Monday, November 15, 2010

Reynolds, Pena Claim Super 'Mario' Award

Forget about all this talk about whether or not Derek Jeter deserves his Gold Glove and if so and so deserves MVP or Cy Young or Rookie of the Year.

Let's get down to the truly unique honors stemming from the 2010 season: Who finished below the storied Mendoza Line?

The Mendoza Line, as most fans know, is the .200 batting average, named for Mario Mendoza. Mendoza was a slick-fielding shortstop who hit for a lifetime .215 average with the Pirates, Mariners and Rangers. If you're hitting below .200, you are below the ignominious Mendoza Line, and your teammates--and history--will mock you for the rest of your life.

The term was reportedly hatched out of Kansas City, pertaining to George Brett (George was certainly no slouch in the batter's box). As is the case with most newish sports catchphrases, it was the mighty trumpet of ESPN's SportsCenter that send the phrase national.

From Wikipedia:

"My teammates Tom Paciorek and Bruce Bochte used it to make fun of me," Mendoza said in 2010. "Then they were giving George Brett a hard time because he had a slow start that year, so they told him, 'Hey, man, you're going to sink down below the Mendoza Line if you're not careful.' And then Brett mentioned it to Chris Berman from ESPN, and eventually it spread and became a part of the game."

Berman deflects credit back to Brett in popularizing the term. "Mario Mendoza — it's all George Brett," Berman said. "We used it all the time in those 1980s 'SportsCenters.' It was just a humorous way to describe how someone was hitting."

So who finished below the Mendoza Line this year? Among players with 350-plus at-bats, Arizona third-sacker Mark Reynolds finished at .198 after 596 plate appearances--lowest in the National League.
Other bottom feeders from the Senior League: Reynolds' D-Backs teammate Chris Snynder at .207, and Cardinal Pedro Feliz at .218.

Over in the American League, Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena hit .196. If we expand the paltry pool to include those with 300-plus at-bats, then Cleveland second baseman Luis Valbuena wins the Withered Wiffle (opposite of the Silver Slugger) with a .193 clip.

So how the heck to Reynolds and Pena continue to compel their managers to send them to the batter's box? Surprise, surprise, they hit for prodigious power. Reynolds clocked 32 homers and delivered 85 rib-eye steaks in 2010.

For his part, Pena was good for 28 taters and 84 RBIs.

Of all the significant accomplishments reached in 2010--Bautista's 54 homers, Halladay/Sabathia's 21 wins--hitting below the Mendoza Line continues to be one of the most difficult things to do in baseball.

No comments: