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MVBrewer #3: John Axford

I'll be honest, I'm kind of surprised that John Axford came up this early in MVP rankings. With Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Yuniesky Betancourt, Yovani Gallardo, and Zack Greinke still on the board, I would have expected Axford, a reliever, to go a little bit later. That's not to say he didn't have a great year or doesn't deserve it, though.

After astronomical K/9 and BB/9 rates with the Yankees, Axford latched on with the Brewers back in 2008 and began pitching in the lower rungs of the minors. He couldn't get rid of those pesky control problems, though, and put up BB/9 rates of 6.92 and 5.20 in 2008 and 2009, respectively, while pitching in high A ball. In 2009, he finally got his first chance in the majors and promptly gave up a 7.04 BB/9 in seven games. He did net his first save though!

At that point, I don't think anyone would have been wrong for writing off Axford as someone who would never quite make it in the big leagues. Until 2010, that is, when he razzled and dazzled opposing offenses after taking over the closer role from the struggling Trevor Hoffman.

Finally, Axford came into 2011 as the incumbent closer. Many Brewers fans were, understandably, concerned that he might revert back to his old wild ways and blow up in a big way, and in an all-in year for the Brewers, too. Those fears were first verified as Axford blew a save the very first game of the season, then those fears were assuaged as Axford proceeded to not blow a save again during the regular season. Forty-six straight saves. A 1.95 ERA and a 2.41 FIP. A 10.51 K/9 and, better yet, just a 3.05 BB/9. 73.2 innings and the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. The outstanding facial hair. The fan interaction on twitter. Axford was nothing short of abso-fricken-lutely outstanding in 2011.

And the best part is Axford is still under team control through 2016, and doesn't reach arbitration until 2013, so he will hopefully be the Brewers dominant closer for a long, long time.