pepper, 2002, Poco Press
  • The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Paul Dickson, 1999, Harvest Books

External links



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