Open Thread: John Axford


(Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Relievers have a tendency to pop-up out of nowhere, which is exactly what happened with John Axford. The Brewers’ closer has been one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball over the last two and a half years, pitching to a 2.26 ERA (2.33 FIP) with 11.05 K/9 and 48.2% grounders in 139.1 IP since making his debut in 2009. He also led the league with 46 saves in 2011.

Of course, Axford was a Yankee once upon a time, or at least a player in the Yankees organization. They signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2006 after seeing him pitch for the Melville Millionaires of the Western Major Baseball League, a summer college league way up Canada. Axford was 24 at the time, and the Yankees used him as a classic organizational arm. His first appearance of the 2007 season came with High-A Tampa, his second with Triple-A Scranton, his next eleven with Low-A Charleston, his next eight with Short Season Staten Island, his next two with Low-A Charleston, and his final four with High-A Tampa. Twenty-seven total appearances across four levels in the span of six months.

Four years ago today, after just one season in the system, the Yankees released Axford. The Brewers signed him about three months later and stuck him on their High-A affiliate as (primarily) a starter for most of 2008. Milwaukee sent him back to High-A the next year, but this time as a reliever. A few weeks into the season, pitching coach Fred Dabney and pitching coordinator Lee Tunnell told Axford to “try to pitch like [Roy Halladay]” during a bullpen session. He lowered his arm slot, and the rest is history. Axford’s low-90′s fastball suddenly jumped into the 95-98 mph range, and his curveball had a bit more bite. Three years later, he’s an All-Star closer. Funny how that works, eh?

* * *

Here’s your open thread for this chilly evening. You’re pretty much on your own as far as entertainment goes, but you folks are resourceful, I’m sure you’ll find a way to entertain yourself. Talk about anything you like here, it’s all fair game.

Categories : Open Thread


  1. Pat D says:

    I know we started to discuss this in the Darvish thread, but I once again say that if the Yankees somehow Cashman-mind tricked the Mariners into accepting Montero, Nova and Betances for Felix, I’d do it without thinking twice.

    • Soriano Is A Liar says:

      I think of Jack Z like Jabba (Joba?) the Hutt: mind tricks don’t work on him, and he renegotiates deals after agreeing to them. Also, he keeps a 20 foot tall Rancor under Safeco Field.

    • Jesse says:

      I probably would too, but I love Jesus Montero almost as much as Monteroisdinero.

    • Jim says:

      I’ve been a huge Montero fan since they signed him and even I would say that’s a no brainer. Nova was great last year but is seen, best case scenario, as a 2nd starter and Betances is projected to be a reliever (hope not, he’s my second fav. prospect but gotta be realistic).

      Removing the names think of it like this…

      Team A gives:
      -Prospect with elite batting abilities but either 1b or DH
      -Young pitcher that’s shown success but projected #2 starter best case scenario
      -High risk, high upside prospect who is projected to be a reliever by many

      Team B gives:
      Young, top 5 starting pitcher with potential to be the best pitcher and already signed long term

      Doesn’t this show just how no brainer it is? (Reading it over, it seems like it might come over a bit harsh or douchey, didn’t mean to do that at all bro).

  2. Paul from Boston says:

    See also Melancon, Mark. Except there the Yankees developed him right to the doorstep then traded him, and a decent middle infielder, for veteraness.

    • Soriano Is A Liar says:

      Its all good though, it’s not like Melancon would have been the key to the 2011 Championship. I’m fine with losing guys like him in trades, as long as they hold on to the potential “core four” type players, like Montero or Banuelos (unless of course they used them as part of acquiring an elite player of some sort).

      • Paul from Boston says:

        Yeah, I’m not a fan of losing 12 years of team control for half a season of veteraness. In order to have a decent cap, they need to fill out the team with inexpensive players. They’ve done well on the bullpen but they gave up on Melancon too soon.

        Paredes ia also > Nunez.

    • RkyMtnYank says:

      So what made Lowrie so expendable for Melancon?

      • Paul from Boston says:

        Clearly his inability to stay healthy. But it does go to show how much they valued Melancon. Lowrie has the potential to be very good.

    • RetroRob says:

      Be interesting to see how Melancon does back in the AL East.

      I think Houston got the better of this trade, which I take as a good sign with a new GM at the helm.

