Players’ View: What Ballplayers Talk About When They Talk About Baseball

As a fan, you engage in baseball talk with family, friends, and acquaintances. What those conversations consist of will vary, depending on a number of factors. Level of interest. Overall (or nuanced) knowledge of the game. Current hot topics. Favorite teams and players. They all play into the baseball-related interactions you have on a day-to-day basis.

What about the players themselves? What do they talk to each other about when they’re talking baseball? I posed that question to a cross section of players — a dozen in all — over the course of the last month or so. Here is what they had to say.


Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles pitcher: “With pitchers, it’s usually, ‘What do have on this guy? How would you pitch him?’ With hitters, I like to hear about their approaches against other pitchers. It’s interesting to hear how they go after certain relievers. For instance, how do they approach facing Craig Kimbrel? I’ll also compare myself to certain other pitchers and ask how they approach them.

“We’ll talk about players around the two leagues, although it’s more that we’ll bring them up. We won’t necessarily talk about them in much depth. How they’re doing this year and stuff like that. Josh Hader came up when I was talking to Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia on the bus. It was, ‘Did you see what he did last night? He struck out six straight guys.’ We talked about how he’s having a ridiculous year.”

Charlie Culberson, Atlanta Braves infielder: “What’s going on in the game. Different things happening in the game, maybe players who are doing really well. Guys who are always hitting home runs. Pitchers who are striking everybody out. I’m taking with other guys on the bench about the game and different situations.

“Coming to Fenway and playing the Red Sox — arguably the hottest team in baseball — we’re talking about Mookie Betts and JD Martinez. These are some of the best players in the game. To be able to step onto the same field and see what they’re doing… I’m a fan of the game, as well, so to be able to go up against them is fun. The name of the game is fun. To be able witness other stars in the game is a blast.

“Outside of the field it’s more about life, family, friends, things to do, places to eat. We get into things other than baseball, because while baseball is our life, we need to kind of balance everything out. It’s not baseball all the time.”

Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers pitcher: “I like to talk to the hitters to see what they’re thinking in certain at-bats. Are they looking for something they saw their first at-bat, or are they looking for something opposite of what they saw their first at-bat, especially if they got a hit? I’m always trying to learn from guys like… Gardy and Rick Anderson, but I think the biggest input is from our own hitters. How they approach things gives me insight on what I might want to do against the other team.

“We talk a little bit about what’s going on around the league. We always have MLB Network on in our clubhouse, so we see what’s going on with everybody else. At the same time, we try to keep our heads down and keep grinding as a team. We also see each other every day for a whole baseball season — basically nine months out of the year — so we kind of run out of stuff to talk about baseball-wise. We talk about everything.”

Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates infielder: “It depends on who you talk to. When you talk to your teammates about baseball, it could be about the pitcher, a situation that might have happened during a game, or… who knows. There’s enough time between innings to talk about something that happened.

“Typically, when you’re talking to guys on the other team it’s when you’re on base. They’ll say, ‘Nice swing.’ If you know a guy, it might be, ‘How’s the wife; how are the parents; how are the kids?’ There’s more to us than just baseball. It’s what we do, but for the guys we’ve been around quite a bit, it’s something about the family or maybe just, ‘Good seeing you; stay healthy.’ We also encourage each other, so it could be, ‘Keep swinging it.’”

Brian Johnson, Boston Red Sox pitcher: “If I’m talking to David [Price], Chris [Sale], or Drew [Pomeranz], it’s, ‘What success did you have doing this?’ or ‘Hey, have you ever tried this, and if you did, do you have any advice?’ When I went to the bullpen, I asked Joe [Kelly] and David about some of the stuff they did when they went there. You’re trying to get insight from people with experience in the situation you’re going through. That, and in-game stuff like, ‘Hey, when you throw your slider, are you doing this?’

“Other than that, we don’t really talk about baseball too much. But I do follow what some guys around the league are doing, mainly guys I played with and am close with. [Mike] Zunino, [Anthony] DeSclafani. I follow their careers.”

Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks infielder: “I mostly just talk to guys about hitting. Whether it’s pitchers around the league, hitting mechanics, how your swing feels… that’s pretty much it. You can learn from anybody, so I’m always asking questions to my teammates, or even to guys on other teams.

“If you see a guy is doing something you like, as far as mechanically, it’s like, ‘Oh, look at him. He’s doing this in his swing. I wish I did that better, more consistently.’ Or you’ll see highlights and say, ‘Man, this guy is raking. He hit another homer.’

“There are also guys you’ll see… shoot, I remember a couple of weeks ago. I used to be teammates with Bobby Wilson, and I saw that he had a big walk-off hit for the Twins. I was like, ‘Damn, dude.’ He’s one of the good guys in the game. Things like that. You see guys on MLB Network and you’ll say, ‘Good for him.’”

