Craig Breslow

Craig Breslow
Craig Breslow

Oakland Athletics — No. 56
Relief pitcher
Born: August 8, 1980 (1980-08-08) (age 31)
New Haven, Connecticut
Bats: Left Throws: Left 
MLB debut
July 23, 2005 for the San Diego Padres
Career statistics
(through 2011 Season)
Win–Loss     12–17
Earned run average     3.06
Strikeouts     235
Saves     6
Teams

Craig Andrew Breslow (born August 8, 1980, in New Haven, Connecticut) is a Major League Baseball relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. He throws left-handed, and is considered a lefty specialist.

Through 2010, he held major league batters to a .175 batting average with runners in scoring position (and .171 with two outs and runners in scoring position), and lefties hit only .191 against him,[1] with a .307 slugging percentage.[2]

Breslow was given the nickname "smartest man in baseball" by Minneapolis Star Tribune Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III,[3][4][5] 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."[6] The Sporting News named him the smartest athlete on their top 20 list.[7]

Contents

Early life

Breslow is Jewish.[8][9] He has pitched on Yom Kippur while fasting, and noted: “Being Jewish is more difficult in baseball … but I try to do what I can in terms of paying attention to holidays."[10] His parents, Abe and Anne Breslow, are teachers.[11]

When he was 12 years old, his sister Lesley—two years older—was diagnosed with pediatric thyroid cancer.[12][13] "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."[13] 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. His sister in 2008 was a 15-year cancer survivor, and expecting her first child.[13][14]

Amateur career

High school

Breslow attended Trumbull High School in Trumbull, Connecticut, graduating in 1998, and was a standout in soccer and baseball.

In baseball, he was the winning pitcher in the LL State Baseball championship game, playing with teammate and future Arizona Diamondbacks 2nd round draft pick, Jamie D'Antona. As a senior in high school, Breslow played in the Connecticut/Massachusetts All-Star game at Fenway Park.

In soccer, he helped lead Trumbull High to their first-ever state tournament victory. 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 1410 on his SAT exam.[15][16]

College

Breslow was captain of the Yale University baseball team, the Yale Bulldogs in the Ivy League.[17] As a junior, he led Yale in victories (three) 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.[18] In 2002, he was named a Jewish Sports Review College Baseball First Team All-American, along with future major leaguers Sam Fuld and Adam Greenberg.[19] He graduated in 2002 with a B.A. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.[13][20]

He was drafted in the 26th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002.[21] He deferred acceptance to the New York University School of Medicine because of his "love of the game".[22]

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 in 2011.[23][17] Breslow was also one of six Ivy Leaguers on major league rosters at the beginning of the 2009 season.[24]

Professional career

Milwaukee Brewers organization (2002–04)

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.

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

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. He then applied for medical school at NYU, but they would accept him only if he agreed to stop playing baseball.[13] "I wasn't ready to give it up," he said. "I thought I could still get guys out."[13]

Northeast League (2004)

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.[25]

San Diego Padres organization (2005)

Signed by the San Diego Padres in 2005 for $1 out of a tryout camp, he excelled, getting $1,500 after making the Class AA 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.[26] 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.[27] He became the 24th Yalie to play in Major League Baseball and the first to reach the major leagues since Ron Darling.[28] "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.[13]

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)

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

In 2006, Breslow was named an International League (AAA) 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.[29] "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."[13][30]

2007

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.[31] 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.[32]

Cleveland Indians (2008)

On March 23, 2008, Breslow was claimed off outright waivers [33][34] by the Cleveland Indians and was added to the 40-man roster.[1][21] 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.[35] Breslow won the final spot on the Indians' Opening Day roster.[36] "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."[17]

On May 23, after pitching in nine games, Breslow was designated for assignment.[37]

Minnesota Twins (2008–09)

"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." [38]

--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.[12]

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.[39] He held all batters to a .191 batting average, and a .265 on base percentage, and a .299 slugging percentage.[40]

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.[41]

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 Class AAA Rochester. "We were hoping to keep him," said assistant general manager Rob Antony.[42] "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."[13][43][44]

Oakland Athletics (2009–present)

2009

Searching for an experienced left-hander for their bullpen, the Oakland Athletics claimed Breslow off waivers on May 20, 2009.[45] According to assistant general manager David Forst, the A's had tried to acquire him on other occasions.[46] "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."[47] He was the A's key lefty out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season.[48]

He was second in the AL in appearances in 2009, with 77,[49] and batters hit only .143 against him when there were runners in scoring position.[50] He held all batters to a .197 batting average, and a .289 on base percentage.[40]

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."[51]

2010

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."[52]

He was second in the AL in appearances in 2010 for the second year in a row, appearing in 75 games.[53] Only 7 of 33 inherited runners (21.2%) scored against him, third-best in the AL.[54] He held batters to a .194 batting average, and a .272 on base percentage.[40]

His 71 strikeouts were the most by a lefty reliever in Oakland history.[54] He finished with a career-high 74⅔ innings.[54] He was named the 2010 Most Valuable Jewish Pitcher by Jewish Major Leaguers, as Ryan Braun won hitter honors.[55][56]

2011

In 2011, he was 0-2 with a 3.79 ERA in 67 games in which he pitched 59.1 innings.[57]

Pitches

Breslow's fastball tops out at 92 mph,[58] and he has added a cut fastball. In the first half of 2009, he had the second-most-effective fastball on the A's staff, mixing it with his other pitches as he threw it a below-average 59.7% of the time.[59] He also has a plus overhand curveball (70–75 mph), an average to above-average changeup, and a 78 mph slider/slurve.[20][59][60][61] His ability to mix up his four pitches is what makes him very effective.[59]

Awards

  • 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 Trumbull High School Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee

Philanthropy

In 2008, Breslow started the Strike 3 Foundation, a non-profit charity that raises awareness, support, and funding for pediatric cancer research, and has teamed up with CureSearch, which unites the National Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Children's Oncology Group, the world's largest childhood cancer research organization.[28][62] Breslow hopes to hold annual events in Connecticut and Minnesota, as well as in Florida during spring training.[63] His first benefit raised $100,000, and his second benefit more than $85,000.[13][64]

In media

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.[65] He also starred in a parody of Rex Ryan's foot fetish video called "ihaveprettylefthand".[66]

See also

References

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External links



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