Yesterday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke announced that for the time being John Axford will be removed from the closer role and replaced by good ‘ol Francisco Rodriguez a.k.a KROD. The move was not a shocker being the season that Axford has had. He is 16/22 in saves this season and six blown saves is the most he has ever had for an entire season, let alone half a season. In fact, over the past two seasons, Axford blew a grand total of five saves, while notching 70 saves.
Now, I admit when Axford first hit the scene in 2010, right out of AAA, I was skeptical. However, after showing amazing skill and a mentality to handle the pressure of the job I was certain he was the real deal. So much, that I drafted him as my first closer in two drafts this year. So much for trust. From the start Axford was bad. He hasn’t much if any consistency this year and National League batters are hammering him left or right!
It’s fairly easy to see what Axford’s problem has been all season. Something just ain’t right with him. Maybe it’s getting his wisdom teeth pulled, don’t know. After watching him pitch all season I can see one thing for sure, he’s not hitting his spots. His velocity is there, but his location is not. He has left too many pitches in the zone and has had to rely on his fastball much more this season than in the past. He throws his out-pitch slider nearly 1/3 less this season than he did last year. More proof in his missing location is his rising BB/9 rate, which currently stands at 5.01. In 2011 his BB/9 settled at 3.05 and in his closer debut year of 2010 it was 4.19.
Axford needs the rest and even more so the relief from the role. I like what Ron Roenicke doing with Axford. Give him 10-14 days off from being closer and let him find his command, regain his consistency and get back to being the closer we know he can be.
From the fantasy perspective, do nothing with Axford. You can’t trade him and you are stupid to cut him. You’re best choice is to stand your ground and hope that he comes back soon. Francisco Rodriguez is not the answer for the Brewers and he will get hammered. Granted he got out of trouble yesterday, giving up a pair of hits to open the ninth is prelude to disaster if you ask me.
If you belived in Axford to start the season, believe he can rebound during the season.