Craig Breslow

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Craig Breslow
Craig Breslow on June 7, 2011.jpg
Tenure with the Oakland Athletics
Boston Red Sox – No. 32
Relief Pitcher
Born: (1980-08-08) August 8, 1980 (age 33)
New Haven, Connecticut
Bats: Left Throws: Left
MLB debut
July 23, 2005 for the San Diego Padres
Career statistics
(through June 19, 2014)
Win–loss record 22–21
Earned run average 2.90
Strikeouts 345
Saves 6
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Craig Andrew Breslow (born August 8, 1980) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball. He throws left-handed, and is the primary set-up man of the Red Sox.

As a senior at Yale University, where he majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, he led the Ivy League with a 2.56 ERA. He was drafted in the 26th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002, and debuted in the Major Leagues with the San Diego Padres in 2005.

Through 2013, he held major league batters to a .217 batting average with runners in scoring position (and .204 with two outs and runners in scoring position). While he was long considered a lefty specialist, he has been successful against right-handed hitters as well.[1][2] Through 2013, lefties hit only .230 against him (while righties hit .222), with a .354 slugging percentage (.331 for righties).[3][4] He was second in the American League in appearances by a pitcher in both 2009 (77 games) and 2010 (75 games).

Breslow was given the nickname "smartest man in baseball" by Minneapolis Star Tribune Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III, and Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Turbow wrote: "Judging by his résumé, Craig Breslow is the smartest man in baseball, if not the entire world."[5][6][7][8] The Sporting News named him the smartest athlete on their top-20 list, in 2010.[9]

Early life[edit]

Breslow is Jewish, and attended Hebrew school. His family attended Congregation B'nai Israel in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he had his bar mitzvah in 1993.[10][11][12][13] He has fasted while pitching on Yom Kippur, and noted: "Being Jewish is more difficult in baseball ... but I try to do what I can in terms of paying attention to holidays."[11]

Breslow's father Abe Breslow is a teacher and the former department chair in Physical Education and Health, and boys tennis coach and girls soccer coach, at Trumbull High School.[14][15] His mother, Ann Breslow, is a math teacher in Bridgeport.[16][17][11][18]

In 1992 when he was 12 years old, his sister Lesley—two years older—was diagnosed with pediatric thyroid cancer, for which she had surgery to remove all of her thyroid gland (a thyroidectomy).[19][20][21][22] "Something as traumatic as that has a lasting impact," Breslow said. "It confirmed my interest [in medicine]. Being a doctor went from being a prestigious profession to something that changes people's lives."[20] The experience led Breslow to take an interest in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Later in life, Breslow formed a non-profit foundation to help children with cancer. In 2013 his sister was taking the drug synthroid and monitored by doctors, but leading an unrestricted life as a 20-year cancer survivor, and had given birth to two sons.[20][23][24][25][22]

High school[edit]

Breslow attended Trumbull High School in Trumbull, Connecticut, graduating in 1998.[26] He was a standout in baseball and soccer, and served as team captain in both sports during his senior year.

In baseball, he was the winning pitcher in the Class LL State Baseball championship game, playing with teammate and future Arizona Diamondbacks 2nd round draft pick, Jamie D'Antona.[27] As a senior in high school, Breslow played in the Connecticut/Massachusetts All-Star game at Fenway Park. He was named to the 1998 New Haven Register All-Area team.[28]

In soccer, he helped lead Trumbull High to their first-ever state tournament victory. In 1997, he was named to the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference Boys First-Team Soccer Team.[29] He was known for having an uncanny ability to score from very difficult and wide angles, and ranks among the school's all-time scorers. Scholastically he excelled as well, scoring 1420 on his SAT exam.[30]

College[edit]

