Axford Check

With the obvious disclaimers about 1 game of Pitch f/x data, which can vary a bit from park to park.

Axford's fastball velocity average today was 94.2, which is right on his 94 average last season. His hardest fastball was 95.4. The slider and curve were also right in line with his velocity from last year. Normally, I'd look into the differences in break between this year and the past year, but there's a major sample issue here-- Axford threw all of 1 curve and 2 sliders in his 21 pitches.

Last year Axford split up his fastballs, curves, and sliders 62%/ 18%/ 17%. That's something somewhat rare for a hard-throwing reliever, most are more heavily reliant on the fastball. Not tough to see the difference between last year, and today, when he threw 85% fastballs-- and got a swinging strikeout on the only curveball he threw all day. That would seem to be the root of the problem, and Rock may have actually hit it right on the head when he went on and on about Axford needing to have the confidence to throw a breaking ball behind in the count, and it didn't look like he had that today. 

You can browse the pitch chart yourself, this link should work (from Brooks Baseball). It really looks like he did work the corners reasonably well, but he just left a couple of fastballs up and they hit the fastballs hard-- possibly because they could reasonably expect it to be coming.

I'm not too worried about Axford. Despite the fact that he didn't get all the spring training innings he probably should have gotten, his stuff looked very sharp, and he just didn't have the feel on the breaking balls yet. I hope he gets at least an outing in a not high-pressure situation to get some confidence in those breaking pitches and I think he'll be fine. Hopefully the Brewers go into the ninth Saturday with a huge lead and they can run him out there to get that work in. 

There are certainly scary parallels to Turnbow, but I have plenty of confidence in Axford to have a solid year. Whether it was catcher or pitcher, someone needs to encourage him to get the breaking balls going and he should be able to get things working fine. If McGehee makes a big defensive play, we're not talking about this today.

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