FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2021

In 2021, 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 Talks Hitting series, the Learning and Developing a Pitch series, and an assortment of Q&As and 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.


“I knew that I had a high BABIP, but I had no idea it was the highest in history. Once he told me, it wasn’t like I was coming back to the dugout thinking, ‘Man, I think I’m having some bad luck.’ It was actually on paper, as a stat.” — Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, January 2021

“Always trying to hit the ball way out in front is a recipe for a lot of strikeouts. Yeah, you’re going to hit some home runs, but you’re so susceptible to being pitched to that you limit the times in a game that you can truly do damage. You’re limited to the type of pitchers you can hit and the type of pitches you can hit.” — Dave Magadan, Colorado Rockies hitting coach, January 2021

“The guy that probably had the most power was actually Dean Palmer. He could hit a baseball a long ways. But Cecil… what he did was just incredible. And a lot of my home runs were with the bases empty, because I usually hit behind him, and he’d cleared them all. I hit with the bases empty a lot.” — Mickey Tettleton, 1980s-1990s slugger, January 2021

“An individual with a much lower spin rate, but a spin direction closer to 12:00 — high spin efficiency/active spin — can achieve significantly higher vertical break values than an individual who generates a much higher spin rate, but a spin direction further from 12:00.” — Eric Jagers, Cincinnati Reds assistant pitching coach, January 2021

“When I sat down with the Yankees this past spring training — my first major-league camp — they were like, ‘OK, let’s look at expected outcomes and predictive measures with your pitches.’ Basically, they grade them out for which pitches are major-league average, and which pitches are above major-league average.” — Clarke Schmidt, New York Yankees prospect, January 2021

“We really got after it with the slow-motion cameras. We did a lot of crazy things, like draw stripes around the baseball to see how it was moving. Once we figured out the wrist positioning and the wrist movement — once we refined all that — it was just a matter of which grip would fit me the best.” — Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles prospect, February 2021

“Numbers are your best friend, but also your worst enemy at times. Realistically, they have nothing to do with baseball; they’re just a way of measuring baseball in a different light.” — Josh Staumont, Kansas City Royals pitcher, February 2021

“It’s kind of a weird situation for me. These last few years, being as highly regarded a prospect as I was, and having a lot of failure… it sucked a lot. But it also allowed me to sit back and really internalize everything that had happened. And those years went by so fast.” — Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros prospect, February 2021

“I’m trying to throw my punch. My timing mechanism is usually within my mechanics. I have a little twirl. I kind of go off that, and am just finding the rhythm. It’s like a dance, you know. You’re dancing with the pitcher in order to the throw that punch.” — JJ Bleday, Miami Marlins prospect, March 2021

“There’s so much slug early in the count that contact isn’t really what you’re looking for. But as you get into the two-strike count, the slug goes down so much that the contact becomes more valuable.” — Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers manager, February 2021

“[He] carved this statue of David out of this block of granite, and they said, ‘How did you carve such a beautiful statue out of a block of stone?’ He said, ‘I simply chipped away at the stone until the statue revealed itself.’ That’s how I look at a hitter’s swing.” — Don Long, Baltimore Orioles hitting coach, March 2021

“I wasn’t happy. I went to the office for the first time, complaining about playing time. Two, three days later, they traded me. So I learned my lesson. Nobody wants a utility guy, or a 25th man on the roster, to be a problem.” — Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox manager, March 2021

“After the game, Tony La Russa came over. We met just off the mound, down here in Salt River, [and] he said, ‘Us veteran managers have to stick together.’ It sort of struck me. I’ve never viewed myself as that, but I guess I have been doing this a while.” — Bud Black, Colorado Rockies manager, March 2021

“Not a lot of African Americans pitch, or even play baseball, because we don’t have the funds for it, or it’s just something we don’t do it — we go towards basketball or football. But there needs to be more of us, man. It’s an enjoyment. I love it.” — Simeon Woods Richardson, Toronto Blue Jays prospect, March 2021