Breslow was captain of the Yale University baseball team, the Yale Bulldogs in the Ivy League.[31] As a freshman in 1999, he pitched for the Middletown Giants of the New England Collegiate Baseball League; in November 2013 he was inducted into the NECBL’s Hall of Fame.[32] As a junior, he led Yale in victories (3) and ERA (2.61; 3rd in the Ivy League), striking out 66 batters in 51⅔ innings (ranking 13th in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings). He earned All-Ivy honors that season, which included a 16-strikeout performance vs. Cornell, and a one-hit shutout at Harvard. As a senior, he led the Ivy League with a 2.56 ERA.[33]

In 2002, Breslow was named a Jewish Sports Review College Baseball First Team All-American, along with future major leaguers Sam Fuld and Adam Greenberg.[34] He graduated in 2002 with a B.A. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.[35][36][20][37][38]

He was drafted in the 26th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002.[39] Breslow deferred acceptance to the New York University School of Medicine because of his "love of the game".[11]

Breslow became the first former Bulldog since pitcher Ron Darling (1983–95) to reach the Major Leagues when he made his debut with San Diego in 2005, and was not followed by another Yale player until catcher Ryan Lavarnway (who also happens to also be Jewish) in 2011.[40][31][41] Breslow was also one of six Ivy Leaguers on major league rosters at the beginning of the 2009 season.[42] In 2012, Breslow and Lavarnway became the first Yale grads to be Major League teammates since 1949, and the first All-Yale battery in the major leagues since 1883.[43]

Professional career[edit]

Milwaukee Brewers organization (2002–04)[edit]

In 2002, Breslow ranked fifth in the Pioneer League with six wins, going 6–2 with a 1.82 ERA (54⅓ IP) in 23 appearances out of the pen for the Rookie-level Ogden Raptors. He struck out 56 in 54⅓ innings, and limited the opposition to a .218 average.[44]

In 2003, he averaged 11⅓ strikeouts per nine innings for the Single-A Beloit Snappers, fanning 80 batters in 65 innings.[44]

In 2004, Breslow played 79 games in the Brewers system, reaching the Class A California League High Desert Mavericks. The Brewers released Breslow during the 2004 season.[44]

He then took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and scored a 34 (the average score for medical school applicants was 28), and applied to NYU Medical School.[30] But though the medical school accepted him, they would only let him start if he agreed to stop playing baseball.[30][20] "I wasn't ready to give it up," he said. "I thought I could still get guys out."[20] As of 2013, he was undecided as to whether after his baseball career ends he will attend medical school, or alternatively perhaps become involved in the front office side of baseball.[45]

Northeast League (2004)[edit]

Breslow completed the 2004 season pitching for the New Jersey Jackals of the Northeast League, an independent baseball league. He held batters to a .204 average and recorded 37 strikeouts in 26⅓ innings, an average of 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings.[46]

San Diego Padres organization (2005)[edit]

Signed by the San Diego Padres in 2005 for $1 out of a tryout camp, he excelled, getting $1,500 after making the Double-A Southern League Mobile BayBears, allowing a .212 average in 52 innings over 40 outings while striking out 47 and walking 17 with a 2.75 ERA.[47] He earned his first big league callup on July 23, 2005. He was mistaken for the team batboy during his first day with the Padres.[48] He became the 24th Yalie to play in Major League Baseball and the first to reach the major leagues since Ron Darling.[49] "It wasn't until I was playing baseball in the big leagues that I thought I could play baseball in the big leagues," he said.[20]

Breslow then split the rest of the season between San Diego, for whom he had a 2.20 ERA in 14 games, and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League Portland Beavers. The Padres non-tendered Breslow in December 2005.

Boston Red Sox organization (2006–07)[edit]

Breslow pitching for the Red Sox in 2006.

He was signed by the Red Sox, as a minor league free agent, to a minor league contract in January 2006.

2006[edit]

In 2006, Breslow was named an International League (Triple-A) All-Star while with the Pawtucket Red Sox. In 67 innings of work for the season, he was 7–1 with a 2.69 ERA and struck out an average of 10.3 batters per nine innings. He was selected by his teammates as the PawSox Most Valuable Pitcher. He was promoted to Boston in the second half of the season, making him the fourth Jewish player (in addition to Kevin Youkilis, Gabe Kapler, and Adam Stern) to play for the Red Sox that year.

