FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2015

In 2015, I once again had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of people within baseball. Many of their words were shared via the FanGraphs Q&A series. Others came courtesy of my Sunday Notes column. Here is a selection of the best quotes from this year’s conversations.

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“We have to understand how a pitcher’s movements affect the ball, how the movement on the ball affects the hitter’s reaction, and how the batted-ball results average out over the course of a long season. To effectively map out this sequence of events, you need to have a thorough understanding of pitching mechanics, pitch data, and sabermetrics, because they all work together.” — Brian Bannister, Red Sox pitching analyst, January 2015

“You can take two guys with the exact same stuff and have them put up the exact same type of contact, but if the defense is one step slower, or they’re not shifted properly, that can be the difference between having an 4.01 ERA or a 3.01 ERA.” — Chris Archer, Rays pitcher, January 2015

“I would equate that to throwing my cutter… It’s the pitch I throw more than anything. The other pitches could be other songs, and the song I always come back to is my cutter.” — Evan Meek, journeyman reliever and guitar player, January 2015

“I was like a squirrel. I could turn left, turn right, go up, go down. Basically, everything that caught my eye, I was going straight for. I wasn’t ready – especially spiritually – for the journey that’s coming.” — Mark Hamburger, Twins minor league pitcher, January 2015

“The whole flight, we were just shooting the shit, and (Wade Boggs) went one beer after the other. I said to him, ‘I’m impressed with the way you hit, but I’m more impressed right now.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, beer doesn’t affect me. I don’t get drunk unless I’ve had at least a case and a half.’” — Brian Rose, former Red Sox pitcher, January 2015

“There is a certain synergy throughout the pen. While we’re all individuals, at the same time we’re meshed into a group. Every pitch I throw is one someone else doesn’t throw. The nature of a win is a weird thing, and there are different ways to go about getting one.” — Burke Badenhop, Reds pitcher, February 2015

“Every game is a pie. It just depends on how you’re going to split it up. That’s especially true when that pie is made out of sh__. Who is going to eat the sh__ when you’re getting beat bad?” — Darren O’Day, Orioles pitcher, February 2015

“It’s as if you had a competition between Fred Flintstone and Bill Gates. Hitters are primitive. There’s strategy involved in pitching, and there ought to be with batting — not mere swinging.” — John Thorn, official historian for MLB, February 2015

“After leaving the ballpark, I stopped at a bar. The game was being replayed on TV there and I sat watching it, drinking beer. No one knew who I was. At that moment in time, I didn’t want anyone to know. Things hadn’t gone so hot.” — Cla Meredith, former big-league pitcher, March 2015

“Somewhere along the line, Josh Hamilton has to grow up. I was 31 years old before I filled out my first tax form. I was making hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I had attorneys, my agent – I had all these people to do things for me, so I was allowed to just go out and get high and be in la-la land.” — Ellis Valentine, former Expos outfielder, March 2015

“The average starting pitcher throws 91 mph and has to get 21 outs. If you trust that guy to get 21 outs, why would you not trust a guy who throws 91 to get three outs? At the end of the day, the game knows.” — Huston Street, Angels pitcher, March 2015

“I focus on a spot, although it becomes tricky if you don’t have anything to throw at directly. Backdoor to a lefty, I’m throwing to an imaginary spot that’s not the catcher – it’s the other batters box, so I kind of have an imaginary target there.” — Adam Ottavino, Rockies pitcher, March 2015

“When I throw my slider to lefties, I don’t have that box, because he’s on the other side. It’s the same pitch I’m throwing to righties, but I have trouble putting it where I want, because the spatial relationship of the hitter to the box is different.” — Glen Perkins, Twins pitcher, March 2015

“Math is a language, and mathematicians are logical thinkers. In my opinion, being a logical thinker is always a good thing. But if you’re thinking of math in terms of game-calling and probability, the only probability you should be concerned with is the probability of the moment. Pitching is very liquid.” — Jerry Weinstein, Rockies catching instructor, March 2015

“It’s about spin, and you don’t want the ball to be red – you don’t want the hitter to see a seam – because if he recognizes the pitch, he’ll either spit on it or hit it hard somewhere. You want more white on the ball, so the hitter’s eyes see white.” — Tony Watson, Pirates pitcher, April 2015

“It’s quick, quick, boom , boom, so if you’re amped to that mentality, you’re pacing with the game. I’m big Red Bull guy – a fast twitch guy – and I love that feeling.” — Casey Fien, Twins pitcher, April 2015

“I got called up from a three-card poker table. Another time I got called up from a golf course in Tucson. Actually, I’ve been called up from the same golf course twice. During the season, you answer your cell phone when you see the right area code.” — Dana Eveland, journeyman pitcher, April 2015

“You obviously try to set pitches up, but it’s kind of like golf. You have to make the most of the situation you’re in. Sometimes you have to hit it around a tree.” — Drew Storen, Nationals pitcher, April 2015

“That’s what every superstition is. You put the right sock on before the left and feel that’s part of what helps you succeed. It’s a bunch of gibberish, of course.” — RA Dickey, Blue Jays pitcher, April 2015

