FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2018

In 2018, I once again had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of people within baseball. Many of their words were shared in my Sunday Notes column, while others came courtesy of the FanGraphs Q&A series, the Learning and Developing a Pitch series, the Manager’s Perspective series, and a smattering of feature stories. Here is a selection of the best quotes from this year’s conversations.

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“My slider will come out and it will be spinning, spinning, spinning, and then as soon as it catches, it picks up speed and shoots the other way. Whoosh! It’s like when you bowl. You throw the ball, and then as soon as it catches, it shoots with more speed and power. Right? “ — Sergio Romo, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, January 2018

“One of the biggest lessons we learn is that iron sharpens iron. That is 100% how we try to do things with the Rockies — hiring people that are smarter than we are, and more skilled, and have different skills that can complement, and train people to be better at their jobs than I am at my job. That’s how you advance an organization.” — Jeff Bridich, Colorado Rockies GM, January 2018

“We could split hairs and say, ‘Hey, you’re playing in front of a thousand drunk Australians instead of 40,000 drunk Bostonians, and you’re living with a host family instead of at a five-star hotel.’ But The Show is The Show, and in Australia the ABL is The Show.” — Lars Anderson, baseball nomad, January 2018

“Baseball is heaven. Until our closer blows the game.” — Michael Hill, Miami Marlins president of baseball operations, January 2018

“It’s almost like an alcoholic admitting that he’s an alcoholic for the first time. I couldn’t understand it, so how could I explain it to somebody else? I was in my early 20s and had made it to the big leagues. What did I have to be depressed, or feel sad, about? I have a great life. I’m blessed, yet I was miserable.” — Rob Whalen, Seattle Mariners pitcher, February 2018

“I did a bunch of reading online and started wondering if I should be pitching up in the zone. The [Twins] had never told me what my spin rate was. I ended up going to a video guy of ours on my own, a guy younger than me, and asked, ‘Do you have the data, the small sample size of it?’” — Luke Bard, Anaheim Angels pitcher, February 2018

“There are a lot of different factors that go into it. J.D. Martinez starts doing something different and all of a sudden he hits 40 home runs. Well, you’re not going to get Jose Iglesias to go through the same process and do that.” — Al Avila, Detroit Tigers GM, February 2018

“There’s not a trick to it, but there is a message. And there are going to be different messages to different players. But it’s not like you can just give them the information and all of a sudden it’s ‘Click… OK, now I’m consistent.’ It doesn’t work that way.” — Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox manager, February 2018

“[With Statcast], you had the ability to look at the starts and the stops, and understanding what he looks like when he’s at full throttle. The satellite information will deliver that to you. You can have a general idea, and then you have to be creative in how you overlay it.” — Jerry Dipoto, Seattle Mariners GM, March 2018

“[My] son is like, ‘Dad, I want to be on TV, and play this and play that.’ He was real small the last time I was up, and now he comprehends a little more. I think it would be cool for him to watch me pitch in the big leagues, so I decided to get back on the horse.” — Kris Medlen, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher, March 2018

“When I was in Detroit, Max Scherzer told me, ‘Every year, you either get better or you get worse.’ But originally, it was, ‘Either I throw the ball this way and see what happens, or I take myself out of the game.’ Basically, I learned the pitch by default.” — Drew Smyly, Chicago Cubs pitcher, March 2018

“I kind of rotated it, almost to a backwards four-seam, to where it allows my middle finger to pull that horseshoe down. When I get extension, it snaps the ball down better and goes a little arm side. It’s much different movement than I’m used to having. In the past, my changeups typically cut. They were almost like slow cutters.” — Phil Maton, San Diego Padres pitcher, March 2018

“My spin rate is way down from guys who have similar curveballs. For instance, [Clayton] Kershaw has a higher spin rate, but we get almost the same break. It’s weird. I have a high four-seam spin rate and very low curveball spin.“ — Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox pitcher, April 2018

“It wasn’t a forkball. The forkball you dig, and this was no digging. This was just inner pressure amongst your knuckles. I could vary the speed by moving my thumb up on the ball, but I primarily kept it below the ball … it would just disappear.” — John Smoltz, Hall of Fame pitcher, April 2018

“A lot of people call it a slider. I’ve heard it referred to as a curveball, as well. I like to stay between the two. There’s no reason it has to find a classification.” — Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves pitcher, April 2018

“Two guys who really popped into mind were McCutchen and Francisco Lindor, kind of how they chill with the bat on their shoulders. Everything looks so simple and compact, like they’re working in that telephone booth. That’s what we call it. Your energy is stored, you’re seeing the ball, and you’re in that telephone booth.” — Nick Plummer, St. Louis Cardinals prospect, April 2018