In 12 innings with the Red Sox in 2006, he posted a 3.75 ERA and had 12 strikeouts.

Off the field, he helped Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett win a bet against catcher Doug Mirabelli. Breslow calculated how many times a baseball spins when it's thrown 90 miles an hour from the pitcher's mound to home plate.[50] "Josh wanted to know if I could figure out how many times a baseball spins on the way to the plate," Breslow said. "There's a lot of variables, but I put in some figures and came up with answers for a fastball, curve, or slider. It's rather simple once you do it."[20][51]

2007[edit]

Breslow earned a trip to the Triple-A All-Star game in July for the second straight season for the Pawtucket Red Sox. At the end of June, Breslow’s ERA was 1.55. But his final numbers for 2007 were 2–3, 4.06 ERA, 25 walks, 73 strikeouts in 68 innings. He was promoted to Boston on September 1, 2007, but did not make an appearance and was sent back to Pawtucket on September 2 to make room on the team roster for Jon Lester.[52] Breslow was added to the postseason roster, and has a ring from winning the 2007 World Series — without pitching a game in the majors that year.[53]

Cleveland Indians (2008)[edit]

On March 23, 2008, Breslow was claimed off outright waivers [54][55] by the Cleveland Indians and was added to the 40-man roster.[3][39] Breslow was out of minor league options, so the Indians had to keep him on their big league club out of camp, or expose him to waivers again.[56] Breslow won the final spot on the Indians' Opening Day roster.[57] "He's strong," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "I want to be able to use him two innings. He's done that—if you look at his innings pitched the last couple of years versus appearances."[31]

On May 23, after pitching in nine games, Breslow was designated for assignment.[58]

Minnesota Twins (2008–09)[edit]

"He's not a guy who blows you away on the radar gun. He's not a big, imposing guy. But he gets people out. He knows how to pitch and when to throw what. He figures out ways to get guys out." [59]

--Twins' assistant general manager Rob Antony
2008

On May 29, 2008, the Minnesota Twins claimed Breslow off waivers. In 42 games for the Twins Breslow had a 1.63 ERA, and gave up only 24 hits in 38⅔ innings. Lefties hit .183 against him, with a .232 slugging percentage, and in save situations batters batted .100 against him, with a .100 slugging percentage. He did not give up a run in his last 14 appearances.[19]

Breslow's aggregate 2008 ERA of 1.91 in 47 innings was ninth-best in the American League of all pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, and second-best among AL lefty relievers.[60][61] He held all batters to a .191 batting average, a .265 on-base percentage, and a .299 slugging percentage.[62]

2009

Playing for the Twins in 2009, Breslow held left-handers to a .211 batting average and right-handers to a .226 batting average, but battled control problems in 17 appearances.[63]

The Twins figured they had a 50–50 chance of losing Breslow when they placed him on waivers in May 2009 to clear space on their 25-man roster for fellow left-hander Sean Henn. Oakland needed bullpen help and claimed Breslow before his 72-hour waiver period expired. Had he cleared, the Twins could have sent him to Triple-A Rochester. "We were hoping to keep him," said assistant general manager Rob Antony.[64][dead link] "We lost a bullpen guy without trying to lose a bullpen guy," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I kind of got shocked when they told me."[20][65][66]

Oakland Athletics (2009–11)[edit]

2009[edit]

Searching for an experienced left-hander for their bullpen, the Oakland Athletics claimed Breslow off waivers on May 20, 2009.[67] According to assistant general manager David Forst, the A's had tried to acquire him on other occasions.[68] "I'm excited about taking a look at him," A's Manager Bob Geren said. "He's a left-handed guy that's experienced. He's had some success at this level."[69] He was the A's key lefty out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season.[70]

