FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2020

In 2020 — this despite limited media access due to the pandemic — I once again had an opportunity to interview numerous people within baseball. Many of their words were shared in my Sunday Notes column, while others came courtesy of the FanGraphs Q&A series, or from feature stories. Here is a selection of the best quotes from this year’s conversations, with the bolded lines linking to the pieces they were excerpted from.


“If you want to be a surgeon, you can’t just go into an operating room and start cutting people up. If you want to be a baseball analyst, you can start analyzing baseball data tonight. There’s a lot of public baseball data, and the sorts of modeling we do… a lot of it is open source and free.” — Sam Mondry-Cohen, Washington Nationals assistant GM, January 2020

“Going forward, I expect that we’ll be making fewer trades. We’re in a different growth pattern now. It’s about letting the young guys play.” — Jerry Dipoto, Seattle Mariners GM, January 2020

“You can’t control where you release the ball. The ball just naturally flies out of your hand. You can adjust where your arm wants to be when the ball flies out, but if the ball wants to fly out of your hand, it’s going to fly out out of your hand.” — Ethan Hankins, Cleveland Indians pitching prospect, January 2020

“When you’re creating a curveball, or a slurvy pitch, there’s going to be that proprioception off the middle finger. Getting more involved with the index finger is when you create that bullet profile.” — Carson Cross, Milwaukee Brewers minor league pitching coach, January 2020

“Games don’t take place in a bullpen. They don’t place in a pitching lab. They don’t take place in a vacuum. The idea of competition is real. The ability to draw from your best stuff when the game is on the line is what separates a 16-17-18-year-old pitch-data darling from someone you would run out there in a big-league game.” — Craig Breslow, Chicago Cubs director of pitching, February 2020

“When you talk about the power of visuals… as human beings, our first language was pictures. So, when you get a picture put in front of you, it can give credence to what you’re thinking. It can allow you to manage those thoughts a little more.” — Drew Saylor, Kansas City Royals hitting coordinator, February 2020

“I just want it to be well thought out. I don’t want the tail to wag the dog. I think that’s the way it is now: the tail wags the dog. We have all these short-season affiliates, we have to draft 40 rounds, we’re filling out rosters. What we have now isn’t ideal.” — NL executive, February 2020

“They’re offensive rules, and they’re telling us they’re pace-of-game rules. They’re not pace-of-game rules. They’re offensive-enhancement rules… I don’t think we’re going to address pace-of-game with this stuff that we’ve done.” — Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers manager, March 2020

“I’ve also moved my hands up a little bit, because I was loading and getting stuck under my arm. I wasn’t able to turn the barrel over, back over my shoulder, basically. It was here to go here, and now it’s where I get into a loaded [scapula] position without my hands being under my elbow.” — Nolan Jones, Cleveland Indians infield prospect, March 2020

“Now I kind of do like a reverse barrel tip. You see Chris Taylor doing it, also. It helps me delay my back elbow. Before, I’d always get super tight. Laying my barrel off my back shoulder kind of relaxes my shoulders and back elbow. That’s helped me get on plane more, and hit the ball in the air more.” — Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers infielder, March 2020

“I think that’s a misconception. Down through the ball is universally how you attack every pitch you’re trying to hit. What it’s really about is, ‘How do you get down efficiently in a way that allows you to be on plane early enough to get out and through the ball?’ The on-plane part is the through-the-ball part. Down is the start of the swing, the pulling of the hands.” — Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners outfielder, March 2020

“I guess the weird thing about hitting is you’re constantly making adjustments and changes in order to stay consistent.” — Michael Chavis, Red Sox infielder, March 2020

“For me, the curveball is a lot about sight lines. When I’m landing it, maybe on 0-0, it’s more of a ‘hello strike’ where it pops out a little bit. Like I said, guys give up on that a lot. And then once I’ve showed it to them, I can lower the sight line and get that short hop, or at the catcher’s feet. That one is tunneling out of the hand a little more.” — Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners pitching prospect. March 2020

“They were fighting for it. And Lou wouldn’t do it. I was pissed. There was no reason for me to be on that team. We were out of the pennant race the whole month of September, and I sat on my ass, collecting dust.” — Rick Miller, former Boston Red Sox outfielder, March 2020

“I’m usually trying to keep the two-seamer down, but sometimes I throw it up and in to righties. That’s because it bears in on their hands and is tough to get the barrel to. It has some tail when I throw it to that part of the plate. Belt or below is when it will have a little more sink.” — Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher, April 2020

“I’m going to this warehouse that has a turf area about 150 feet long, They have portable mounds we can use, and I’m there three times a week. Outside of those three days, there’s a green area close to my community and I go out and play catch with my dad.” — Pablo López, Miami Marlins pitcher, April 2020

“Two days later I’m pitching and [Royals outfielder] Willie Wilson, who was a friend of mine, goes, ‘What happened to you, brother kid? Man, you look just like Rocky Raccoon!’ I had two black eyes and a big lip. It was just one of those things you run into, where you get into a little trouble.” — Dave Rozema, former Detroit Tigers pitcher, April 2020