“I’m stretching the rubber-band effect … you want to think of it like a Ferris wheel or an elliptical. I would always throw my hands out to the ball, but now with the theory of the elliptical my barrel is working north and south.” — Daniel Robertson, Tampa Bay Rays infielder, May 2018

“I’d gotten too wrapped up in the swing part of it, and not concerned as much with the hitting part of it. I was trying to swing a certain way instead of hit a certain way. That’s something Matt Young has stressed to me … don’t try to get the ball to do something.” — Kevin Smith, Toronto Blue Jays prospect, May 2018

“My mom and my wife both said they were crying during ‘Sweet Caroline.’ I’m on the mound warming up and the fans kept singing after the music stopped. Even I had chills … really, the whole thing was kind of surreal.” — Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals pitcher, May 2018

“I’d already been molded into the young man that I was supposed to be [but] it would have been nice to have a father figure when I was five, six, seven, eight years old, somebody to teach me how to change the oil, somebody to take me fishing.” — Denard Span, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, May 2018

“My agent called to say, ‘Hey, the Reds picked you up in the Rule 5.’ I hung up the phone, called my parents, called my brother, and as soon as I hung up my agent called again. ‘Hey, you just got traded to the Royals.’ Then I had to pick up the phone and call everybody back.” — Brad Keller, Kansas City Royals pitcher, May 2018

“There probably could have been three or four times where Dayton could have fired me. But I think Dayton understands that’s not going to solve a problem. And a lot of times it can make the problem worse.” — Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals manager, May 2018

“OK, if that’s four-seam, high-seam/low-seam, long-finger/short-finger. Right? I would drop my hand down, and I want the seam to line up the same across my fingertips. I tilt it to where it’s the same, across my fingernails, like underneath the pads of my finger.” — Blake Treinen, Oakland A’s pitcher, May 2018

“Everything else would be the same. It was the same spin axis, everything. But it just wouldn’t go down … Not being able to figure out how to take that much spin off the baseball is when I truly realized there are fundamental differences in the way people throw the ball.” — Brandon McCarthy, Atlanta Braves pitcher, May 2018

“My left arm is shorter than my right arm right now. I don’t know if it’s from throwing offspeed or just building up scar tissue, but I have a little bend in my elbow, so I’ve had to move the ball a little bit to create the same angle and spin on it. Early on in my career I had really good extension out in front, and I just turned it over. It was easy. Now it’s a little harder.” — Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox pitcher, June 2018

“My slider almost became a changeup when I threw the slower one and got underneath it with my middle finger. If you do that it’s going to back up and run out of gas. I would just spin the ball sometimes. I didn’t want it to break. Guys used to say, ‘What is that thing you’re throwing?’” — Dennis Eckersley, Hall of Fame pitcher, June 2018

“We’re all human. It’s easy to think that way in a calm atmosphere, but when there’s pressure, when your job is on the line and fans are blowing you up on the internet … it’s a different kind of atmosphere.” — Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, June 2018

“He had my swing, unfortunately. He was a futility player just like his father … Luckily, he had me as the manager of the Twins and I wouldn’t let us release him.” — Ron Gardenhire, Detroit Tigers manager, June 2018

“Front offices are smarter with their contracts than they had been. Some of these that are held over … I guarantee you, if you sign a guy to a seven-year contract, you’re going to be lucky if you’re happy for four of those seven.” — Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles manager, June 2018

“I’d been over to the Pirates clubhouse bull jiving, talking to everybody, having a good time. Come the game, my first hitter was Dave Parker. OK, the first pitch I threw to Parker was right across the top of the hat. He said, ‘C’mon.’ I said, ‘You know how I work.’” — Grant Jackson, former big-league pitcher, June 2018

“He brought up Cueto’s name. I go, ‘Hey, I have to ask you a question. You know Johnny real well. How could he drop the ball on the mound?’ He goes, ‘Oh yeah, he told me all about it. He was breaking in a new glove.’ I said, ‘In the Wild Card game?’” — Tim Neverett, former Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster, July 2018

“Which players have I influenced the most? Let me reverse that question and say they’ve influenced me more than I’ve influenced them. I tell players that I wish for them to make it. This is my motto: I wish for them to make it, not because of me, but to make it in spite of me.” — Rick Renteria, Chicago White Sox manager, July 2018

“[W]hether it’s your gut or decisions you’re really informed about … they’re still probability decisions. And if you’re dealing with decisions that are in the 50s and 40s, there are mistakes. There are wrongs. There are what are going to be perceived as poor choices.” — Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers manager, July 2018

