John Axford was tipping pitches in Milwaukee

john axfordJohn Axford, new Cleveland Indians closer, might have to thank the St. Louis Cardinals for potentially reviving his career.hThe National Post, a Toronto publication, had an article on Sunday about the Canadian’s “pivotal, profitable” late-season stint with the Cardinals in 2013. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian retweeted the article on Twitter.

Per the article, after the late August trade, the Cardinals suddenly informed Axford that he had been tipping his pitches to opposing batters in Milwaukee. That had potentially led to the demise of the 30-year-old, who twice lost the Brewers closer role and had a 4.50 ERA in his final 137 games from 2012-onward with the team.

Here’s how the article began:

On John Axford’s first day with the St. Louis Cardinals, his new coaches sat him down for a meeting. We’ve been scouting you for five years, they said. And by the way, you might be interested in one thing we know about you: You’re tipping your pitches.

Thus, Axford made a slight change in his delivery that likely enabled him to have his success down the stretch. In his 19 games with St. Louis, including playoffs, he allowed just three earned runs and 13 hits while striking out 20 in 16.0 innings pitched. That’s a 1.69 ERA, far improved from his final days in Milwaukee and mirroring his 1.95 ERA, 46-save performance in 2011. But St. Louis then did not tender him a contract this offseason.

In the article, Axford shared some of his signature reasons for choosing the Cleveland Indians in free agency: the opportunity to be a closer again, “upfront” manager Terry Francona and the proximity to his home nearby Hamilton, Ontario.

Axford signed a one-year $4.5 million deal with the Indians. The contract also includes performance-based incentives that could make it as much as $6 million in 2014. The team also maintains control of Axford for two additional years of arbitration eligibility.

Lott interviewed Axford before Saturday’s Baseball Canada awards banquet in Toronto. He also wrote about the connection between Axford and Jim Henderson, a fellow tall right-handed Canadian who took his vacated job as Milwaukee’s closer.

[Related: John Axford – A Calculated Risk]

Photo: Cal Sport Media

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Boy I hope it’s something that simple.

  • Andrew

    Jim Henderson is the Brewers closer.

  • Adam Copeland

    I read somewhere that the Cardinals also had Axford stop throwing his slider, which was supposedly his worst pitch.

  • Ed Carroll

    BTW, most of the info is the same as Jacob has posted here, but RJ Anderson of Baseball Prospectus took a look at what he might have been tipping with some photos here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22572 (Usually, BPro requires a subscription but I believe this is a free article. If not, buy it, BPro is awesome).

  • nj0

    I checked the Pitch FX data at Fangraphs and they have him logged as throwing slider while playing for the Cards.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    He did pitch sparingly as well to the best of my knowledge which probably didn’t hurt.

  • Kildawg

    Even with the Cards there was slight differences in his delivery. Francona and Genius Calloway should be able to make Axford a dominant closer again. They did fix Kazmir and Jimenez after all.