By In Stuff

Zen pitching

So, here is my favorite quote of the year so far — really my favorite quote in quite a while — and it comes from White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija. He says it in a Chicago Sun-Times story about how he has no use for advanced metrics, and it was written by my friend Rick Morrissey who also has no use for advanced metrics (not always to his benefit).

But we’ll get into the context of the quote in just a minute. First the beauty of the quote itself:

“Listen, I can get (hitters) out without even throwing a pitch.”

I want this on T-shirts. I want this on bumper stickers. I want this to be the title of every book I ever write. Let’s face it, I want this on my tombstone. There are many great Chuck Norris gags — Chuck Norris is why Waldo hides, there is no life on Mars because Chuck Norris, there are no streets named for Chuck Norris because no one dares cross him — but I would say that Jeff Samardzija as the pitcher who can get hitters out without throwing a pitch is an even more glorious concept.

Now, let’s add here that I’m really pulling the quote out of context to make it awesome. Samardzija was  just trying to make a generally silly point about how he can get some hitters out through intimidation and that some hitters just own him and that numbers cannot possibly capture impossibly complex internal things like “pitcher vs. batter history” or  “pitcher and hitter tendencies.” Of course, it doesn’t matter if Jeff Samardija uses advanced statistics or doesn’t use them, likes them or despises them. It really doesn’t. Some pitchers work better with more information. Some pitchers prefer to go on instinct. Some pitchers want to know their xFIP. Some pitchers don’t even want to know their uniform number. Some writers like to use a thesaurus. Some writers think words should come from the gut. It would be terrifyingly boring if everyone did stuff the same way.

So, yeah, the rest of Jeff Samardzija quotes were kind of ridiculous and harmless –“Sabermetrics, nyeh. Sounds like a lot of hot air,’’ he told Morrissey, who I credit with the “nyeh” spelling — but I want this quote to stand alone because it is so amazing. “Listen, I can get (hitters) out without even throwing a a pitch.” Brilliant. Magnificent. I put my fingers to my mouth and blow one of those weird kisses that express perfection. Every single thing about the quote is perfect, beginning with the word, “Listen.” Such a great word to introduce a a wonderful thought.

“Listen! Clam up your mouth and be silent like an oyster shell, for that tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul.” (13th century Persian poet Rumi)

“Listen to the song here in my heart, a melody I start but can’t complete.” (21st century poet Beyonce)

“Listen to what the flower people say.” (Spinal Tap)

“Listen, I can get (hitters) out without even throwing a pitch.” (Jeff Samardzija).

Listen … to get a hitter out without throwing a pitch, this is the mountaintop. This is baseball’s quest for perpetual motion. While other pitchers waste their time working on their command and control and breaking down hitters habits by looking at stupid integers and stuff, there seems to be a way to retire hitters silently and without motion, perhaps by using The Force, perhaps by saying Avada Kedavra, perhaps by shooting flames out of your eyes. And Jeff Samardzija knows how to do it.

Samardzija doesn’t reveal his secret here. The Zen masters explain that there is no way to transfer true secrets. He only says it cannot be found in the numbers. So where? It might be in nature, in the stars, in faith. It might only be found in silence. Then again it might only be found in a simple sound. A syllable. Might sound something like “Nyeh.”

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29 Responses to Zen pitching

  1. “There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”

    • dave42 says:

      the shortest distance between two points is a straight line…in the opposite direction.

      a flute without holes is a stick.

      a donut without holes is a danish

    • Delabar's Weighted Balls says:

      Great quote! =) Pedro Martinez probably got some hitters out without even throwing a pitch before, so why not the Shark (the battle is one before it is even fought). But now I’m going to take Rumi’s advice, be-friend my soul, & clam up! Nice chatting with y’all; ……………..

  2. Jim Haas says:

    Reminds me a little of a classic Tim McCarver observation: “The Yankee pictures have had great success against him when they get him out.”

  3. Brad Kelley says:

    “Listen, (ooh-ooh-ooh) do you want to know a secret? (ohh-ooh-ooh)….

  4. Mark A says:

    Maybe he meant it in a Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon Kind of Way. “And when there is an opportunity, I do not pitch. It pitches all by itself.

    • “The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” Bruce Lee. What could be less effort than not throwing a pitch?

      • Jovins says:

        That’s actually a physically meaningful statement. Wing chun advocates believe that you should bunch from a relaxed arm, because then the tension in the bicep doesn’t restrict your motion (and limit your force). If you’re putting effort into the punch (tensing your bicep first) you’ll be limiting your speed and power.

    • Shagster says:

      Today’s Best Comment Award goes to …

      The man who weaves “Enter the Dragon” seamlessly into a Pos post on baseball.

  5. Tom Bell says:

    At least this proves that you don’t have to be smart to get hitters out.

  6. Jeff says:

    I guess the White Sox 2015 strategy of 27 hidden ball tricks a game isn’t a secret anymore.

  7. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln. Jeff Samardzija and Rick Morrissey should take note.

  8. Dave says:

    Pat Tabler can get a hit with the bases loaded without swinging the bat.

  9. Bruce M says:


    • Dave says:

      Well, it was more pithy than what I was really wanted to write, but I couldn’t find a way to say tersely that Jack Nicklaus took so long to putt because he tried to will the ball into the hole, when he found he couldn’t, he finally putted, and to this day, golfers are very slow at putting, not really knowing why.

      Now, to be able to say THAT in under 12 words or so!

  10. Ted says:

    I hear that he uses this One Weird Trick that pitching coaches don’t want you to know.

  11. BobDD says:

    He meant he could get them “out” of the closet.

  12. mikelaskey says:

    My favorite example of Samardzija’s intimidation tactics: He played in the big outdoor five-on-five basketball tournament at Notre Dame during his senior year. The games have refs in the later rounds, and in one of Samardzija’s games, the ref was visibly nervous and overwhelmed. He called a controversial foul on Samardzija’s team in the last few minutes, and Samardzija ran over to the ref, towered over him, and pointed at the opponent who had drawn the foul. “That’s not a foul, that kid just sucks,” Samardzija shouted. “That’s not a foul, he just sucks!” I was impressed/terrified by his ability to destroy the player and ref at the same time. His team won.

  13. Cuban X Senators says:

    Dr. Ray Stantz: “Listen. You smell that?”

  14. Ian R. says:

    Fun fact: Alan Embree once won a game without throwing a pitch. Came in with two outs, picked a runner off first, then the Rockies took the lead and the closer came on for the ninth.

    That being said, he still didn’t get a HITTER out without throwing a pitch. That’s just crazy talk.

  15. John Kuzma says:

    “What is the sound of one arm pitching?”

  16. Andrew says:

    This originated in boxing, where people tell stories about Harry Greb and Willie Pep winning rounds without throwing a punch. Greb did it by talking, Pep by being elusive.

    Frankly, I don’t credit Samardzija with being anywhere near as good at his job as Greb and Pep were at theirs.

  17. Anthony says:

    I can read Joe Posnanski with my eyes closed. And enjoy it.

  18. Michael says:

    Jeff Samardzija is going to win the Cy Young when Hunter S. Thompson convinces God to eliminate the pitcher…

  19. Wilbur says:

    I thought he was referring to Shadow Ball.

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