“Being able to see what what happens when an entire state — an entire population of an extremely diverse state like Georgia — takes part and participates in our most basic of civil liberties, which is the right to vote, is something that’s really special to me. And it’s really special to a lot of people, regardless of party, regardless of political affiliation, to see fellow Americans be able to have the opportunity, and then follow through on that opportunity.” — Collin McHugh, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, April 2021

“We have a strategy for that here, with expected OPS, expected slug, and all that type of stuff. Our guys work really hard to give me that information, and I’ll adjust the lineups accordingly. But.. it’s like trying to get the perfect color on roulette every single time. It’s almost impossible.” — Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks manager, April 2021

“The athletic pieces of it are similar in the way that they load, and how they effectively create consistency, whether it be arm-stroke or bat-path. But breaking down the mindset and the reactive ability of hitting versus the proactive ability of pitching is fascinating to me.” — Ross Atkins, Toronto Blue Jays GM, April 2021

“Our curveballs are breaking 16 to 20 inches, and you’re telling me I’ve got 60 feet, six inches to control 20 inches of break, and try to land it on a 17-inch plate? That’s a hard thing to do, man.” — Ross Stripling, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, April 2021

“The tilt axis and gyro degree was causing the ball to actually sink; it was like a cutting sinker. The ball looked like it was cutting, but it was actually sinking, which in itself could be a little effective. But it wasn’t.” — Tejay Antone, Cincinnati Reds pitcher, April 2021

“It’s apparently Papa Goose. I was like, ‘Oh, hey, I was just leaving.’ Then he started flapping his wings and took off in my direction. I turned, and he whacked me in the back of the head hard enough to actually knock my hat off. At that point, I realized I was under attack.” — Dan Hasty, West Michigan Whitecaps broadcaster, April 2021

“[In] the grand scheme of things, I could throw 98. I choose not to. That’s because I want to pitch into the ninth inning and can’t maintain 95-98 through eight innings of baseball. I want our bullpen to have a night off; I really do. I believe that wholeheartedly.” — Cole Irvin, Oakland A’s pitcher, May 2021

“He was a role model for me, on and off the field. He loved talking about Michigan football, but it was never about himself or how he scored three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. It would be about how they whooped USC 49-0.” — Jack Weisenburger, Oakland A’s prospect, May 2021

“I don’t think they had any idea that baseball even existed. It was always about soccer and hockey in Slovakia. Looking back, I think that might even have been the only school that had a baseball club connected to it. I was definitely lucky in that regard.” — Adam Macko, Seattle Mariners prospect, May 2021

“I wouldn’t say every single pitcher has a different fastball. There are guys like Verlander and [Walker] Buehler, guys with really hoppy fastballs, who are in one bucket. You have your sinkerballers, which run in different buckets.” — Jordan Westburg, Baltimore Orioles prospect, May 2021

“Every pitch has its place. For some guys with a four-pitch mix, maybe the curveball is the point guard. It’s assisting the other pitches. You’re basically using it to feed the other guys for the kill.” — Rick Kranitz, Atlanta Braves pitching coach, June 2021

“I was thinking about playing basketball in college — or baseball — but again, just Division II, Division III. I wasn’t really on anyone’s radar… Then I got to college, and that was [as] a pitcher. I was a little erratic and didn’t throw strikes very well, so that ended quickly.” — Chas McCormick, Houston Astros outfielder, June 2021

“I had to find a job, and honestly, that was a lot better than working at a gas station. This was at an apartment complex in Wixom [MI]. I changed light bulbs, picked up leaves, and in the winter shoveled ice and snow.” — Jharel Cotton, Texas Rangers pitcher, June 2021

“[It] ran between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. I have no clue where it came from. I asked around, and no one else knew where it came from. So it was strange. It was really strange.” — Cole Winn, Texas Rangers prospect, June 2021

