FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2016

In 2016, 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.


“I look at my role of GM as a systems manager. I’m focused on our infrastructure and how our system is working. How the seven or eight departments within baseball operations are carrying out our philosophy and vision.” — Billy Eppler, Angels general manager, January 2016

“As the wheels keep turning — as baseball evolves — teams are going to start using their best relievers to get the biggest outs. They’re not going to keep putting them in a box where they only pitch the ninth. And the teams that are early adopters are going to reap the most benefits.” — Burke Badenhop, itinerant reliever, January 2016

“I called time out and proceeded to walk off the field. Billy Williams, the umpire, said, “Cro, where are you going?’ I said, ‘I don’t play in lightning. I don’t like lightning. We have spikes on. We could die out here.’ I went into the dugout and it took 15 minutes to coax me out of there.” — Warren Cromartie, former Expos outfielder, January 2016

“I didn’t actually do that trade. It was announced a couple of days after I became GM, but Kenny had already put that in place with Dan O’Dowd. It was a good story — it looked like an old-time mob move to settle things with Kenny’s family — but in reality it was all Kenny.” — Rick Hahn, White Sox GM, February 2016

“I call it throwing the butterfly. That’s what my family always calls it, too. It’s almost like a circus… Sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face when I’m throwing it. One will go off the catcher’s knee, or maybe his mask, and guys will start laughing behind me.” — Mickey Jannis, Mets knuckleball prospect, February 2016

“My girlfriend tells me that I’m crazy, because I’m up every hour seeing the snow fall. I like the stuff, man. I like thunderstorms. Obviously, tornadoes are bad because they wipe out towns and cities.” — Mike Trout, Angels outfielder, February 2016

“The old LA Coliseum had doors on every locker, kind of a two-man cubicle thing. I went up and knocked on the little door. Miller opened it and said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘How did you get knocked out of the box?’ He said, ‘Get the (bleep) out of here.’ That was my introduction to being a professional sports writer.” — Art Spander, veteran scribe, February 2016

“Guys like Greinke and Felix — I don’t really look at theirs as changeups, even though they may be looked upon as changeups. They act more as a sinker or a split. Changeups typically have a little bit of a fade, and with them it’s almost like a power sinker.” — Derek Norris, Padres catcher, March 2016

Shelby Miller for instance. He has a fastball that rides up a little bit. You might not see that on film, but when you get in the box it’s kind of, ’Hey, it’s getting on top of me; I don’t know why.’ Maybe that’s because of spin rate. Regardless, it’s something you have to base on feel.” — Kyle Schwarber, Cubs slugger, March 2016

“There are two variables. It’s a lack of spin or it’s a flatter spin axis. Both contribute to gravity having a greater pull on the pitch, which ultimately leads to depth. It’s similar to a two-seam that way. When you can reduce the amount of backspin on the ball, you’re reducing its perceived rise.” — Brian Bannister, Red Sox pitching analyst, March 2016

“I’ve always believed in analytics. I just didn’t make it all public (in Philadelphia). I thought it was more of a competitive advantage for me to keep our thought-process about analytics closer to the vest. We didn’t boast about what we were doing — we didn’t discuss it openly — because I didn’t think it was anybody’s business but our own as to how we evaluated.” — Ruben Amaro, Red Sox first base coach, March 2016

“Back in the day, you wanted the big donkeys who would hit home runs. Now, defensive is being valued more with some of the metrics that are out there. Taking away a run is just as valuable as driving in a run. Defense is my bread and butter, so it’s a beautiful thing for guys like me that there are numbers reflecting that.” — Kevin Kiermaier, Rays outfielder, March 2016

“To me, if there’s a guy who the shift works on, he shouldn’t be in the big leagues. You never would shift on me, because you know what? I’m going to hit it to right field. If you can’t do that, you don’t belong here.” — Torii Hunter, former outfielder, March 2016

“Every morning, I wake up and thank God. People talk about players getting to the big leagues. For an umpire to get to the big leagues is even tougher. It’s like having a Supreme Court Judge job. There’s not much of a turnover.” — Chuck Meriweather, MLB umpire supervisor, March 2016

