FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2023

In 2023, I once again had an opportunity to interview numerous people within the game. Many of their words were shared in my Sunday Notes column, while others came via an assortment of Q&As, feature stories, and the Talks Hitting series. 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.

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“Mike came over to me and said that they were probably going to take Gausman, because they needed a college pitcher who was going to be quick to the big leagues..… We thought Buxton was going to be our guy. That was how we ranked them. We had Gausman after Mike [Zunino], but we had Buxton ahead of both of them.” — Tom McNamara, former Seattle Mariners scouting director

“Victor [Martinez] would go up there and call his shot,. He would say, ‘I’m going to sit on a breaking ball here,’ then he’d spit on two fastballs and when they hung a breaking ball he would hit it into the bullpen. He was really fun to watch hit, because he was playing chess up there a lot of times.” — Josh Barfield, Arizona Diamondbacks farm director

“There are indicators with the advent of Statcast and ball tracking that are even more predictive of the underlying metrics, which are more predictive than traditional rate statistics. That’s on a year over year. But when you look at multi-year models, players change and projection comes into play. That’s where the art comes into play.” — Randy Flores, St. Louis Cardinals scouting director

“Every morning Josh wakes up, and in his Slack channel is a major-league pitcher that has a game plan attached to it. It’s a little bit of an exercise that we do with him. He’s recreating what it feels like to prepare that day… If we’re facing [Framber] Valdez, or facing [Gerrit] Cole, what angles do I want to set up? Where are my eyes? What is the discipline in my eyes that day?” —Donny Ecker, Texas Rangers bench coach/offensive coordinator

“I like the art vs. science thing. That’s a good debate to have because there’s really not a right answer. But I do think sometimes the art of getting hits gets lost. Everybody wants to walk, and there’s launch angle, exit velo — you get all of these numbers on FanGraphs because of these things — but then you have guys like Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew, guys who simply could hit. There’s an art to that.” — Trea Turner, Philadelphia Phillies infielder

“I think the Twins were a lot more about analytics; they had a lot more of a data-driven approach to hitting. Here, I feel like it’s a lot more about feel. It’s kind of ‘Let’s break down your approach. What pitches are you swinging at?’ versus looking at the numbers. It’s not like we’re not looking at numbers — I think we do a good job of that — it’s just that there’s more of, say, what you feel in the cage. I think we have a good balance of analytics and what I guess you could call an older-school type of hitting.” — Spencer Steer, Cincinnati Reds infielder/outfielder

“I think that’s where a lot of teams have a disconnect. The data guys can be shy and unsure of themselves around the clubhouse, where a lot of alpha-type personalities are walking around naked, very sure of themselves around other alpha dudes.” — Matt Duffy, Kansas City Royals infielder

“That’s the beauty, and the complication, of hitting. The hands hold the bat, and I’m super focused on where they are and how they feel, but at the same time, I don’t think that really drives my swing. I think my back elbow and my legs kind of drive the swing.” — Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees shortstop

“I started pitching when I was eight or nine years old and quit after I was 11 due to a head injury. I took a line drive off the right side of the temple area. When it hit me, I just went black. Long story short, I had a major concussion and had to have surgery; it was a procedure to go in and stop bleeding. The surgery was simple, but at the same time, what head surgery is simple?” — Andrew Baker, Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect

“After graduation I was planning on going to medical school. I went to my teammate’s draft party — Sam Bachman went ninth overall to the Angels — and I remember going home ready to move on. But later that week, I was in the middle of an MCAT practice exam — I was about five hours in — and got a call from a random number. I muted it.” — Grant Hartwig, New York Mets pitcher

“Go ask Hall of Famers like John Smoltz, who did it. They will tell you that it’s tough to get the last three outs on a daily basis — especially for so long — so of course closers belong in the Hall of Fame. I know that I would vote for Billy Wagner. He was lights out.” — Kenley Jansen, Boston Red Sox reliever

“It’s like a kicker in football. If you miss a field goal, everyone is running over to you and asking, ‘How did you miss that?’ It plays in your mind, because kicking field goals is your only job. Same thing for a closer: your only job is to get those last three outs. People act like it’s easy to do, but it’s not.” — Mark Gubicza, Los Angeles Angels broadcaster

“I love it. I mean, just being out there, controlling the game… some don’t like the fastball, some of them can’t hit the off-speed, so you’re figuring them out. That’s fun. Getting them to not hit your pitches is fun.” — Tink Hence, St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect

“I mean, he looks like a five-year-old out there playing the game. The joy he brings is incredible. But while I definitely like having fun, I’m also a thinker. I like breaking things down, So while I have a little bit of Julio in me, I’m also my own person.” — Henry Ford, Seattle Mariners catching prospect

