Tipping Pitches Led to John Axford’s Fall
You have to the Indians credit for one thing. They sure do have a way of finding some of the best bargains on the free agent market. The latest in a long line of low-cost free agent signings that might work out for the best is John Axford. And why does this seem like a possibility? Well, one slight adjustment made by the Cardinals may have John Axford looking like the dominant John Axford of old.
Allow me to explain.
In a recent article posted on Nationalpost.com, Axford explains that when he was trade to the Cardinals near the end of the 2013 season, they revealed a pivotal piece of information that would go a long way in recreating his past success. Simply put, Axford was tipping his pitches and it helps explain how he went from being completely dominant to suddenly mediocre in hardly no time at all. Axford explains upon learning of this realization:
“I recall, sitting in that room when they told me that, a few different games running through my mind, including blown saves, and thinking, ‘Maybe that’s why they didn’t swing at that slider that was just out of the zone,’ ”
On their way to making it to the World Series, the Cardinals helped Axford make the necessary adjustments in his delivery and the end results were phenomenal. Axford produced a 1.74 ERA in 13 games for St. Louis. Once the playoffs began he was even better. In six postseason games with the Cardinals, Axford posted a 1.59 ERA and was a key piece in their deep playoff run.
Now it is the Indians turn to reap the benefits of this mechanical adjustment (Axford doesn’t reveal what the change was and for good reason). Looking for a closer to replace Chris Perez, they will plug in a pitcher who once converted 46 of 48 save opportunities. If it is true that Axford has eliminated the delivery problems that were causing him to tip his pitches, then the Indians suddenly find themselves in possession of an elite level closer, not just for the 2014 season, but beyond thank to his added years of team control due to service time.
So while other teams have gone out and spent big bucks on closers, only to see them fail to live up to expectations, the Indians have once again bought way low and may win out in the end. This goes along with the traditional manner in which they have attempted to fill the closer role. With the exception of Kerry Wood, the Indians have rarely committed big money to a closer. It just goes to show that despite the apparent importance of the closer, they can be found almost anywhere and on the cheap.