“When I was with Washington, in the minors, they would tell me, ‘Speed doesn’t matter; we’re not going to have radar guns out there.’ I said, ‘Awesome.’ So I’d sit at 90 and just try to locate. I was getting outs, but then they got mad at me, because they knew I had more in the tank. I’m like, ‘Wait. I thought you guys didn’t care about velocity.’” — Marco Estrada, Blue Jays pitcher, April 2016

“I was never like a hot-head guy. I’m actually trying to get more like that, to be honest. I’m kind of joking, but kind of not. It’s good to be competitive. Not that you want to be a jerk. But I guess I was always very low self-esteem, low confidence, negative, pessimistic, bad attitude about everything. I was taking the glass-is-half-empty approach.” — Joe Biagini, Blue Jays pitcher, April 2016

“I’m not [disciplined enough] in a lot of people’s eyes, but that’s the way I’m most efficient. I’ve tried both. I’ve tried to be a high-walk guy, and that version of me is not even a major-league-caliber player. I have opinions on plate discipline, and the best version of me is the one that’s aggressive.” — Mark Trumbo, Orioles slugger, April 2016

“When we got here [to Fenway Park], I went out and sat in Ted Williams’ chair. I sat in the red seat for probably a good 10 minutes, just looking around. I haven’t been inside the Green Monster yet. I went over there twice, but the door has been locked. I want to go in there, too.” — Mallex Smith, Braves outfielder, April 2016

“We’d played a night game, so it was late, at least 11 o’clock. He picked up and I think I got two words out before I broke down a little bit. I think he thought the worst — your son calls and he’s crying. I said, ‘Dad, I made it.’ He said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘I’m going to Minnesota. Book a flight.” — Ryan O’Rourke, Twins pitcher, April 2016

“I don’t think it’s going to happen, but if I get into Harvard, I’m probably going to be out of here. I love the game, but I think I can do more good in this world with a degree from Harvard Law School than I ever could playing baseball.” — Jon Perrin, Brewers pitching prospect, May 2016

“He was my first career punchy… When I got back to the dugout, they were like ‘That’s a good first K, kid.’ Then I thought about it and was like, ‘Wow. Yeah.’ It kind of sunk in as I sat there.” — Mike Clevinger, Indians pitcher, May 2016

“It was surreal. I met Vin at Vero Beach. It was the whole nine yards, where I was seeing greatness in front of me. When Vin goes to work, he paints pictures.” — Vince Cotroneo, A’s broadcaster, May 2016

“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out. I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.” — Chase Headley, Yankees infielder, May 2016

“You can’t change the schedule. You can’t call commissioner Manfred and say, ‘Hey, can you change the rotation they’re throwing against us?’ It is what it is. Not everybody is Cy Young, but sometimes you have to beat Cy Young.” — Fredi Gonzalez, Braves manager, May 2016

“This guy taught it to me when I was really young, back in the Dominican Republic. It was a random guy I met during a Little League game. He told me that grip one day. He was like, ‘That’s a curveball change.’ I was like, ‘What is that?’” — Danny Salazar, Indians pitcher, May 2016

“I saw a quote from Jered Weaver that I like. I think he threw about 20% fastballs in one of his starts and they asked him about it after the game. He was like, ‘You know, it was one of those days. The front door was locked and the back door was bolted, so I was trying to go through the chimney.’” — P.J. Conlon, Mets pitching prospect, June 2016

“To me, pitching is angles and lines. In my head, I draw straight lines toward where I want to throw balls, and I think about taking my body there. I vision it in my head.” — Lance McCullers Jr.. Astros pitcher, June 2016

“WAR is a self-fulfilling prophecy. FIP is the worst stat ever. I don’t think it’s fair. A player starts off at a baseline, which is based on a quotient, which is based on everybody else’s performance. His is only 1/1,000th of that percentage.” — Huston Street, Angels pitcher, June 2016

