Just a quick thought for today… On Friday it was announced Brewers closer John Axford signed a deal for $5 million to avoid arbitration and this is a little concerning.
I subscribe to the theory that fastball pitchers can not be your primary closer. My thought process behind this logic is that players near the end of the game are generally more cautious when swinging the bat looking for their pitch. Fastball’s are generally easier to hit since they do not have much movement to them which makes them bigger targets to hit.
Axford uses the fastball as his primary pitch regardless of the situation. His slider is inconsistent at best and his changeup is still a work in progress. Players learn quickly about pitchers strengths and weaknesses in the major leagues, so the very pitch that led to the ascendent of Axford also led to his struggles last season since there was not another pitch to turn too. Axford seemed to bring it together near the end of the season, but when you are out of the playoff race, some players do “check-out” which leads to easier outs for Axford.
I could see issues were forthcoming with Axford when he started to over-throw the ball without early detection and correction. Normally Axford can throw the Fastball effectively at 95mph, but last season the fastball started increasing to 98 – 100mph becoming more and more wild. This should have been caught early and corrected, but nothing was done until it was too late, the damage was done.
What enhances my nervousness is we have been through this before with Derrick Turnbow. Another pitcher who used his Fastball as his primary pitch with no consistent secondary pitch. Turnbow blazed a trail through batter after batter for 1 1/2 seasons, but hitters adjust and Turnbow went into freefall.
With the new contract in hand, it will be interesting to see if Axford can handle the pressure of everybody seeing if he is worth the money and pitch at a consistent level.