“I’m trying to make it as close to a screwball as possible. A lot of guys cut the spin when they throw their changeups, but the way mine works, I actually spin the ball more than I do my fastball. It’s kind of like how Devin Williams does it, where he spins it close to 3,000 [rpm].” — Ryan Pepiot, Los Angeles Dodgers prospect, June 2021

“We’ve actually had kind of an epiphany. We’ve been chasing this positive 85-or-more, and negative-six or more, and realized that in order to get that much depth at a high velocity, I have to throw it positive out of my hand. In other words, there has to be a hump so that the pitch has time to get that much negative depth.” — Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves prospect, June 2021

“Sometimes I lose the feel on it and will put too much pressure on just my middle finger. For me, it’s more about the tip of my middle finger and the tip of my thumb. So really, I’m kind of going back to throwing it like a football. It’s the most true and has the most bite when I do that.” — Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, July 2021

“With most sports you’re on the balls of your feet to be athletic, but with pitching you’ve got to stay in the middle of your feet and push with your whole foot for direction. At the beginning of this year, I was getting ‘toe-y’ — I was pushing off my toe a lot — and that breaks the chain.” — Matt Wisler, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, July 2021

“As the game keeps developing, we’re going to see more and more guys like Lorenzen and Ohtani. I think there are going to be a lot of two-way guys that make their way into the big leagues. For sure.” — Cade Cavalli, Washington Nationals prospect, July 2021

“[At] the end of the day, when I’d go to brush my teeth and would look at the guy in the mirror, I knew what I was capable of… I kind of look at it like a bow and arrow: The further you pull back, the farther it’s going to shoot. I just had to keep at it.” — Nick Plummer, St. Louis Cardinals prospect, July 2021

“When you’re going good, there are times where you don’t even realize it, but you’ll hit a breaking ball and then you’ll be like, ‘Dang, I knew that was coming, even though I never told myself it was coming.’ So there are definitely times where you get in the zone.” — Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays infielder, August 2021

We’ve promoted ‘get the ball in the air’ — basically the launch angle thing — and now we’ve got 10, 12, 15 years of kids that replicate big leaguers. And they may be replicating the wrong one.” — Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins manager, August 2021

“Coming here was a little bit of a culture shock for me. It wasn’t what I was used to, but now we’re starting to get the tech. Obviously, hiring [pitching coach] Chris Fetter was a huge step for what we’re trying to do going forward.” — Eric Haase, Detroit Tigers catcher, August 2021

“The idea was never to throw a cutter. It was always, ‘Let’s just throw a normal slider, and if it’s a cutter it’s a cutter, and if it’s a slider it’s a slider’ — kind of ‘whatever’ with how it played out of my hand.” — Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers pitcher, August 2021

“When I learned it at first, I was thinking like ‘fastball, fastball’ and then I would snap my wrist at the last second. I think a lot of younger pitchers get taught that, and for me, that led to being inconsistent. You want to be perfectly on time.” — Zack Britton, New York Yankees pitcher, August 2021

“I’ll use a loop pedal, make a chord progression, add a bass line, and just kind of jam over it. What I’m mainly focusing on lately, when I play a solo, is soloing over that chord, not necessarily just soloing on the pentatonic scale or whatever key the song is in.” — Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox infielder, August 2021

“Pedro [Martinez] told me, ‘You have just one problem.’ I was like, ‘What is my problem?’ Nobody had told me this in the seven, eight years that I’d been in the big leagues. He said, ‘You throw too many strikes.’ It was like what [Santana] had said. You need to throw quality balls when you need to throw balls.” — Martín Pérez, Boston Red Sox pitcher, September 2021

“[If] my bat was a golf club and my barrel is the club face, I’m trying to keep my club face toward center field, or to right-center, as long as possible before it goes left. The swing is always going to go left, it’s just a matter of when, and how hard.” — Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins infielder, September 2021