“I had a dream about it. Something came to me. It was a big baseball-looking face, and it said, ‘If you want me to cut this way, throw me like this.’ So I did that. It might have been one of my drug trips that I was on.” — Joe Biagini, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, July 2018

“I hadn’t figured out the control factor of the variables shifted in the vertical plane. What you really need is the perfect gyroscopic spin, but shifted up 30 to 45 degrees to get the lateral movement — preferably shifted all the way to polar axis to maximum lateral movement, but that’s not realistic for my arm angle.” — Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians pitcher, July 2018

“He exposes the ball to the hitter sooner. It’s like a boxer bailing out on a punch. If we’re boxing and I open up too much, I’m exposed and you can hit me with a left hook. But if I’m driving through you, I’m not exposing myself. I’m not giving you the opportunity to beat me up.” — Scott Emerson, Oakland A’s pitching coach, July 2018

“This is my livelihood, and if you’re not good at your job, they’re going to find somebody who is. That’s the case whether you’re in baseball or in business. If my financial advisor doesn’t make me a lot of money, I’m going to find somebody who can make me a lot of money.” — Trevor Williams, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, July 2018

“And Oliver Perez. He’ll turn his back. He’ll slide step. He’ll quick pitch. He skit pitches. By skit I mean like a comedy sketch. It’s like he’s not serious out there. He’s carnival throwing.” — Logan Morrison, Minnesota Twins DH, July 2018

“When these streaks happen, a storm starts to brew outside for every club that goes through it. The fan base is frustrated; the media is mirroring their emotions. There’s a desperation that builds and emotions run high. It conjures up the same sick feeling of being in a slump as a player.” — Gabe Kapler, Philadelphia Phillies manager, August 2018

“Jim Leyland came up to me and said, ‘That’s a pretty good pitch. Where did you learn to throw that?’ I said, ‘I’ve always had a curveball, but you guys didn’t want me to throw it, so I haven’t been throwing it.’ He was like, ‘Well, you better f-ing throw it now, because it’s really f-ing good.’” — Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox pitcher, August 2018

“Bad hitters think about hitting. Good hitters don’t think about hitting. Bad fielders think about fielding. Good fielders don’t think about fielding.” — Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles outfielder, August 2018

“It’s what’s been called ‘a Vulcan.’ Basically, I was screwing around with every grip I possibly could and I stumbled on that one. I threw it, and it went straight down. I was like, ‘I want that.’” — Blaine Hardy, Detroit Tigers pitcher, August 2018

“I was letting the game beat me a up a little bit. You can’t fight the game. You have to let the game come to you. If you fight the game, it’s going to beat your ass.” — Brock Deatherage, Detroit Tigers prospect, August 2018

“As pitchers continue to throw harder, there are fewer and fewer guys available who, bio-mechanically, can create both velocity and spin efficiency. Usually there’s a tradeoff. As they try to throw harder, as their hand travels in this elliptical path, they actually start to lose spin efficiency.” — Brian Bannister, Boston Red Sox VP of Pitching Development, September 2018

“You have to remind yourself to factor in what you see with what you know. A specific data point can only take you so far … There’s a human element in decision-making. You can get carried away and do too much of that, but you can also do too little of it and be too systemic, trying to get that perfect matchup.” — AJ Hinch, Houston Astros manager, September 2018

“What would I have done differently this year? I think I would have been more aggressive, early, with the culture change. … We’re telling them, ‘Hey, this is the way the Mets are going to do it from now on. You might not like it, but this is the way it’s going to be.’” — Mickey Callaway, New York Mets manager, September 2018

Johan Santana… would play long toss with his changeup, so I went out and tried to do that. At first I could make it the whole way, however far out I was. I could get it there from 200 feet. Then, as I really started to get a feel for the grip I wanted, it would kind of die before getting there. Same arm speed as a fastball, but it just doesn’t get there.” — Jacob deGrom, New York Mets pitcher, September 2018

“My little asterisk has been not being able to repeat my delivery, so we’ve been trying to make it more repetitive, more consistent. That’s something I’ve been fighting with my whole career. But I’m getting better with it. I think I’ll get there.” — Josh James, Houston Astros pitcher, September 2018

“You don’t feel the same way you would coming out of your SAT, or ACT. You’re not drained mentally. There are certain games, maybe late in the season, where they’re more intense and you’re using more brain juice. But overall, baseball is pretty simple.” — Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays catcher, September 2018

“Billy would fight you. He’d fight the umpires. Heck, he’d fight his own players. But again, things are different now. Back then, managers had a lot more control than they do nowadays. A lot of that is because of the money, probably.” — John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays manager, September 2018