“It was sad to see it go. I kind of hoped they would keep a part of it — at least a section of it — so that people could take their kids and grandkids to see where Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, and Charlie Gehringer used to play. I got to play there, as well. I was blessed to play a great game, and to do it in Detroit.” — Al Kaline, former Detroit Tigers outfielder, April 2020

“I’ve never played with a guy who fans adored as much as Matsuzaka. It was almost comical. We’d be leaving the hotel and there would be a thousand screaming girls, these teenage girls, yelling his name. He couldn’t go anywhere. I’d played with Griffey, with Roger Clemens, with Nomar as a rookie in Boston. I’d never seen anything like it.” — Reggie Jefferson, former MLB and NPB first baseman, May 2020

“When I was getting back into throwing it, in 2018, there was a guy at my agency who said, ‘You can never throw your changeup too hard.’ I was like, ‘OK, let me try this.’ It was really a conviction thing, a trust kind of thing where I would throw it and let it do what it does.” — Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher, May 2020

““If you groove it in there at 80-82, it’s like batting practice — it will get teed off on — whereas anything with an arc is hard to hit. So it was just straight Zack Greinke eephuses. Tucker Barnhart was catching, and he came out and said, ‘Hey man, what do you want for signs?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Just go back there and catch.’” — Kyle Farmer, Cincinnati Reds catcher/infielder, May 2020

“Kyle and I both have interests in poker, and a card game called Magic: The Gathering… So I went over there — it’s about a 20-minute drive — and Kyle and I talked cards, and whatnot. Then it was like, ‘What do you actually do here?’ He said, ‘We train baseball players.’” — Cole Uvila, Texas Rangers pitching prospect, May 2020

“I guess I could say I’m an artist painting my own picture, and at the same time looking at all the other pieces in the gallery. I’m seeing how they use colors, and whatnot, and putting parts of that into my own art. That’s what I’m doing with hitting.” — Scott Heineman, Texas Rangers outfielder, May 2020

“When I started coaching [in 2011], a lot of the terminology was different. It was Dusty Baker talking about ‘step on ice,’ ‘squish the bug,’ and ‘make sure you hit your back with the bat on your followthrough.’ That’s not the terminology that’s being used today, and a lot of it has to do with the tech side of it. We’ve grown.” — Jacob Cruz, Milwaukee Brewers assistant hitting coach, June 2020

“They weren’t renting apartments to African Americans. I ended up staying with a family. The lady’s name was Miss Botts. She was the representative of Aunt Jemima Pancakes. She had a basement apartment and I stayed in her home.” — Don Buford, former big-league outfielder, June 2020

“For me, the hop was really more of a timing mechanism. If you look at my arm, I kind of stabbed down in the back after hand break. My arm just kind of stalled out there, so the hop was… yeah, it was generating force, but it was also a timing mechanism.” — Carter Capps, former big-league pitcher, June 2020

“Was I a draft bust? Probably, depending on your definition. Was I an underachiever? For sure. In my own evaluation, I definitely underachieved. But I experienced a lot, and I went to Driveline and fell in love with the program, which resulted in me still being in baseball.” — Daniel Moskos, New York Yankees minor league pitching coach, June 2020

“Every day we had to sweep the dugouts, rake the field, tamp down the mound. 7-Eleven was like our heaven over there. It was quite the experience. I was literally living in the mountains of Japan. I saw those giant murder hornets all the time. Seriously.” — Brandon Mann, former MLB and NPB pitcher, June 2020

“I lived next to a halfway house. I lived above a bar one year. I’ve lived with host families and in condo units. Every type of housing you could live in, I’ve done it. And it was usually with roommates — as many as you can stuff in to keep costs down. You know what it’s like in the minor leagues with the salaries.” — Ryan O’Rourke, former Minnesota Twins pitcher, July 2020

“The four is the one that stays up at the top of the zone. My teammates have lovingly named it Jenny Finch. Softball pitchers throw rise balls, and if I throw a good high fastball it may not actually rise, but it resists sinking really well.” — Darren O’Day, Atlanta Braves pitcher, July 2020

“We have this ongoing debate about who the better hitter was, because we both stunk. Jayson Stark and Tim Caple had this long-raging debate, and they ultimately did a simulated game of nine Deshaies versus nine Andersens. I beat him 1-0. I’m not sure how the run scored. Somebody must have made an error.” — Jim Deshaies, Chicago Cubs broadcaster, July 2020

“But what stands out the most is being on second base when Rajai [Davis] hit that home run. I remember that when he hit it I thought it was going to go off the wall. Then I saw it go out, and I almost passed out. I was like, ‘Oh my god, we’re about to win this World Series!’” — Brandon Guyer, former big-league outfielder, July 2020

