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February 10, 2014

The offseason approach of thinking-man Breslow

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.”

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