James McCann, Detroit Tigers catcher: “When hitters talk, we talk about what we see at the plate off a pitcher, like what to potentially look for. For example, when JD Martinez was with us, we’d talk all the time about, ‘What are you looking for off this guy?’ He’d give me advice like, ‘Against this guy, I want to see a ball that starts middle-in, because he’s got nothing that’s going to run in on me. Everything is moving away, so if it starts away it’s going to be a ball, and if it starts in it’s going to be something I can handle.’

“As for me, being a catcher, talking to pitchers, it could range from what I see with their mechanics to something as simple as, ‘This is what we’re going to do today. Here’s the scouting report, and here’s how we’re going to attack their lineup.’

“If there’s a game on in the clubhouse, you might hear guys rooting for certain players — guys they came up with or maybe friends from back home. And a lot of times it’s talking crap to each other, kind of running your mouth. It’s like your brother. You’re teammates, but you’re brothers, so you can say whatever you want without hard feelings. You can laugh about it.”

Brandon McCarthy, Atlanta Braves pitcher: “There’s a lot of jealousy. How can this guy do this? Like, ‘How can Zack Greinke make his changeup go down like that?,’ or ‘How can Jacob deGrom make the ball do the things that he does?’ So, it’s usually speaking well of other people, especially players who are really, really hot at the moment. That seems to be what we discuss the most. We’re talking about Brandon Belt right now.

“With someone like Belt — unless we just faced him, or are about to face him — we usually don’t talk about something like how to attack him. Maybe we do if we see him hitting a pitch you know he always kills. Mostly we talk sort of like a detached family. It’s, ‘God, he’s unbelievably hot right now.’ It’s not too in depth of a conversation, really.”

Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox pitcher: “For pitchers, it’s, ‘How do you throw your pitch?’ It might be, ‘You have a better slider than I do. Are you thinking about finishing out in front? Are you pre-gripping it in the glove? Is your hand turning in your glove? Are you twisting it?’ As pitchers, we mostly talk about each other’s grips and how we’re throwing different pitches.

“I don’t want to say there’s jealousy, but we’ll definitely tell each other, ‘I wish I could throw that.’ It might be, ‘I can’t throw a two-seamer like Nate Jones throws his two-seamer; he throws it 97-99 and I can’t.’ We’re all different. I don’t have the left-on-left changeup Luis Avilan has. No one has a slo-mo curveball like Joakim Soria. It’s like, ‘If I can get his pitch and his pitch and his pitch, I’d be the best pitcher in baseball. I saw an article about Trevor Bauer talking about throwing Kluber’s sinker, Mariano’s cutter, and somebody’s curveball. Yeah, I wish I could do that, too. I’ve changed my slider and curveball grips probably more in the last five years than anybody in baseball.”

Eric Sogard, Milwaukee Brewers infielder: “If something comes up, you kind of just start discussing it. I don’t think there’s anything in particular we go to. We’re all very knowledgeable about the game, so it’s just something that just sparks a conversation.

“Guys who have been around the game longer are kind of your automatic go-to [for advice]. If you’re working on something and see a specific player doing that specific thing, and he’s doing really well, you may go to him and see what he has to say.

“In Oakland, Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie were guys I’d talk to about different things. Here, there are guys like Lorenzo [Cain]. It’s definitely helpful to get somebody’s take on something you’re going through now and they’ve gone through it already. I think it’s neat when guys talk to each other about the game.”

Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays infielder: “Pregame, a big thing is what happened the day before. We’ll talk about how they pitched us, maybe certain pitch calls in certain situations. From there, it’s, ‘How are they going to attack us the next day?’ We’ll discuss who we’re going to be facing. We try to build on little things. I’d say that’s the most popular talk before a game.

“There’s normally not a ton after the game. When there is, it’s usually about how pitchers attacked us, or maybe how someone on the other team approached the game — maybe how they took their at-bats. But again, there’s usually not a ton of talk after the game.

“As far as what’s going around baseball, it’s mostly what we see on the news. We’re sitting here watching TV in the clubhouse and something pops up. That can be a topic of discussion, but outside of how a pitcher is going to attack us that day or what our defensive plan is that day, we don’t speak too much about other baseball stuff. When we’re out on the field is enough baseball stuff for one day.”

Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles outfielder: “It could be literally anything. It could be something that’s currently going on in the game. It could be a matchup, a former teammate. It’s all over the map, but it’s often about who is playing really well right now — maybe some young guys who are really coming into their own.

Josh Hader is a hot-button guy right now. He’s doing some really special things. I haven’t faced him, but I have watched some of the highlights and he’s nasty. He’s got it going on. We were talking about Ozzie Albies the other day. [Vladimir] Guerrero Jr.

“What Mookie Betts has been doing is something guys have been talking about. Any mistakes seem to be put into play. That’s pretty cool to me. He’ll foul a few pitches off, and if there’s something over the plate he finds a way to move it forward. That’s a sign of a really good hitter. We talk about guys who are doing really well, but again, it could be anything.”

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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This is fascinating stuff!