“He wasn’t a Leo Durocher fan, because Leo came up to him once and slapped a newspaper in his face. Ernie stood up to him, though. Leo was a bully. I don’t know what prompted it, but they were on a train. They traveled by train back then.” — Joe Castiglione, Boston Red Sox broadcaster, October 2018

“In 1940, football had student body right and student body left. Today, you’re not going look at offenses and go, ‘These guys are crazy throwing the ball all over the place.’ Teams are simply trying to score points within the rules.” — Josh Bard, New York Yankees bench coach, October 218

“When I called my wife, she asked me how the interview went. I said, ‘I don’t know, but I just had the best day of my life. I just got to talk football with Bo Schembechler.’” — Tom Hamilton, Cleveland Indians broadcaster, October 2018

“I kind of became a Red Wings fan when that happened. That was back when I would eat, sleep, breathe hockey, at all moments of the day. I still love it. I miss hockey. I haven’t been on the ice for about a year, and I definitely want to get back out there. Non-contact, of course.” — Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers pitcher, October 2018

“I threw my slider the same way. All I would do was bring both fingers inside the seams a little bit, just to get some friction. I basically threw a two-seam slider my whole career. I’ve seen a few other pitchers who do it that way. Not many.” — David Cone, New York Yankees broadcaster, October 2018

“The day I got married was the day Kirk Gibson hit his homer. We were watching it going into our honeymoon. Thirty years later, we just celebrated 30 years together. I always text Gibby and say, ‘Happy anniversary,’ because it’s his anniversary too.” — Turner Ward, Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach, October 2018

“I hated going to baseball practice. I remember crying once because I didn’t want to go. This was in tee-ball. But then they gave me [uniform] No. 1, and I felt a little better.” — Paul Fry, Baltimore Orioles pitcher, October 2018

“Before I got traded from Miami, I didn’t know much about Detroit. But I’ve learned that people here love sports. That’s what’s big in Detroit: sports and cars.” — Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers first baseman, October 2018

“He came into this season with a mindset of, ‘I’m no longer going to be a donkey, but a horse.’ That’s how he put it. Actually, he said he was going to be a ‘cabalo.’ I speak Spanish, so he told me that in Spanish. Then he trained his butt off.” — Scott Radinsky, former Anaheim Angels bullpen coach, November 2018

“I was throwing a tennis-ball container and making sure it was spinning the same way. Or maybe a Pringles container. Either one. If it started to spin sideways instead of going end-over-end … that’s not how you want to throw it. Anyway, you’d practice that a few times, then switch to a curveball.” — Seth Lugo, New York Mets pitcher, November 2018

“Say you had eight Ohtanis — eight guys who were both hitters and pitchers. In a sense, you’d have a bigger team than anybody else.” — Steven Brault, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, November 2018

“I’m a thinker, and if I’m given too much information I start to think about it. Because of that, I’ve kind of had to avoid the analytics thing. But I have found out that when my ball is down in the zone it tends to sink, and when it’s up in the zone it four-seams.” — Kieran Lovegrove, Cleveland Indians pitching prospect, November 2018

“I was knee high to a grasshopper, going to my parents’ concerts and watching people take care of their business. They stuck to their routines and performed. They were disciplined. That’s what I try to be, but at the same time, you have to let yourself have fun. You have to play this game with a man’s mind and a kid’s heart.” — Nick Northcut, Boston Red Sox prospect, November 2018

“From a coaching standpoint, I think you could make the argument that art and science are the same thing. The art is the way you apply the objective information — the scientific information — within the context of the human element and the environment.” — Jeff Albert, St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach, November 2018

“I think of it like a signature. Some guys have a big leg kick. Some guys have a long stride, while other guys have a short stride. It’s their signature, their art form.” — Taylor Trammell, Cincinnati Reds prospect, December 2018

“I think it’s a special place where baseball is heading. You could have landed on Mars and lived there for 25 years, but if you’re going to help us score runs or prevent us from scoring runs, we’re going to consider hiring you if you’re going to fit the position that we need.” — Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks manager, December 2018

“I was blessed to have access to a cage, and I took advantage of that. We had these big Iron Mike machines that would hold something like 600 balls in the hopper and I would hit two or three of those a day.” — Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins prospect, December 2018

“I’ve never actually gone through that phase of, ‘Hey, I’m going to hit the ball in the air.’ For me, it’s all about contact point. Contact point is everything.” — Chad Pinder, Oakland A’s infielder/outfielder, December 2018

“The moment you stop stop growing, you start dying. The moment you think, ‘My swing is perfect’… I mean, it doesn’t work like that. You have to stay on top of it. I’m keeping my swing the same, but at the same time, it changes every day. That’s because your body changes every day.” — J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox outfielder, December 2018

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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