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The Mets And The Mendoza Line

Mario Mendoza, whose namesake the "Mendoza Line" -- a .200 batting average -- generally represents the nadir of baseball futility, turns 60 today. While Mendoza batted under .200 five times in his career, only once, in 1979, did he do so while coming to the plate more than 100 times. For his career Mendoza was a .215 hitter, still awful but a fair bit shy of hitting under his own line of ineptitude.

Six Mets have finished a season of at least 300 plate appearances with a batting average below the Mendoza Line. Here are the dreadful half-dozen.

  • 6. Jerry Grote. .195 in 1967.

    The 24-year-old Grote was the worst everyday player on a truly awful 1967 Mets team that lost 101 games and finished 40.5 games back of the eventual World Series Champion Cardinals. He drew just 14 walks in 367 plate appearances, though eight of those were intentional. His .479 OPS was the second-worst in all of baseball, just one point ahead of fellow catcher Elston Howard.

  • 5. Al Moran. .193 in 1963.

    Moran was a 24-year-old shortstop for the 1963 Mets, a team that lost 111 games and wrapped up the season a mere 48 games behind the Dodgers, who went on to sweep the Yankees in the World Series that year. Moran drew a respectable number of walks, but he hit for barely any power and anchored (as in weighed down) an offense that also featured catcher Choo Choo Coleman's .178 batting average* and first baseman Tim Harkness's .211 mark.

    * Coleman had just 277 plate appearances in 1963 and therefore didn't qualify for this list.

  • 4. Doug Flynn. .191 in 1977.

    Flynn was one of four players to come over from the Cincinnati Reds in the awful trade that sent Tom Seaver away from the Mets, so he already had a black mark against him before he went out and hit .191/.220/.220 in 300 plate appearances after the deal. His 25 OPS+* is the seventh-worst season mark since 1901 (min. 300 PA), mere percentage points better than Mendoza's '79 campaign.

    * Flynn was a little better with the Reds prior to the trade; his OPS+ with the Mets was a laughably low 22.

  • 3. Bobby Klaus. .191 in 1965.

    Klaus split time between second base, third, and shortstop, hitting .191/.302/.253 in 337 trips to the plate. Despite the sub-Mendoza batting average, Klaus was patient enough that his on-base percentage was actually higher than six Met regulars that season (and just a point below a seventh, Ed Kranepool). Klaus was hitting .201 as late as September 8, but had just one hit in his final 24 plate appearances -- a home run against the Cubs off future Met Bob Hendley -- to finish at .191.

  • 2. Bud Harrelson. .178 in 1977.

    In 13 seasons with the Mets Harrelson never finished with an OPS above the league average, though in a lot of those seasons it didn't matter because he was still a better hitter than the average shortstop. Unfortunately, 1977, Buddy's last with the Mets, wasn't one of those seasons, as he hit just .178/.255/.227 for a team that went 64-98 and ended play a mere 37 games behind the Phillies.

  • 1. Al Weis. .172 in 1968

    Weis was just a .219 hitter for his career, but he set a new benchmark for woe in 1968 when he hit .172/.234/.204 in 301 plate appearances (he also hit .155 in 213 plate appearances with the White Sox in 1966). He collected just 47 hits in 274 official at-bats and only seven of them -- six doubles and a home run -- went for extra bases. Despite all of that, Weis is perhaps the best evidence to date that literally anyone can be a playoff hero, as the man with a career 59 OPS+ hit .455/.563/.727 in the 1969 World Series against the Orioles. His leadoff home run in the bottom of the seventh of Game 5 tied the game at three and helped propel the Mets to a 5-3 win and the championship of baseball.

  • No Met has ever hit below the Mendoza Line while qualifying for the batting title and it has only happened 68 times in all of baseball since 1901. Two players -- Mark Reynolds, .198, and Carlos Pena, .196 -- did so in 2010, but prior to them it hadn't happened since Rob Deer hit .179 (and clubbed 25 home runs) in 1991, and inclusive of those three it has still only occurred seven times since 1950.