He was second in the AL in appearances in 2009, with 77.[71] Batters hit only .143 against him when there were runners in scoring position.[72] He held all batters to a .197 batting average, and a .289 on-base percentage.[62]

He also continued to impress teammates with his intellect. "Breslow knows everything," A's left-hander Dallas Braden said. "I seriously want to be Craig Breslow when I grow up."[73]

2010[edit]

Asked in 2010 whether there was a story behind his jersey number, Breslow said: "When you spend time with many organizations over 5.5 years, you don't really care what number you get."[74]

He was second in the AL in appearances in 2010 for the second year in a row, appearing in 75 games (the fifth-highest single-season total in A's history).[75][44] Only 7 of 33 inherited runners (21.2%) scored against him, third-best in the AL.[76] He held batters to a .194 batting average, and a .272 on-base percentage.[62] Opposing batters were 0-for-11 with zero RBIs against him with the bases loaded, which were the most bases-loaded at bats against an AL pitcher with zero RBIs since the stat was tracked beginning in 1974.[44]

His 71 strikeouts were the most by a lefty reliever in Oakland history, breaking the mark of 69 set by Bob Lacey in 1977.[76][44] He finished with a career-high 74⅔ innings; fourth among American League relievers.[76][61] He was named the 2010 Most Valuable Jewish Pitcher by Jewish Major Leaguers, as Ryan Braun won hitter honors.[77][78] Through 2010, he had in his career allowed only 33 of 151 (21.9%) of inherited runners to score, which was the fourth-best percentage among pitchers with 150 or more inherited runners since the statistic was first tracked in 1974.[61]

2011[edit]

In 2011, he was 0–2 with a 3.79 ERA in 67 games in which he pitched 59.1 innings.[79] He led all relief pitchers with 5 pickoffs, and led American League relievers with 7 caught stealing.[44]

Arizona Diamondbacks (2012)[edit]

On December 9, 2011, Breslow and Trevor Cahill were traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Ryan Cook, Jarrod Parker, and Collin Cowgill.[80]

Since Breslow was the last arbitration-eligible player for Arizona to be under contract, he avoided arbitration and a deal was made at $1.795 million. His salary was a $395,000 increase over the 2011 season.[81]

In 40 games, and 43.1 innings, in 2013 for Arizona before being traded, he had a 2–0 record and a 2.70 ERA with 42 strikeouts, and limited opposing batters to a .233 batting average.[82]

Boston Red Sox redux (2012–present)[edit]

2012[edit]

On July 31, 2012, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Scott Podsednik and relief pitcher Matt Albers.[44] In 23 innings in 2012 for the Red Sox, he struck out 19 and had a 2.70 ERA.[83] He held opponents to a .206 batting average, and opposing lefties to a .184 batting average.[84]

For the season, he was 3–0 with a 2.70 ERA in 63 games for Arizona and Boston, and held left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average.[83][85]

2013[edit]

In January 2013, he signed a two-year contract with the Red Sox for at least $6.25 million. He will receive $2.325 million in 2013, and $3.825 million in 2014.[85] The Red Sox have a $4 million option for 2015, with a $100,000 buyout.

He began the 2013 season on the disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis. After rehab outings with Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket, he was activated on May 7.[85] He emerged as the Red Sox' primary set-up reliever.[86]

On September 16, Breslow was named the Red Sox nominee for the 2013 Roberto Clemente Award.[87]

In the 2013 regular season, he was 5–2 with a 1.81 ERA (third among left-handed relievers in the American League), in 61 games and 59.2 innings, and held opposing batters to a .228 batting average.[88][89][90] His 0.65 ERA the second half of the season was fourth-best among major league relievers with at least 25 innings thrown.[91] In his last 28 appearances of the regular season, he allowed only one run.[92]

In the 2013 American League Division Series, he pitched 3.2 scoreless innings over 3 games, notching a win and allowing two hits and one walk while striking out four, as the Red Sox defeated Tampa Bay.[93] In the 2013 American League Championship Series, he added 3.1 scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers, bringing his post-season total to 7 scoreless innings in 7 appearances, in which he held the opposition to a .130 batting average.[94][95] Breslow wrote a blog during the 2013 post-season.[96]

Breslow's World Series performances against the St Louis Cardinals in 2013 were disappointing, throwing over the third baseman's head to lose Game Two and allowing 6 of the 7 base runners he inherited in relief to score. Despite this the Red Sox won the Series, their third in ten years.