Freddie Freeman doesn’t have that high of a launch angle. You look at a guy like him; he’s hitting .330 and has, I think, 20 home runs. He could probably hit 40 home runs with a batting average .100 points lower if he wanted to. But he’s a hitter.” — Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals first baseman

“It’s not the prettiest thing you’ll ever see, but it gets the job done… If you look at your average lefty, sweet-swinging [Robinson] Canó-type of player, they have these nice long swings. Because I’ve always been trying to stay as short as possible, trying not to swing and miss, it’s just kind of compact.” — Sal Frelick, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder

“At one point last year, I think there were 70 points between my expected batting average and my actual batting average. Little things like that let me know that what I was doing was right. It was, ‘OK, if we put this product out for 162, we’ll be in a good place.’” — Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman

“I think every player who’s ever played the game has cared about exit velocity, whether they know it or not. Right? Every batted ball that’s ever been hit has had an exit velocity and has impacted performance. It’s definitely a separating factor. You need to be able to hit the ball hard to control your luck as best you can.” — Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs infielder

“We have a stat where we’re looking at what our slug is per your launch angle. Hitting the ball really hard, even at four degrees, which is basically an ankle-high line drive, can still produce hits. You don’t necessarily have to hit the ball in the air… you can kind of create your own luck, so to speak.” — Austin Hays, Baltimore Orioles outfielder

“I put it on, and heard my dad’s voice: ’Oh, mom. You got him the wrong glove.’ It was for the wrong hand, but I didn’t care. I loved it. I took it to bed with me. I wore it every day, and I learned how to throw left-handed because of that glove.” — Craig Lefferts, former big-league pitcher

“My grandma was a professional [fastpitch] softball player. She played for the Bahamas National Team. That’s what really got me into baseball — I learned a lot of my baseball skills from softball — and she played until she was 60, too. She was just superhuman.” — Jazz Chisholm, Miami Marlins infielder/outfielder

“He had really high hands — bat over the head — but there are some similarities in the way that our hips fire and the way that our bats come through the zone. I mean, I basically learned to hit from him, so I’m sure I got some tendencies from that.” — Mike Yastrzemski, San Francisco Giants outfielder

“Both just played amateur, and not even college. But my uncle throws great batting practice — he has a rubber arm — and my dad was actually… my hometown is Petaluma [California] and he was the Petaluma long-ball champion in slow-pitch softball. He has a pretty sweet lefty swing.” — Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers first baseman

“I’m Fargo through and through. Even though I haven’t spent my entire life there, it will always be home for me. I’m actually moving north, though, to Roseau, Minnesota, where my wife is from. Roseau is 12 miles from the Canadian border, around 3,000 people live there, and I love that area of the country.” — Erik Swanson, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher

“There are guys who are over the top and have those bangers, those nasty curveballs, and then there are lower-slot guys like me where getting horizontal movement is a little easier. And now with all the resources we have, like the slow-motion cameras that show your hand positioning at release, it’s easier to know who is more suitable for horizontal movement rather than vertical.” — Pablo López, Minnesota Twins pitcher

“Everyone knew spin was good, but they didn’t realize that efficiency mattered on a fastball. The carry number… the carry matters on a fastball. Vertical approach angle matters on a fastball. Horizontal and vertical movement matters. At the time, it was just ‘If you can spin the ball fast, you want to throw it at the top, and then you want to throw the curveball.’ It was ‘Spin is what plays’ — they just didn’t know why.” — Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins pitcher

“I would say my fastball got a lot more hoppy. My fastball coming in here was very dead zone. It was a very flat heater. My slider kind of bundles my curveball a little bit — it’s not very big speed difference — so I’ve had to figure out a difference with that.” — Tanner Bibee, Cleveland Guardians pitcher

“PNC was packed, and it was fun to play in front of all those fans. But as time went on, in ’18, ’19, ’21, Opening Day was the only packed house you saw. Or if the Dodgers or Yankees were in town… I mean, it was almost like an away game. But the fans are so passionate about their city, about sports in general, that if they spent some money and tried to win more games, the place would fill back up pretty quickly.” — Adam Frazier, Baltimore Orioles infielder

“It’s tough to stay in a consistent headspace day to day. That’s why I grab my journal a lot… I have two. One is for off-the-field stuff and one is for baseball stuff. I write about hitting stuff a lot in the black one. The black one is for baseball. The brown leather one is for life.” — Logan O’Hoppe, Los Angeles Angels catcher

“Every game we try to do similar things, but one day it might be a three strikeout game, and the next day could be a three homer game. You could be trying to do very similar things and be getting very different results. Figuring out why one day is better than another is one of the tougher parts of the game.” — Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman

“Hitting gets harder as you get older, and you get older quickly. The most satisfying part about hitting as you get older, or as you age in this game, or with time and experience in this game, is solving the problem, solving the equation. It requires adjustments. It requires a certain level of discipline.” — Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds first baseman

