John Axford, the man who saved 47 games in a row, may have a new role in 2013.
His struggles, along with the rest of the Brewers' bullpen, has been the main reason for Milwaukee's fall from atop the National League Central.
After posting a 1.95 ERA with 46 saves and only two blown saves in 2011, Axford's game has transformed into something horrendous. His ERA is almost three points higher (4.70), his saves are much lower (27), and he has blown six more of them. Plus, he has pitched 14 less innings.
Axford's inability to control his pitches is a significant reason why he isn't as dominant. His ferocious fastball isn't being located, which makes his breaking pitches useless. In 59.1 innings, he has walked 35 batters—that's up from 25 in 2011.
Milwaukee must make a decision on their Canadian closer. Is it too soon to give up on Axford after one lousy season, or can the Brewers not afford to wait?
For now, I think the Brewers will stick with Ax. He was too dictating in 2011 to remove him.
If they use him as the closer next season, his leash will be extremely short. Two blown saves in the first month would almost surely be the end of him. Milwaukee must have a backup plan as well.
There are a few in Milwaukee's organization that can take up the closer's role. Jim Henderson is more than capable, and prospect Jesus Sanchez could be the next young closing phenom.
Even though his entire season has been a mess, Axford has recorded nine consecutive saves.
This is the man the Brewers needed for the entire season. They would probably be fighting for the NL Central crown again had Axford been his 2011 self, not just gasping for breath in the Wild Card hunt.
John Axford should be given one more shot in 2013. The closing role should still be his to lose.
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