Pitches[edit]

Breslow's fastball ranges at 89–92 mph,[97] and he has added a cut fastball in the mid-80s and a sinker.[98][86] He also has a plus overhand curveball (70–75 mph), an average to above-average changeup, and a 78 mph slider/slurve.[37][98][99][100] His ability to mix up his pitches is what makes him very effective.[98]

Intelligence[edit]

Breslow was nicknamed the "smartest man in baseball" by Minneapolis Star Tribune Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III, and Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Turbow wrote: "Judging by his résumé, Craig Breslow is the smartest man in baseball, if not the entire world."[5][6][7][8] In 2010 the Sporting News named him the smartest athlete on their top-20 list.[9] In 2012, Men's Fitness named him one of the Top 10 Smartest Athletes in Professional Sports.[101]

Referring to the reactions he has experienced to the plaudits, Breslow said: "There’s no end to the teasing I’ve taken".[12] Red Sox manager John Farrell observed in 2013: "Breslow uses words in a normal conversation that I'm not used to."[102]

As to the impact of his intelligence on his baseball performance, he admits that he analyzes video and looks for inefficiencies in the "kinematic system" of his delivery.[103] At the same time, he often subscribes to the "keep it simple, stupid" principle.[103]

Awards[edit]

  • 2005 Southern League All-Star
  • 2006 International League All-Star
  • 2006 SoxProspects.com All-Star
  • 2006 Pawtucket Red Sox Most Valuable Pitcher
  • 2007 International League All-Star
  • 2010 MLB Roberto Clemente Award Nominee[104]
  • 2010 Oakland Athletics Dave Stewart Community Service Award Recipient[105]
  • 2010 Finalist for the Hutch Award[106]
  • 2010 Trumbull High School Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 2013 boSox Club Man of the Year
  • 2013 MLB Roberto Clemente Award Nominee
  • 2014 Distinguished Service Award from the Brotherhood of Congregation Mishkan Tefila, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts[107]

Philanthropy[edit]

In 2008, Breslow started the Strike 3 Foundation, a non-profit charity that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for pediatric cancer research. He oversees the charity's daily operations, including the activities of lawyers, doctors, corporate executives, and other professionals who donate their time, services, and expertise.[87]

The organization has teamed up with the Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology,[108] and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.[109][110] The foundation pledged $500,000, nearly all of which it has now donated, to the Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital to help enhance their Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program.[45][109] It has also made gifts to CureSearch for Children's Cancer, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Yale's Smilow Cancer Hospital, and others.[22]

Breslow hopes to hold annual events in Connecticut and during spring training.[48] His first benefit raised $100,000, and his second benefit more than $85,000.[20][111] The charity has raised more than $1.5 million.[87]

In media[edit]

Breslow's collegiate career and his first year with the Brewers organization are partially discussed in the book Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit by Matt McCarthy. McCarthy and Breslow were friends and teammates at Yale, and were on rival Pioneer League teams during the 2002 season.[112] He also starred in a parody of Rex Ryan's foot fetish video called "ihaveprettylefthand".[113][114][115][116][117] [118]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Ruttman, Larry (2013). "Craig Breslow: Major League Relief Pitcher, Yale University Graduate". American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball. Lincoln, Nebraska and London, England: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 421–427. ISBN 978-0-8032-6475-5.  This chapter in Ruttman's oral history, based on a March 5, 2008 interview conducted with Breslow for the book, discusses Breslow's childhood and family life, baseball career, commitment to charitable work, and Jewish education and values.

External links[edit]