“I guess it would have to be World Series titles. If you were on a good team, you must have been a good player.” — Bryce Harper, Nationals outfielder, April 2015

“The thing I love about true science, and true scientists, is the desire and necessity to attempt to disprove their own beliefs. This is in stark contrast to those who cherry pick the data to come to the conclusion they want to be true.” — Brady Anderson, Orioles VP of baseball operations, May 2015

“Unless we’re going to kill every single statistic, then we should spare the win. I don’t think you can make a good argument for killing a statistic for not telling the whole story. You just to have to explain it doesn’t give a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of a pitcher.” — Craig Breslow, Red Sox pitcher, May 2015

“Back then, you pretty much faced the same pitcher all day. Now you might face four different pitchers in a game, and everybody seems to have three lefties. How many at bats – just to give you a name — did Ted Williams have against lefties? Those ridiculous numbers from back in the day, I think they’re long gone.” — David Ortiz, Red Sx DH, May 2015

“Sometimes, when I’m struggling against a righty, I’ll picture a left-hander on the mound. Historically, I feel more comfortable against lefties, so I try to replicate everything I do against them, as close to their release point as I can. I don’t do it often enough to know how often it actually works, but I do it.” — Sam Fuld, Athletics outfielder, June 2015

“I don’t think any player would be too upset to see the DH everywhere. Pitchers don’t particularly want to hit. In big situations, pitchers want to get it done just as much as we do, but 98% of them aren’t as able as other hitters.” — Neil Walker, rates infielder, June 2015

“It’s like dog years here. When you win a World Series… I was walking around, looking for Gomes Way or Gomes Avenue. At least a cul-de-sac.” — Fredi Gonzalez, Braves manager, June 2015

“It was a hard life. We didn’t have money, so I didn’t even have shoes. I didn’t have anything. It was hard to find something to eat. If you flipped a piece of bread in the air, I would fight to eat it.” — Julian Tavarez, former big-league pitcher, June 2015

“When I was running in from the bullpen, my legs felt like I was Bambi. I felt like I was just born and was trying to get my legs to work. I was shaking when I got on the mound, but then the adrenaline took over and I got through the inning without giving up a run.” — Chaz Roe, Orioles pitcher, June 2015

“You can surprise them, because they’ll be thinking, ‘There’s no way he’s going to throw another fastball.’ Sometimes it works. In 2005, facing the Astros, I did the opposite. I basically threw all sliders in the first inning, then went to the fastball.” — John Smoltz, Hall of Fame pitcher, June 2015

“I wish there was a better way to measure weak contact. I can get a pop-up to the catcher and it goes against me as much as a line drive to the left fielder. Last year I had a great year, and a lot of people were, ‘Yeah, but his FIP – he’s pitching above his average.’ I was like, ‘No! You can’t say that. Nobody’s hit me hard.” — Pat Neshek, Astros pitcher, July 2015

“I play the outfield similar to how I played football. It’s about taking good routes and going to get the ball, whether that means diving, running into a wall, or whatever it might take.” — Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays outfielder, July 2015

“I’d say McCullers’ breaking ball is Kimbrel-like at times. That’s as good as you can get. I haven’t seen everybody’s curveball, but I would say the young kid McCullers has a curveball as good as anybody in this game.” — Brent Strom, Astros pitching coach, July 2015

“When (Kris Bryant) starts to do that, the home runs are going to come in bunches. Or, in Joe Maddon’s words, clumpy. He’s going to get clumpy.” — Jim Deshaies, Cubs broadcaster, July 2015

“I’m not trying to throw to the middle of the plate. Actually, I’ll contradict myself. Sometimes I am. If I’m throwing my two-seam, looking for early contact, at times I’ll try to throw it down the middle. I’ll take my odds of them hitting the ball to somebody. Pitching to contact is about not being afraid.” — Dallas Keuchel, Astros pitcher, July 2015

“Actually, I don’t even like talking about hitting too much. I’m so small. Hitting is something you talk to the bigger guys about.” — Dee Gordon, Marlins infielder, July 2015

“I dreamed about doing this. I’d be back in school and my mind would be drifting, and the teacher would say, ‘Mr. Trammel!, Mr. Trammell!” I’d be, ‘What, what, whoa!” My mind had been in a ballpark somewhere.” — Alan Trammell, former Tigers infielder, July 2015

“We were having a pre-series meeting and our hitting coach was going over the opposing pitchers. (Adam) Dunn walked in and asked, ‘Who’s catching?’ After he found out, he said, ‘That’s all I need to know.’ Then he left.” — John Jaso, Rays DH, August 2015

“I think every pitcher who throws a good changeup or splitter has a little bit of artist-with-a-paintbrush to it. There’s a bit of a tug at the end that promotes movement, that promotes finish in the pitch.” — David Cone, Yankees broadcaster, August 2015

“There are times where you have to drink that pain away a little bit.This game can put you on top of the mountain, and it can put you down in the valley. Sometimes you need those soda pops to help you forget about it.” — Nick Swisher, Indians DH, August 2015

