Even baseball fans who aren’t into statistics are familiar with batting average. If it starts with a 4, that’s historically good. Starting with a 3 is good, a 2 is OK, and if it starts with a 1 … well, even a casual fan knows it’s time to send that player to the minors.
But this season, as baseball’s collective batting average has sunk to .243, the dreaded “1” is showing up more and more. Batters, emboldened by teams that prioritize power over consistency, increasingly swing for the fences, and with that their averages have plummeted. Many have even sunk below .200, a threshold known as the Mendoza Line, which was named for Mario Mendoza, a light-hitting infielder in the 1970s.
Through Thursday’s games, 20 players with at least 200 plate appearances — enough to be considered something of a regular — were hitting below .200. By season’s end they could be joined by several more who are near those thresholds in batting average or plate appearances.
In the last full season, 2019, there were only 15 such players. Further back, it was difficult to keep a roster spot with such a low average. Twenty years ago, in 2001, there were only five sub-.200 hitters, and 50 years ago, in 1971, there were six.