“I throw left-handed, hit right-handed, dribble a basketball right-handed, shoot a basketball left-handed. If I was going to dunk, I would dunk right-handed. I shoot darts left-handed. I golf right-handed. I bowl left-handed. I write and eat right-handed. I shoot pool left-handed. I kick right-footed. If I was going to punch you, I’d punch you right-handed.” — Collin Cowgill, ambidextrous outfielder, July 2016

“One of the biggest things — we talk to young managers about this when they first start out — is that you don’t want to be caught following the baseball. When the ball is hit, you don’t want to just lock in on it. If you do, you’re going to miss a lot.” — John Russell, Orioles bench coach, July 2016

“Some guys have an idea of how they can pitch — what pitches they should throw in what counts — but guys like me just end up throwing the ball and trusting it. There’s an aspect of that even at this level. You have a plan, but you’re basically throwing the baseball.” — Tim Lincecum, Angels pitcher, July 2016

“Had I looked at (the scouting data on Kemp)? The 70 pages of information you can look at? No. I’ve probably faced him a dozen times already this year. I have a good idea of what he can and can’t hit. But you have brain farts in this game. You have momentary lapses. That what happened and I gave up a home run.” — Jeff Samardzija, Giants pitcher, July 2016

“I can look at my average and see I’m hitting .250-something, but if I can get on base at a .350 clip, versus a guy who’s hitting .300 and getting on base .330… 300 doesn’t matter.” — Brian Dozier, Twins infielder, August 2016

“When I look at Inside Edge, a lot of time they’re wrong. Like Peavy tonight. He’s going to throw a bunch of baby cutters that look like his fastball. The way I know is simple: I ask the catcher when he walks in and I write it down.” — Dave Righetti, Giants pitching coach, August 2016

“It took me probably three months to realize that. Until I did, I would get caught off guard. (Bullpen coach) Gary Tuck told me, ‘Listen, dummy, listen dum dum, with two strikes, the ball is going down and in. Every time.’” — Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tigers catcher, August 2016

“Realistically, there was too big of a gap, though. I was 24 when I switched to hitting and the last time I’d played hockey was when I was 15. So while it crossed my mind… I guess I was never close to trying a Tebow.” — Adam Loewen, Diamondbacks pitcher, August 2016

“[FIP] is a stat that has too much variance for me to put much validity into. If I consistently outperform that number, then that’s who I am. I’m not the number it says I’m supposed to be.” — Tyler Clippard, Yankees pitcher, August 2016

“I get really, really nerdy and want to dive into a lot of numbers. If I start throwing out vertical and horizontal movements, a lot of people won’t be into that. But we can be more visual.” — Jessica Mendoza, ESPN broadcaster, August 2016

“I knew I was in trouble if Earl saw me. I jumped in a locker and pulled the clothes over me. I hid in that locker like a scared rabbit. He came in, turned over some tables and threw a tantrum. Earl had anger. He was intense. He never saw me.” — Rex Hudler, Angels broadcaster, September 2016

“I was looking at him like, ‘That’s Bartolo Colon.’ I was an Angels fan growing up and saw him win a Cy Young. I wasn’t thinking, ‘I’m an equal to him, let’s compete.’ I was like, ‘That’s cool. I’m facing Bartolo Colon. Where am I?’” — Matt Duffy, Rays infielder, September 2016

“I don’t think the pressure of success or failure led me to walk away from the game. I think it was more that I was a 20-year-old kid going on 15. I needed to learn how to be a man. I went home and got my wits about me, and here I am, seven years later.” — Danny Duffy Royals pitcher, September 2016

“Thinking about something — thinking and thinking and thinking — without having an answer is when you get paralysis by analysis. That’s what happened in Vegas. I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, or if I was doing anything wrong. I had no idea.” — Matt Bowman, Cardinals pitcher, September 2016

“It was infield hit, infield hit, bloop single, grand slam. And I’m sure there are games where I’ve given up three absolute laser beams that were hit 390 feet to the warning track, and they were caught. Which games did I pitch better in? I don’t think you can tell me it was the laser-beam games.” — Cody Allen, Indians pitcher, September 2016

