With a distinguishable handlebar mustache and golden locks of hair, Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford was anything but impressive in 2012. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the entire MLB was just how inconsistent and inept Axford looked this past summer.
The Brewers were not a factor in the NL Central last season as key losses like Prince Fielder and Zach Grienke plagued the team all year. 2013 will have to be different as Mat Gamel and Norichika Aoki will be looked upon to breakout and get the Brewers back into playoff contention yet again.
Back to the closing situation – Axford finished his fourth MLB season with a 5-8 record, 35 saves and a 4.67 ERA–this is the worst season of Axford’s young career, without comparison. A year removed from 46 saves and 1.95 ERA this type of season was forecasted by no one, but it can be chalked up to a fluke if Axford can return to quality in 2013.
With both the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals expected to be menaces in the NL Central yet again Axford must shut the door for the Brewers like he had done so well in years prior. I have faith in Axford given his All-Star past but, I would have him on a short leash if I was manager Ron Roenicke because losing leads late in games is always a recipe for disaster.
While I don’t know if he will ever return to 2011 form he should be able to keep the save total above 35 and the ERA under 3.00 in 2013. Axford is arbitration eligible in 2014 however, he is not due for free agency until after the 2016 campaign.