You’ve probably heard of the “Mendoza Line”. It’s a classic baseball expression that sets a batting average of .200 as the arbitrary marker for a player who can’t hit. The origins of the phrase are somewhat murky, but most agree it began in the 1979 season, when Seattle Mariners SS Mario Mendoza was floating under a .200 batting average, and his teammates were ribbing him about it.
Mendoza wasn’t an awful player, especially when he could field his position well and SS demands were mostly for slick glove rather than big slugging in that era. That’s good, because in this era not many players, no matter their defensive prowess, would be able to last the 8 seasons Mendoza did with his career 38 wRC+.
But here’s the thing that has always bothered me about the “Mendoza Line”. Even Mario Mendoza was above it. His career triple slash was .215/.245/.262. And in a new era with a lower emphasis on batting average, I think it’s high time to reinvent the “Mendoza Line” for a new generation.
This is why I’m proposing: The Cash Line
Kevin Cash, before he was a two-time Manager of Year and one of the finest minds in baseball, was a light-hitting defense-first journeyman catcher for AL East teams (except for 20 games with Houston). Cash’s batting woes are well documented by his mentor and friend Tito Francona’s pranks
Kevin Cash as a player hit .183/.248/.278 and a 34 wRC+.
And so we set The Cash Line: .183 batting average and a .526 OPS
The 2022 Rays season has been a bit of a struggle at the plate. But exactly how much of a struggle? Well now we have a better bar to compare. I included BA but in the modern era of baseball the importance and emphasis on BA has justifiably been reduced. So a new “Mendoza Line” should be more reflective of who is and who isn’t contributing the most. OPS gives a bit more of a focus towards two major skills most desired: power and getting on-base.
With that preamble out of the way, I present the 2022 Rays as compared to The Cash Line
Cash Line as of 7/8/22
Right now in MLB, a .526 OPS would place 430th of all qualified batters.
There are 8 Rays well above the Cash Line that I did not include. Those are the names you’d likely expect:
Isaac Paredes .902
Ji-Man Choi .851
Yandy Diaz .798
Harold Ramirez .791
Manuel Margot .788
Randy Arozarena .735
Wander Franco .708
Brandon Lowe 0.708
In 2021 there were only 3 Rays batters (with at least 10 PA) to hit below the Cash Line: Yoshi Tsutsugo (.462), Kevin Padlo (.381), and Vidal Brujan (.154).
For those that are in the danger zone just at or below the Cash Line, we see four prospects. It’s been a tough go of it for many prospects around the league adjusting to the majors, especially after a tumultuous last few years with the pandemic affecting minor league schedules.
Josh Lowe has looked more comfortable the second time returning to the majors, with more contact and fewer Ks. Walls last year was above the Cash line (.610 OPS) so there’s hope that his strong OBP skills in the minors can shine through eventually. Even Brett Phillips has shown an ability to clear the Cash Line in the past. He doesn’t need to be much above it with his extremely strong base running and defensive prowess (not to mention his elite-level friendship and teammate tool). Will they see some positive improvements? Will the Rays get all of these players above the Cash line? The second half will tell the tale.
For now, we have a new bar to set and see who clears it, and who might be a part of a jumbotron prank in the future as a rival manager to veteran prankster Kevin Cash one day.