Craig Breslow graduated from Yale. Every television or radio broadcaster will remind you of that when he enters a game. It will likely be followed by a joke about how he’s smarter than them or an anecdote to differentiate him from his peers. More importantly to the Twins however, he’s also a pretty good relief pitcher.
In 546 innings over 12 major league seasons, Breslow’s posted a 3.33 ERA and walked just 216 batters versus 425 strikeouts. The Connecticut native also picked up a World Series ring with the 2013 Red Sox. Now, in his second stint with the Twins (2008-2009), I caught up with the 36-year-old Breslow during the last homestand.
DZ: We are about a month into the season now, new team, what are your impressions so far?
BRESLOW: So far, so good. I mean, as overused as that expression is. I think we’ve played good baseball. We have won our share of games, but, I think, more than that, we’ve been in every game with the exception of a handful. I think that’s what you set out to do; give yourself a chance to win. Overall, we have played pretty consistently I think. Obviously, hitters will get into slumps and pitchers will have their strings of rough outings. We’ve run the bases well, we’ve played good defense. We are kind of coming together. There is great chemistry and camaraderie in the clubhouse. I think we are all excited about the next five months.
DZ: This is your second stint with the Twins. Is there anything that is the same this time?
BRESLOW: The venue is different. The manager is different. The front office is different. Great fan base. Still very loyal and passionate fans. A handful of holdovers as far as players: Mauer, Perkins. Not that much, but ultimately, I think, baseball is baseball. Different bodies may fill up the uniforms, but you strive to be consistent, prepare the same way and hope to be in games day-in-and-day-out.
DZ: Has this season…gone better than you thought it would go?
BRESLOW: I have been on a bunch of teams that have recognized the importance of things that have happened beyond the field. The idea of guys supporting each other and pulling for each other. Putting the team ahead of themselves. I felt that part of the vision that (Twins executives) Thad (Levine) and Derek (Falvey) brought here was the recognition of how important that value could be and that’s one of the reasons they have brought in some of the older guys that have been on winning teams and hopefully can incorporate some of that.
DZ: I read that you have tried out the Rapsodo Baseball System. What can you tell me about that?
BRESLOW: It’s essentially a portable device that measures spin rate, spin axis, vertical and horizontal movement. This offseason I underwent some pretty drastic changes to my delivery in an attempt to gain some more movement and deception. I was able to use that as a tool to make sure I was on the right track. To be able to quantify the changes I was making. I was able to go to teams with quantifiable data about the changes I made as opposed to a more subjective evaluation.
DZ: I was watching a Dodgers game recently…they were talking about (Dodgers pitcher) Brandon McCarthy and how you were his wing man when he wanted to meet (baseball historian and analytics expert) Bill James.
BRESLOW: Yeah, it was at the “Moneyball” premier. There was a post viewing party and Bill was there. So, Brandon and I went up to him and started to talk about his incorporation of analytics, kind of where he thought some of these metrics might be going. Having spent a bunch of time with the Red Sox, (James and I) crossed paths. I think Brandon has a got a very analytical mind, a great understanding of what makes him successful. So, he was able to have a pretty intelligent conversation.
DZ: Are you into Sabermetics?
BRESLOW: I am into information and data and using that to make sound decisions. There are people who espouse Sabermetics and those who eschew it, but I think not too many people would say “no” to the question, “Do you like to have information to make decisions?”
DZ: Is that what put you in the Rapsodo direction?
BRESLOW: Yeah, this idea that the way my mind works, taking an analytical approach was the only way to set out to make changes. It wasn’t going to just be enough to say, “I’m better” or “I’m different.” Because, I think, the obvious question that begs is, “How much better” or “How much different.”
DZ: Every time you come into a game, everybody says, “Craig Breslow. He went to Yale.” Does that get overblown at all?
BRESLOW: Probably, unless they say where every other player went to college. But, I think once I get into a game, it’s largely irrelevant. Maybe it makes me a little bit more unique in this game or maybe it aligns me toward a certain perception, but I don’t think about where I went to college every day. When I put on my uniform, I think “How am I going to get somebody out today?”