“It’s like a 747 racing a Porsche over 100 yards. The 747 is ultimately going to go way faster, but the Porsche is going to get there just like that… I would bet that Luis Arraez has a very fast time to impact from when he starts moving his bat toward the ball. I’d bet that time, if you can quantify it, is way shorter than it is for Giancarlo Stanton.” — Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies outfielder

“I try to make sure I can get my barrel inside the ball to strike. That’s how I create my backspin. I figure my swing is a little outdated for what they teach these days, like an up-shoot swing. My setup is unique its own, but I mean, pure direction, I try to strike down and on the inside of the ball to create backspin.” — Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees DH

“I thought you would just split the two-seam — go wider on the two-seam — which is what a lot of people do, but he showed me more of a one-seam grip. If you’ve seen Kodai Senga of the Mets, it’s similar to his grip. I’m splitting the one-seam. The index finger goes over the top of the horseshoe.” — Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners pitcher

“The umpire raised his hand and gave me like a ‘one’ signal, and I thought he meant one warmup pitch left. I guess he was saying, ‘That’s an auto ball.’ After I threw my first pitch, which was a ball, I looked up and saw 2-0.” — Joe Jacques, Boston Red Sox pitcher

“The game can speed up on you pretty quickly. But I think the pitch clock has done great things with pace of play, making the game move along at a pace where players are happy, fans are happy, and the entirety of baseball is happy.” — Kyle Freeland, Colorado Rockies pitcher

“I was really close to retiring. I mean, when you’re married and starting a family you don’t necessarily want to keep playing ball for 30 grand a year, not when you can earn a lot more and provide for your family. Where I come from, there are a lot of refineries and you can get paid a lot. There are chemical plants and rubber factories. The gulf coast of Texas is just straight refineries of everything you can imagine.” — Grant Anderson, Texas Rangers pitcher

“I don’t think about that. I think about, ‘When am I going to go home?’ I always thought the game was going to dictate when I went home… There was no reason to think I would still be throwing the ball like I am now. It would have been illogical.” — Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves pitcher

“I’ve always liked the idea of pitching, because it’s just like golf. You go one pitch at a time, and one shot at a time. You also know what you’re going to do leading up to that pitch, or to that shot. On the golf course, you know that you want to drive to a certain side of the fairway, because that way you’ll have a better approach to the green. Baseball is the same. I’m going to throw this pitch, because it sets up this next pitch. The two go hand in hand.” — Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves pitcher

“The grip isn’t a traditional slider grip. The tracks of the ball, above the horseshoe — both horseshoes — like you’re throwing a two-seamer… you spin it like you’re going straight perpendicular across [the seams]. You’re crossing them, and then my leverage is on that next horseshoe. The leverage is with my middle finger, and while that’s traditional, the grip itself is kind of unorthodox. — Carlos Rodon, New York Yankees pitcher

“No, but I did mess with things like the Barry Bonds bat waggle and things of that nature. At the end of the day, what my swing was… I say to a lot of guys that your swing is your swing. If you could look at my swing when I was a young kid and compare it to now, you’d see similar characteristics.” — Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers infielder

“Torii came over — they were talking to the first base coach — and Miggy said, ‘Hey, May!’ I said, ‘Me? Are you talking to me?’ He said, ‘Changeup. Nasty. I couldn’t see it yesterday.’ He’d taken me deep the day before on a slider, so then he goes, ‘The slider. No.’ That was a Miggy moment for me.” — Trevor May, Oakland A’s pitcher

“Applying that logic — the wisdom that I heard many, many years ago — Spencer Strider is continuing to get better. He’s continuing to add stuff to his game while pitching great and striking out a lot of guys out in the process. As long as he stays healthy, he’s got a lot of upside with what he’s going to be able to do with the baseball.” — Max Scherzer, Texas Rangers pitcher

“I don’t think there’s been anybody like him, and I’m nowhere close to being who he is, but my cutter is pretty similar to Jacob deGrom’s slider at times. When it’s good, I throw it at 93 [mph] with negative-two horizontal and four vert. Like I said, on paper.” — Jackson Jobe, Detroit Tigers pitching prospect

“I try to have a nameless, faceless approach, not giving the guy too much credit. I mean, there have been a few at-bats where you know that the guy is going to be a big leaguer and if he executes his pitches, there’s really nothing you could do. You’ve just got to hope that he makes a mistake. But really, I’m mostly just going out there doing me.” — Marcelo Mayer, Boston Red Sox infield prospect

“It’s a cue to prepare for a pitcher, just like anything else. For instance, if it’s a sinkerball guy, you say, ‘Hey, look for him up, like at your neck.’ If it starts waist high, you don’t want to swing at it because it’s going to be a ball. Treating 95 like 100 is the same mental cue as looking in an area, or making a pitch start in certain spot.” — Justin Turner, Boston Red Sox DH