“I’ve always been taught that the closer your fingers are together, the firmer it will be. That’s why on a four-seam fastball your fingers will be touching. A two-seam is a little wider, and then a splitter is wider still. I kind of took that same thought-process to my changeup.” — Eli Morgan, Cleveland Guardians pitcher, September 2021

“If you’re spinning a fastball at two o’clock, spinning the curveball at two o’clock — obviously in the other direction — provides really good deception. It also gives you a good split, relative to your break chart. The maximum discrepancy.” — Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees pitcher, September 2021

“I got a phone call from Tampa. The rest is kind of history. It’s kind of like a movie, really. I went from released to sales to playing in the big leagues. It’s been a crazy year.” — Louis Head, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, September 2021

“When he hit it, I heard the crack of the bat and then the ball spinning as it passed me. It was like, ‘He hit that very well.’ Basically, it was the new guy — that being me — missing in the honey hole, and a big-league hitter doing what big-league hitters do.” — Ralph Garza Jr., Minnesota Twins pitcher, October 2021

“[When] you grab it with the horseshoe facing in — it’s making a “C” — and you throw it, the Magnus effect takes over; it will start to bring the ball down, and more so in to a right-handed hitter. When you flip it over — make it a backwards “C” — it fights gravity a little bit more, so will stay truer.” — Dillon Tate, Baltimore Orioles pitcher, October 2021

“I used to throw my heater with three fingers on top. One time I was throwing to one of the coaches with my three-finger grip, and he was, ‘Whoa. That’s weird. Try throwing with two fingers.’” — Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, October 2021

“In Australia, not many guys throw as hard, but they’re kind of smarter and able to get outs — that sort of thing — whereas in America you find younger, less-experienced guys who are more talented. It’s definitely a different mix and, again, a different type of baseball.” — Curtis Mead, Tampa Bay Rays prospect, October 2021

“I’ve actually been messing around with grips a little bit when I’m doing my throwing; I’m kind of working on my pitches just for fun. I had a pretty nasty slider in high school, as well as a pretty good fastball… I hit 96 a few times.” — Colt Keith, Detroit Tigers infield prospect, November 2021

“No one had ever taught me. They always said, ‘Hey, throw it like a fastball; grip it like a slider but throw it like a fastball.’ In my mind, it never registered that I was cupping out of the hand. When someone pointed that out to me, it started to feel really good and I was actually able to throw a true slider.” — Kendall Graveman, Houston Astros pitcher, November 2021

“The Giants had me basically turn my hand — spike my finger and put my middle finger towards the left-hander’s batter’s box. We call it a palm forward spike curveball. That’s the official name they described it as.” — R.J. Dabovich, San Francisco Giants prospect, November 2021

“I wouldn’t say it’s ‘learning to hit’ so much as learning to trust myself. I mean, a hitter is a hitter. If you can’t hit, it ain’t gonna show, not even when it comes in flashes.” — Joe Gray Jr. Milwaukee Brewers prospect, November 2021

“I would say that I’m a better hitter now than when I got drafted. It’s not like I’ve gone backwards… The swing really isn’t all that different. It’s the pitchers — the pitchers in pro ball — that are a lot different. If you’re not focused on what you need to be focused on, you’re going to get exposed.” — Logan Davidson, Oakland A’s prospect, December 2021

“He’ll talk about when he coached, and about when he played with guys like Rollie Fingers and Robin Yount. It’s pretty special to hear about things like that from your grandfather. It’s definitely pretty cool.” — Buddy Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks prospect, December 2021

“They were legitimately terrified of this cow. We tried to do a team photo with the cow, and these guys were so far away from the cow they were not in the picture frame. I had to get them closer. So I’m not as bad as them. I’m not afraid of cows. I just can’t milk a cow.” — Jill Gearin, Visalia Rawhide broadcaster, December 2021

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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random Colorado guy
7 months ago

Glad you included the Gearin quote. That may have been the funniest baseball article I read all year.