Free agent left-handed reliever Craig Breslow held a showcase last month to give teams a look at his new arm angle which has been getting a lot of buzz. The New York Mets had two officials at the showcase as they continue to look for a lefty to add to their bullpen.
From 2014 to 2016, Breslow went 2-10 with a 4.93 ERA (5.16 FIP), striking out 90 batters in 133.1 innings. It was after he pitched only 14 innings for the Marlins last year he knew a change had to be made.
With the help of a “Raspodo Device,” the lefty has worked at improving his craft since last season. The device, which he downloaded on his iPad, tracks velocity, total spin, spin efficiency, and tilt axis. The most important change in his mechanics has been the dropping of his arm angle, producing movement on his pitches described as “sick” by one scout.
Since 2005, Breslow has gone 22-29 with a 3.35 ERA (4.06 FIP). In 535.1 innings he has struck out 419 batters and walked 212. However, if he has reinvented himself, his past statistics might not speak much to his future success. He could end up being a very valuable reliever for a team willing to take a chance on him, possibly filling the role of a lefty specialist.
(MMO) Logan: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. First of all, after being an good left-handed reliever for most of your career, 2014, ’15, and ’16 did not go as planned. Most chalked it up to age, but after last season, instead of retiring, you went back to the drawing board. Was that a hard decision to make, to retire or not?
Breslow: No, it was actually simple and straightforward. I still had the desire and passion to play as well as the drive to get better. I felt like I still had something left in the tank, I just recognized that what I had been doing, what I was used to doing to be successful wasn’t working anymore.
So rather than spend a ton of time pinpointing opportunities to tinker or hone very specific elements of my delivery, I kind of wiped the slate clean and relied on some feedback from members of some front offices, teammates, opposing hitters, about what I could do to be more successful – to add more deception to my delivery, to add more movement.
I ultimately came up with the idea of altering my delivery to throw with a much lower arm slot and then kind of using a scientific or analytical approach to measuring the differences or improvements.
Logan: You’ve historically been a fastball/slider/changeup pitcher. How have your mechanical tweaks affected each of those pitches? Have you tried throwing any new ones?
Breslow: I would say lowering my arm slot has allowed me to throw what I would consider to be a true sinker. I’ve utilized this device called a Rapsodo machine which captures spin rate, vertical and horizontal movement, gives me 3D flight paths of the ball out of my hand so i can see quantifiably just how much the ball is moving and I’ve been able to add a significant amount of sink and tail to my 2-seam fastball and so i think that’s probably going to be the predominant pitch that I use.
Logan: Is movement the only aspect of your game you’ve been working on, or have you also focused on other aspects such as velocity, command, etc?
Breslow: Sure, velocity is something that will or has come along with overall improving my conditioning, my strength. I’ve done some weighted ball work, I’ve done extensive shoulder cuff work, and then I also think lowering my arm slot has created a more efficient delivery. i think using my body better, using my forces better, I’ve seen an increase in velocity.
Logan: You’ve always had about the same success against lefties (.250 batting average against) and righties (.244 BAA). With the current state of relief pitching putting such a high value on lefty specialists, have you made any adjustments specifically with that in mind?
Breslow: I kind of undertook this with the idea that I needed to be more effective against left-handed hitters. As a left-handed reliever, my bread and butter needed to be dominating left-handed hitters and so lowering the arm slot gives me a different look, gives me more deception and movement. Particularly facing lefties it allows me to throw more of a sweeping breaking ball, more of a true left-on-left kind of swing-and-miss breaking ball from that lower slot so I think that will be a much more effective pitch for me when facing lefties.
Logan: As a free agent there are many factors in choosing your new team; How good they are, how strong the leadership is, the location, etc. Which factors are you most considering during this process?
Breslow: I think all of those are legitimate factors. I think certainly having been on some very good teams, some World Series Champion teams and some teams that have struggled to win, winning is much more enjoyable at this point in my career so I definitely place a priority on that.
At the same time I recognize I’ve got some unique experiences and some veteran leadership qualities under my belt, I would certainly be looking for an organization that would allow me to kind of be my own person, be able to share with some younger guys some of my experiences, some of the things that I’ve learned the same way that guys have done for me.
Obviously location, finance, all of things are factors but i think with different organizations, different variables become priority.
Logan: My readers would probably waterboard me if I didn’t ask you this, have the Mets reached out to you?
Breslow: We’ve had conversations with the Mets, yeah. And obviously I recognize where they are in terms of competing it seems as though they have this sort of sweet spot to compete for a World Series Championship and that has obvious appeal.
Logan: Good to hear! Well one last question that’s not quite baseball related but is still very important. You founded the Strike 3 Foundation. Can you tell me about what it does and why you started it?
Breslow: Sure, so briefly we raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research and treatment. My sister is a cancer survivor, she was 13 I was 11 at the time of her diagnosis and the impact that that had on my life was pretty significant.
I always thought I’d be a physician that I would kind of leave my mark on the medical community as a doctor but as I was able to establish my baseball career, I didn’t want to completely abandon this other thing that I had always felt passionately about and so the work that we do at Strike 3 allows me to stay connected to the medical world and medical community.
I feel like we’ve been able to fund some very meaningful research, I’ve gotten tremendous support from the baseball community. I think we’ve reached the point where we’re a sustainable organization, no longer strictly an event-drive fundraising-type organization, but one that can kind of sustain the long view and it’s something that I’m very proud of.
Logan: That’s wonderful. Well thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it. Keep up the good work!
Breslow: My pleasure.
If you would like to learn more about the Strike 3 Foundation and/or make a donation, click HERE.