“I like to relate it to a highway. I’m getting on the highway the same way, and then I’m taking the exits depending on where the ball is thrown. For the most part, the beginning of my swing is the same. But the finish, the contact point, and the degree of my hip hinge, or my chest over my hips, is different on every single swing, just depending on the height.” — Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox first baseman

“John Hart said to me, ’Ryan, good luck to you; we sure wish we had you in our outfield.’ I remember thinking, ‘Really? With Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Albert Belle? What exactly would I be doing in your outfield?’ I think I made the right choice.” — Ryan Lefebvre, Kansas City Royals broadcaster

“I think it’s just pieces from different guys’ swings. I don’t think I look like anyone else. I think I just look like Bobby Witt Jr. That’s all I want to be. I’m just trying to build my swing to who I am now.” — Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals infielder

“That’s where the science comes in. You’re working on the mechanical part of it, trying to get to certain positions that other people can get to naturally. Like, I can’t do what a Ronald Acuña Jr. does or what Mookie Betts does…So yeah, to me it’s more of an art. Some people are da Vinci, while others are up-and-coming guys, trying to figure it out like Leonardo.” — Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins infielder

“With a lot of the guys who throw cutters at a higher velocity, that pitch gets sucked out to the zero-zero mark where it’s more of gyro-y type cutter. Like I said, his ability to create backspin and cut is unique. He’s such a supinated pitcher. Everything he does is in that strong supinated position.” — Tommy Hottovy, Chicago Cubs pitching coach

“Yeah. Right, right, right. That’s what they were calling it: the whirly. Now they’ve fully embraced the sweeper here. That’s what it shows on the scoreboard when I throw one, so I guess that’s what it is.” — Clarke Schmidt, New York Yankees pitcher

“It’s no different now than when I was a kid. That’s why I asked to be traded from the Braves as a young player: I was tired of losing. It was the same way when I was playing Cowboys and Indians. I wanted to be the Native Americans, because I was tired of watching TV and seeing the Indians lose all the time. I’m serious.” — Dusty Baker, Houston Astros manager

“Not necessarily. It just depends on the makeup. Look, the year before we went to the NLCS in my first year there. Last year was a disappointing season, but I don’t think there’s anything to make of it being a poor year because there was too much star power… it just didn’t work out as well.” — Bob Melvin, San Francisco Giants manager

“Every club has got a weakness. In Detroit, our clubs were so good position player-wise, and our starting pitching was absolutely outstanding. One of the unfortunate things that happened is that a couple of times we had bullpen guys get hurt at the most inopportune times… We had guys, but if you were going to point to an area that was our weakness, that would have been it.” — Dave Dombrowski, Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations

“I think it would be somewhat foolish to just approach this past year as, ‘Oh, odds have it that you’re going to lose, so it happened,’ You can learn from some things that happened last year. I hope everybody who is involved in this is having that reflection moment and trying to understand what we could have done differently, what we should have done differently, and what we will do differently going forward.” — John Mozeliak, St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations

“If I had to do it over again, we would have had organizational meetings in January. We’d have had that large group gathering so that the communication was clear on what we’re about and what we’re trying to accomplish. This year we did that. We actually did that the week after the season ended, so I feel a lot better about this offseason.” — J.J. Picollo, Kansas City Royals GM

“Our pinch hitters did do a great job. The main reason for that was they did an amazing job of staying ready. One adjustment we made was making sure that they didn’t spend the whole game in the cage. They were into the game, out on the bench. When it got closer to the time that we may pinch-hit, they would go in and get loose and prepare themselves.” — David Bell, Cincinnati Reds manager

“I’ve been comped to Chris Sale. I think Sale and I have the same numbers on certain things. And then Josh Hader’s and my vertical approach angle [are similar]. There is a lot of outlier stuff in between certain guys, and there are certain people I’m similar to, but I mostly just go out there and focus on what I’m good at.” — Cooper Hjerpe, St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect

“Vertical approach angle is something we can very comfortably measure. Deception is a little bit more nuanced, but technology is emerging that allows us to account for what we think might contribute to deception [and] to be able to model that and create some quantitative contribution of deception.” — Craig Breslow, Boston Red Sox chief baseball officer

“I do have good extension. That’s my best gimmick. I throw fake hard.” — Phil Maton, Houston Astros pitcher

“Those unfamiliar with the game may think such a pursuit childish, perhaps delusional. This view misses the magic entirely. What these people don’t understand is that the love of a game, rooted in eternal hope, has a transcendent quality that is always with you. I will forever cherish my time chasing the epic and the sublime on the baseball field.” — Jed Bradley, former big-league pitcher





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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Brian Reinhartmember
3 months ago

I hope I’m not the only one who would eagerly buy a “talks hitting” and “talks pitching” book series.