“We can’t stand the word ‘gut.’ You take gut thoughts out of the equation with the more prepared you are.” — Kevin Cash, Rays manager, September 2015

“Good players help you win games. That’s the bottom line. You can have a lot of great character guys out there, but if they aren’t as talented, you’re not going to win. There’s no substitute for talent.” — John Gibbons, Blue Jays manager, September 2015

“How you position your hands is important. If you have them someplace other than where they are when you fire to hit a baseball, that’s not simple. I wanted to have my hands very close to where I was firing to hit a fastball.” — Edgar Martinez, Mariners hitting coach, September 2015

“What’s difficult about hitting is that you’re pretty much taking an educated guess where the ball is going. The balls are going at high speeds and they’re moving late. But your approach toward a pitch dictates how you’re going to hit a mistake versus how you’re going to hit an executed pitch.” — Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays infielder, September 2015

“It exists and it’s tangible. It’s what separates average from good, and good from great. Show me a pitcher with brains, heart and balls, and I’ll show you a winner. That’s the hardest thing to quantify, and it’s probably the most important.” — Chris Young, Royals pitcher, September 2015

“I think it’s overdone. For all the times I’ve seen our players hit into the shift, I’ve also seen ground-ball base hits that would normally be outs if they weren’t shifting. It probably works, but I’m a little uncomfortable with it.” — Pete Mackanin, Phillies manager, September 2015

“I’m a little more of a throwback in the sense that if I like a player, I’ll fight for him, even if the numbers don’t add up to X, Y and Z. Of course, if the numbers show that he’s clearly not the player we think he should be, I’m not stupid enough to say that we’re going to put a square peg in a round hole.” — JP Ricciardi, Mets assistant GM, October 2015

“In Arizona, it feels like home plate is a mile away, whereas in Milwaukee it feels like you’re right on top of the plate. At Wrigley Field, I’d say it’s normal to a little closer.” — Steve Cishek, Cardinals pitcher, October 2015

“I think I got called up a little too early. As much as I thought I was an old soul on the mound, I kind of got pushed around pretty easily. It wasn’t ideal.” — Liam Hendriks, Blue Jays pitcher, October 2015

“I always tell myself KISS – keep it simple stupid – because when you complicate things… When I’m struggling, sometimes it’s because a lot of hitting-related thoughts are going through my head.” — Brandon Guyer, Rays outfielder, October 2015

“I like Miguel Cabrera. I like the way Miggy hits. I can’t keep my eyes off him when he goes up to the plate. He makes hitting look effortless. Hitting is like cutting paper, and he cuts paper.” — Warren Cromartie, former Expos outfielder, November 2015

“No, (Dave Stewart) already knows what time it is. I don’t have to remind him. He knows I went over the roof.” — Cecil Fielder, former Tigers DH, November 2015

“It’s tough to look at a guy and say, ‘This guy is going to be a bulldog’ or ‘This guy is going to be a chihuahua.’ Of course, you want the bulldog.” — Dave Stewart, Diamondbacks GM, November 2015

“I really don’t see a dichotomy between the analytics and scouting departments. I see them both as information sources where we need the absolute best of both. We’re going to build out both.” — David Stearns, Brewers GM, November 2015

“The exercise of building a projection model has you asking questions like, ‘What are the important variables?’ Then, over time, you go back and analyze why they maybe deviated from reality.” — Dick Williams, Reds GM, November 2015

“The philosophy I’m bringing over here is pretty different. I respect Jack Zduriencik – he’s had a wonderful baseball career and I’m sure he’ll continue to have one – but we’ll do things differently than he did. We see things through a different lens.”— Jerry Dipoto, Mariners GM, November 2015

“Infield defense is very important and Andrelton may be the best of all time. It’s hard to quantify not only the hits he turns into outs, but also the extra pitches, and the stress associated with those pitches, for our young arms. That being said, defense isn’t everything.” — John Coppolella, Braves GM, November 2015

“Our history shows that there isn’t one specific algorithm, or equation, for a pitcher that equals success here. For position players, yeah, I would say that there are. But that’s not something I wish to talk about here. Some of that is proprietary as to how we look at players.” — Jeff Bridich, Rockies GM, December 2015

“Alex Anthopoulos was extremely analytical, but also very creative. Not to say that the new group, under Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, won’t be creative, but I think they’ll be a little more measured and deliberate. I’m not saying there wasn’t a set plan with Alex, but at the same time, he was in on everything.” — Anonymous front office executive, December 2015

“We play one game a day, but we never play one game where you might not have a tomorrow. We’re a bunch of marathon runners and they’re asking us to run a sprint.” — Jeff Locke, Pirates pitcher, December 2015

“We can be happy with what we did last year, but we shouldn’t be overjoyed, by any stretch. We have a long way to go. I would hope that last year was just us moving in the right direction.” — Terry Ryan, Twins GM, December 2015

We hoped you liked reading FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2015 by David Laurila!

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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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scooter262
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Member
scooter262

Wow, these are great! Thanks, Dave. There really are a bunch of smart people in and around the game.

MikeS
Member
MikeS

…and Dave Stewart.