“He threw it again, and I hit it into the fog. It was a home run, but no one knew where it ended up. It could have been in the bay. It could have been anywhere. When I hit it, I thought, ‘Well, that’s gone’… but then I never saw it.” — Fred Lynn, former big-league outfielder, August 2020

“Mariano had a really stiff, lateral wrist. He had a thick wrist. It’s one of the reasons he had a great cutter. He could throw through the baseball with his fingers without getting around it. And you don’t find that. Quit looking for it, because you’re not going to find that combination — how long he was from elbow to wrist, how long his fingers were.” — Buck Showalter, former big-league manager, August 2020

“Someone asked me once — this was back when there was all this debate about old school and new school — which category I fit into: ‘Am I old school or new school?’ I said, ‘No, I’m in school.’ I’m trying to learn every day.” — Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals GM, August 2020

“I’m the type of guy that doesn’t look at the names. I didn’t look at my teammates as ‘baseball players,’ per se. They were just good guys that could play well. I didn’t think. ‘Oh, wow.’ Hank Aaron was the exception. He was the only one where I felt that way.” — Mike Lum, former big-league outfielder, September 2020

“But Tatis… there’s definitely some flair there. There’s a lot of excitement watching that guy. Betts has some personality and flash to him, too. But Trout is the best player. And I’d have to say that the Dodgers are the best team.” — Dave Raymond, Texas Rangers broadcaster, September 2020

Ke’Bryan Hayes… there has been a lot of hype locally about him. He has that ‘it’ factor. It wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a megastar in time, but right now it’s a cautious optimism. He’s certainly a starting third baseman in the major leagues. He might even be, along with [Matt] Chapman and [Nolan] Arenado, one of the elite defensive third baseman.” — Joe Block, Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster, September 2020

“Theo told me, ‘Hey, we’ve got a deal, and it involves two of your guys,’ He says to me, ‘You’ve got a 70 bat [on the 20-80 scouting scale] on LeMahieu.’ One of the guys with him says, ‘What are the demographics on a six-foot-five second baseman?’ I said, ‘Well, you’re looking at [LeMahieu].’” — Tim Wilken, longtime scout, October 2020

“When Nolan Ryan came to the Rangers, the first game where he had trouble, Bobby Valentine sent me out to find out how he was doing. I got to the mound and said, ‘Nolan, how you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m doing terrible, but it’s way better than what you’ve got going in that bullpen, so get the hell off my mound.’ “ — Tom House, former big-league pitching coach, October 2020

“That was probably the most, I guess, peaceful moment. I was really soaking it in, thinking, ‘This is the real deal.’ Then, once I started the run, it was sort of, ‘Don’t fall, don’t fall, just make it to the mound.” — JT Brubaker, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, October 2020

“Between spring training and spring training 2.0 we made some mechanical adjustments that allowed my arm to become more athletic, if that makes sense. That’s kind of a weird way to put it, but whenever I would throw my slider in the past, I’d almost block my arm out. We were like, ‘OK, we don’t do that on a fastball, we don’t do that on anything else, so let’s do that same thing on the slider.” — Brad Keller, Kansas City Royals pitcher, October 2020

“Then I got John Roseboro on a fly ball. In the bottom half, [Mark] Belanger got on, made it to third, and with two outs, [Paul] Blair beat out a bunt. Game over. Belanger scored the winning run. That was the first playoff game in baseball history, and it’s maybe my favorite memory.” — Dick Hall, former big-league pitcher, November 2020

“I got a flat tire on my way to the ballpark. There were no cell phones back then, and I was going to be late. Buck Rodgers was the manager, and he had a rule: Do not be late. Even if a Martian picks you up and delivers you to Mars, do not be late.” — Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks manager, November 2020

“He wasn’t giving them the Blue Bayou, he was getting big-league hitters out with all that other stuff. He was an Emperor Without Clothes on the mound. Hitters knew he couldn’t throw anything by them, yet he could still make them look stupid. It was Spassky playing chess. It was wonderful.” — Brian Vikander, pitching coach and author, November 2020

“In the minor leagues, the everydayness of how the game keeps coming at you, and the quality of stuff they have to face, and the mental fortitude it takes to manage their at-bats… it’s not Disneyland. The games are way more messy than how they were raised in this laboratory environment.” — Andy Haines, Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach, December 2020

“And it’s funny too, because he loves the game of baseball, and he loves competition. You throw a good pitch, and he’ll look at you and smile. I’ll be like, ‘Don’t do that, bro; you’re smiling because you know you’re going to get a base hit here.’ It’s that easy for him.” — Taijuan Walker, free agent pitcher, December 2020

“Here I am with the Orioles and they didn’t really pay attention to ‘Diamond Jim,’ but then I hit the two grand slams and drove in another run with the sacrifice fly. That was nine ribbies. I think they started to realize I could be a good teammate.” — Jim Gentile, former Baltimore Orioles outfielder, December 2020

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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3 years ago

Who’s the hitter who smiled at Walker?