Indians remove John Axford from closer role

John Axford

John AxfordJohn Axford has been removed from his role as the Indians closer, manager Terry Francona announced before the team’s game on Saturday.

In place of this year’s $4.5 million free agent signing, the Indians will use a closer-by-committee approach. Francona said that relievers Scott Atchison, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw or Marc Rzepczynski could close on any given night.

Axford, who turned 31 in April, was 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 14.2 innings pitched. He was 9-for-11 in save opportunities. He had 15 strikeouts against 13 walks and had allowed three home runs.

In 2012 and early 2013, he struggled mightily with the Milwaukee Brewers. He also was removed from his closer role there and later was traded to St. Louis. His new team showed him how he was tipping pitches, thus perhaps leading to his 1.74 ERA in 13 appearances with the Cardinals.

There was obviously hope that Axford’s renewed success would carry over into 2014 in the American League. He will not be a free agent until after the 2016 season, so Cleveland retains his control for a long while still to come.

Francona said that the hope is for Axford to return to the role as soon as possible. He will work in lower-leverage situations for a whole to hopefully get him back on track.

From an analytical perspective, yes, it’s true that a closer-by-committee approach could be fairly sufficient. But certainly, with this change, one can only hope that Axford returns back to his pre-2012 form if the Indians are going to meet their full potential for the remaining 120-plus games this season.

Other John Axford headlines from the past several months:

John Axford – A Calculated Risk
Indians closer John Axford perfect … on Oscars predictions
John Axford used to play a game that included ABC gum
John Axford finally recieves his Rolaids Relief Award … from 2011

  • saggy

    about time.

  • Harv 21

    The tanking in April followed by the difficult upcoming stretch of May opponents shortened the leash. Blown saves make hitters press. That’s the last thing they need when the hitters are already struggling.

  • Tron

    I like John Axford but his performance thus far should have been expected. Pitchers do not just return to 2-years-prior-form. He is what he is.

  • Matt S

    I’m a big fan of sabermetrics and analytics. But there’s good reason to have a closer. Because in a closing situation, teams are most likely to pinch hit to get a platoon advantage. While the mystique of “closer experience” and “mental fortitude” are likely cliches that don’t really matter to what makes a good closer, being a pitcher who can get out any hitter *is* important. It’s why I was never for Pestano or Joe Smith as closer. It’s why Scrabble or Shaw would be bad closing choices.

    They should put Allen in. The guy is solid and has a pretty minimal platoon split. That’s the guy you need to make closer.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    $hamrok saw this coming!