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.”