  3. Jesse says:


    Translation: Darvish forms of boycott: A club offering $ 60 million post and then offers a minimum wage contract

    • Plank says:

      I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that could be considered not negotiating in good faith.

      • Soriano Is A Liar says:

        Isn’t that the kind of case where MLB could award the rights to the second highest bidder?

        • RetroRob says:

          My understanding is that would be considered in bad faith and negotiating rights go to the next team. If the Blue Jays are the winners, I don’t think they’re playing games. First off, how is it a blocking move? The Jays don’t even know who is second.

    • Bo Knows says:

      If a team tries that, it would be considered “in bad faith” and the rights would go straight to the next highest bidder.

  4. Michael Mirabella says:

    Yankees did bid on Darvish according to Olney.

  5. mustang says:

    If Cashman misses out on Darvish and they go into Spring Training with the current rotation he will get a big FAIL for the winter.

    An unsigned Japanese back-up infielder and Garcia just doesn’t cut it.

    • RkyMtnYank says:

      But over paying for an unproven AAAA pitcher will definitely put him back in the good graces of Yankee fandom? Maybe for some.

      • Paul from Boston says:

        Unproven? He dominated the equivalent of AAA and for four years straight with a combined line of 9.2 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, 0.909 WHIP across almost 800 innings. He’s got a great pitcher’s body. Any other country and he’d be a huge international signing. If he did that at a major university, he’d easily be the #1 overall pick.

        No, sometimes the Yankees absolutely have to take advantage of their vast resources. This is one of those times.

        • Need Pitching says:

          #1 picks don’t command $100M commitments
          that he would clearly be a #1 pick doesn’t mean they should spend whatever it takes to get him

          that said, I hope they do get him

          • Mister Delaware says:

            #1 picks aren’t allowed to command $100MM commitments. I imagine on the open market Strasburg would have gotten something far closer to $100MM than the $15.1MM he got.

        • RkyMtnYank says:

          You described a great pitcher ready to enter the minor leagues! How many college #1′s have proven successful major league careers let alone fill the #2 spot we really need? You made my point for me, thanks!
          I’m not sure why you are trying to make us believe in the Epstein rule of over spending?

    • Plank says:

      That Sabathia guy they signed is pretty good.

    • Jesse says:

      He failed last year too, right?

  6. Brian S. says:

    His mustache is well above replacement level. I approve.

  7. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    Not that I think Jed Lowrie’s the second coming of Derek Jeter, but if the Red Sox are going to rely on Melancon as closer in the AL East, best of luck to them.

    • RkyMtnYank says:

      Yea, it’s nice he had moderate success with Houston but in the AL East everyday? Good luck! However, won’t Bard really be the closer?

      • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

        Isn’t Bard being groomed as starter?

        Look, Melancon probably has come a long way from what we saw in the Bronx, and put together a nice season. What he did, and what he’s going to, are night and day.

        Too bad. I liked the kid. It sucks that we now have to finish him.

  8. Need Pitching says:

    Not looking good for Yu to the Yankees!/JonHeyma.....8380448769

  9. Jesse says:

    So, Nick Punto signed with the Red Sox. I wonder what Ted Nelson thinks about this.

  10. Colin says:

    Anybody see the Jeter interview with Barbara Walters? I saw the highlights on SportCenter. Aside from hearing about Jeters behavior contracts with his parents for like the 1000th time, he said he’s really interested in owning a team after he retires.

    He seemed really into it and excited and said he wanted to call the shots, be the BOSS. I dont think I could ever see him being more than a minority owner of the Yankees, but I could totally see him buy the Mets from the Wilpons.

    Itd be fun at least. Also, its cool that he’s that into it. That he loves baseball that much. I dont know if I’d want him to do it for my team, but I’d like to see what Jeter would do if he called the shots

  11. Kevin says:

    There were no pitchers out there worth breaking the bank over..NONE.

  12. aluis says:

    Too much uncertainty around Yu Darvish from the height of the mound, the size of the ball, the better hitters, pitching every 5th day, etc. to warrant such a large investment. Good for Cash for staying the course.

    What’s more suppose Yu doesn’t live up to the hype, in that case I’d feel a lot better getting the same production from within the organization at a fraction of the cost.

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