“Here in Pittsburgh, people are just so sports-oriented. You drive through the streets and you see TVs have the game on. It doesn’t matter who’s in the house. It could be an 80-year-old grandma to a six-year-old boy. That was really cool. Everybody… the game is generational here. I’m not sure if it is in D.C.” — Mark Melancon, Nationals pitcher, September 2016

“That speech he made after the bombing — the Marathon— probably only David could have pulled that off the way he did. People didn’t even blink. He’s very special. I have two rings, and David is largely responsible for both.” — Terry Francona, Indians manager, October 2016

“All that he’s stood for in the city of Boston, especially when they had the bombings here — Boston Strong — he’s the epitome of an icon. Major League Baseball doesn’t have too many of those. We have Hall of Famers, but not too many icons. And what a Boston Triple Crown: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz.” — Jerry Howarth, Blue Jays broadcaster, October 2016

“Joe is the wizard of our baseball team. The way he manages the games is unreal. You never second-guess him. Like I said, he’s a wizard. It feels like he’s been doing this for 100 years.” — Carl Edwards Jr., Chicago Cubs pitcher, October 2016

“Screw my career. Let’s win the World Series.” — David Ross, Chicago Cubs catcher, October 2016

“It’s never really been a curveball. It’s always been a slider, because that’s kind of where my arm slot is. The best way I’ve described my breaking ball — and it still holds true — is that I basically throw a curveball from a lower arm slot.” — Andrew Miller, Indians pitcher, October 2016

“You could argue that his off-speed is his fastball, and that his curveball is his primary… If you look at major league usage, secondary versus primary is right around 50 percent anyway. Most pitchers have multiple secondaries, whereas Rich pitches off that curveball.” — Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager, November 2016

“If you go out there tonight — you, personally — and just toss it in there, you’re going to get a certain amount of guys out. There are people behind you. And if you can locate, you’re going to get another percentage out. If you can throw a second pitch for a strike, that’s another percentage…. The percentages start adding up in your favor.” — Don Cooper, White Sox pitching coach, November 2016

“We’re not going to shy away from guys with certain styles, per se. Balls in play at Coors can be a little bit more dicey, so you’d probably prefer guys who generate strikeouts, or a lot of ground balls, but in the end, we’re looking for the best possible pitchers.” — Bud Black, Rockies manager, November 2016

Clayton Kershaw isn’t Clayton Kershaw because the Dodgers said, ‘You know what, the third time through the lineup we have to get him out of there.’ He doesn’t become Clayton Kershaw unless he’s allowed to become Clayton Kershaw.” — Bryan Price, Reds manager, December 2016

“We need to make sure we educate on why we’re doing what we’re doing — why we believe it is the right thing, and not just some random thousands of data points. It’s pitcher-specific, with enough valid data points to make it tangible.” — Neal Huntington, Pirates GM, December 2016

“The game runs in cycles, though. The split -finger fastball was the romance pitch for a long time… There were many years where the curveball disappeared — it was a slider, a split — and now you’re seeing good old-fashioned high-school curveballs being thrown again.” — Clint Hurdle, Pirates manager, December 2016

“It’s the same as overhand in that you’re killing velocity. And if you don’t throw it hard enough it’s not even going to get to the plate in the air. That’s the first thing. It also has to get it there in a way that’s it’s not sitting on a tee. You can’t just float it in there.” — Brad Ziegler, submarining righty, December 2016

“I probably shouldn’t say this out loud — this is my inside voice talking — but things that are important to your players have to be important to the manager to some extent… If we played in a nonemotional, non-compensated neutral environment, I think we would flush that stat saves down the toilet. But we don’t.” — A.J. Hinch, Astros manager, December 2016

One thing we’re trying to evolve to is getting away from the quality-control concept, because it implies that we’ve lost control of our quality and need somebody to bring quality back in… We actually want this person to be more of the fabric of the coaching staff.” — Thad Levine, Twins GM, December 2016

“A good leader doesn’t get too far in front of his players to where they can’t follow. If you’re taking them down a divergent path, you take them down that path with logic and a good explanation as to why you’re going that way.” — Andy Green, Padres manager, December 2016

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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 February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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