Having four effective pitches has helped Boston Red Sox southpaw Craig Breslow become one of baseball’s top late-game relievers.
His brain also has helped equally.
After all, baseball is the thinking man’s game. Breslow graduated from Yale with a double major in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. The Wall Street Journal named the lefty the Smartest Man in Baseball in 2009.
Breslow pores over scouting reports during the regular season. He examines the recent trends of opposing hitters. He sees what these batters have done over their past 10 games with runners on base vs. no runners, and early in games vs. late, and against fastballs vs. offspeed pitches.
But what does he do during the offseason?
Well, he examines his own trends.
“I make sure there’s no need for a complete overhaul,” he said recently.
“I make sure my walk rates aren’t rising and my strikeout rates aren’t falling unless I’m replacing that. This year, I know my strikeouts were way down. But I also got way more ground balls than I ever had before.
“There was a time a couple of years ago when my numbers were pretty bad, at least my main core numbers such as my ERA. And I felt like my stuff was really the same. It (ended up being) just a case of a lot of bad luck. I was able to take a look at some of the advanced metrics and say, ‘The reason it feels like whenever I give up a batted ball and it becomes a hit is because my batting average on balls in play is close to .400, which is unsustainably high.’
“So it wasn’t that I needed to make complete adjustments. It was just that I needed to stay the course and at some points these things would normalize.”
Those advanced metrics at times also have shown Breslow he must alter mechanics or add a pitch to his repertoire.
“I started throwing a sinker two years ago,” he said.
“Since then you can quantify the change in my ability to generate ground balls. I’ve become a lot more successful facing lefties because I have the ability to run a ball in on their hands. So having data available to you is great but using it is even better.”
Boston’s 2013 World Series title was no surprise to New York Mets ace Matt Harvey.
“You could watch all of September and know they were going to win the World Series,” Harvey said.
“It was incredible.”
Harvey took great enjoyment in watching Jon Lester’s playoff run.
Lester went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in five starts this past postseason.
He won both of his World Series starts.
“He’s so much fun to watch,” Harvey said.
“He’s like a bulldog out there. For me, I like that type of pitching style.”
David Ortiz tweeted a photo of himself the other day and appears in terrific shape. He wrote in the tweet, “Finishing my workout to have another monster season for all those media haters that still doubting!!!”
Who exactly are the media haters?
Most of the local media has coddled Ortiz, hardly ever mentioning his positive 2003 PED test.
It often feels like it never even happened since it’s mentioned so little.
Ortiz hopes for an extra year to be added to his contract, but there’s no reason to give it to him.
Sure, he hit .688 in the World Series.
And he has proved a great deal after many thought his career was almost done in 2008 and 2009, both years when he got off to extremely slow starts.
But GM Ben Cherington should wait to see what Ortiz does in 2014 before extending him.
We’re talking about a 38-year-old baseball player who could be even older.
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyTheWriter