Tag:John Axford
Posted on: April 1, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: April 1, 2011 4:55 pm
 

Pepper: Overreacting to overreactions

By Matt Snyder

Of the many great opening day pastimes in baseball, one of my favorite is the overreaction police.

Look, we all know there are 162 games in a season and that yesterday's game for each of the 12 teams that played means as much as when they play a game August 17. The flip-side to that is we haven't seen a meaningful game in months, so of course it's fun to try and examine and analyze everything we saw.

No one thinks Albert Pujols is going to suck this year because he hit into three double plays in an 0-5 afternoon. No one believes each player who hit a home run yesterday is going to hit 162 bombs this year. In fact, those "pace" jokes are so overplayed it's insane -- "Ryan Braun is on pace for 162 home runs. Sincerely, Stat Dork." Hey guys, 1990 called and wants its joke back.

So let us take a look at some of the things we saw and make sure everyone takes a deep breath and realizes we saw six games yesterday. There are 2,430 in the regular season, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with talking about every single one of them.

CLOSING CONCERNS IN CENTRAL? Two NL Central teams sent their respective closers out for a save situation in the ninth inning Thursday, and both came away with losses. The outings were quite a bit different. Franklin was only stung by a home run. Blowing a game is never easy to swallow, but when a closer only gives up one crack of the bat, it's a whole different situation than what the Brewers' John Axford went through. Axford allowed a single and walk to start the inning. He had a three-run lead and two batters in the tying run was digging in with no outs. A bit of a fielding gaffe/unlucky play was followed by a sac-fly and then three-run walk-off bomb. You just can't let the first two runners on like that. It would be easy to start worrying about either closer, but blown saves happen. I do think Franklin is more of a concern because he's old (38) and his ERA already jumped a run and a half last year -- but Axford's outing Thursday was far more problematic.

If fans or fantasy owners of either pitcher want an example of an NL Central closer from recent years who made it through an opening day failure, I've got one. Kerry Wood allowed three runs on opening day in 2008. He actually ended up blowing four of his first 14 save chances. The rest of the season he closed down 24 of 26 games.

CLUTCH CAMERON: Cameron Maybin has been a disappointment thus far in his early career, but he's still only 23. He surely made a good impression on Padres fans Thursday, slugging the game-tying home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to dead center field. Then, in the 11th, Maybin followed a Chase Headley base hit with a knock of his own. Headley would score on the play due to a pretty embarrassing defensive lapse by John Jay and Ryan Theriot. Because of the error, Maybin didn't get an RBI, but he got the two biggest hits in the Padres' victory.

MAYBE PUT HIM ON NEXT YEAR?
Jason Heyward is now 2-2 with two home runs in his first at-bat of the season.

WICKED WEAVER: Jered Weaver seems to be one of the more underappreciated aces in the game. All he did Thursday was throw 6 1/3 shutout innings, striking out six. Sure, he was playing the Royals, but it still counts.

HEY, HOW ABOUT JOBA? The much-maligned Joba Chamberlain threw a perfect seventh for the Yankees, which was followed by Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera shutting down the Tigers. If Joba throws like he's capable, the Yankees' bullpen will be downright filthy.

NO LOVE LOST: It's no secret Dodgers and Giants fans generally don't particularly care for each other. One Giants fan even went far enough to hire a banner plane to fly by Dodgers Stadium with the sign "DODGERS STILL SUCK - FROM SF CHAMPS FAN." (Picture here , via Big League Stew). The fan was Henry Yu, who said he was sick of hearing all those years about how the San Francisco Giants had never won a championship from Dodgers fans. "This is for all the Giants fans like me," Yu said, "who've taken so much verbal abuse over the years." (Inside Bay Area )

DON'T TRUST STATS THIS WEEK:
Fangraphs warns against it, just as we did yesterday in the chat. Fangraphs crunches lots of numbers, that's what they do and why they're great, but I think we summed it up pretty succinctly in the chat yesterday: Chris Shelton. Tuffy Rhodes.

BOSTON BOOZE: Fenway Park is moving to expand the sale of mixed alcoholic drinks for Red Sox games this season. Representatives are meeting with the licensing board to gain approval, but they'll have to convince the board and local police they will sufficiently monitor sales. Don't stadiums generally make those stadium mixed drinks so weak that it's basically the same as drinking beer? If so, what's the problem? Just don't allow people to order "doubles." (Boston.com )

C'MON CURTIS: Rebecca Black's Friday is an Internet hit, and it's sufficiently awful. It's also apparently Curtis Granderson's personal at-bat music. (Yardbarker.com ) There is, of course, the possibility that it was a joke by someone in the organization. Let's hope so. What's next, is someone going to use a Justin Bieber song? This also relates to our opening day chat, as we had the discussion on what the best at-bat songs would be. I went with Stone Cold Steve Austin's theme, but I also think Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N' Roses would be solid. No matter what kind of music you prefer, I think we should all agree an early teenage girl telling you Friday comes after Thursday doesn't really fit with adult males playing sports. Right?

AT LEAST CURTIS GETS A CHOICE: I guess the old-schoolers win this one. The Cubs will use organ music for the players, not selected music intros. (Chicago Tribune )

POOR PETE: Legendary Reds player Pete Rose looked a bit, shall we say, odd Thursday. See for yourself . (With Leather)

JUST LIKE THE MOVIES! Two high school baseball players in Texas have been booted from their team for allegedly sacrificing a few live chickens in order to break out of slumps. We've heard about the live chicken curse from Bull Durham and Major League . The best part is some of the quotes. Check this one out from the police: "It appears that superstition relating to a slump in baseball performance could have played a part." Seriously, thanks for the heads up, officer. (Yardbarker )

ICHIRO INTO HIS FORTIES: Check out this article by John Hickey, and it sounds like Ichiro Suzuki really wants to play well into his forties. The Japanese star seems to already be safeguarding against age concerns, like saying: “Let’s say that I was 20 when I twisted or sprained an ankle. Three years from now when I’m 40 and I twist or sprain my ankle, people will say it’s because of age. It’s not second-guessing. It’s just human nature.’’ He also notes he wants to spend his entire career with the Mariners. That 3,000 hit (in America) plateau is getting pretty close to being a lock anymore. (Sportspress Northwest )

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Posted on: March 31, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2011 10:39 pm
 

Hustle, good at-bats spark Reds rally

Reds

By C. Trent Rosecrans

CINCINNATI -- Ramon Hernandez didn't expect to hit the game-winning homer -- even after it left his bat. All he was thinking was he wasn't making the last out.

He didn't, his three-run homer off of Brewers closer John Axford gave the Reds a 7-6 win on opening day, capping a four-run ninth inning for the defending National League Central champions.

"I have no clue how I hit it out, to be honest," Hernandez said after his 334-foot home run landed in the Brewers bullpen in right field of Great American Ball Park.

But he knew how he got there -- with help from his teammates, and Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee.

Ramon Hernandez "It took a three-run homer to win it, but you can't hit a three-run homer with nobody on," Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes said.

It was what led up to that homer that typified why the Reds led the National League in runs scored a year ago en route to their division title -- hustle and good at-bats.

The inning started with a Brandon Phillips single, which was followed by Joey Votto working a walk. With two on and still no outs, Scott Rolen hit a slow grounder to third, where McGehee fielded it and tried to tag Phillips going to third.

"I thought he was going to go to second, but when I saw him reach out with the glove, that's when I went into my Matrix mode and got out of the way," Phillips said.

McGehee felt he pushed Phillips far enough out of the baseline to get the out before throwing to first, where Rolen beat out the throw. Third-base umpire Dan Bellino ruled Phillips safe at third.

Rolen joked that he was thinking double out of the box, but then said he was just trying to get down the line fast enough not to be doubled up. When he looked up, he saw bases loaded.

After Jay Bruce struck out, Gomes was trying to avoid a game-ending double play and nearly ended the game in a different way, by hitting it over the wall. However, his liner went to the deepest part of the park for a sacrifice fly, scoring Phillips and brining up Hernandez.

"You saw two great hustle plays with Brandon and Scott in the same play," Gomes said. "What you're trying to do there, is extend the inning and not give up outs.

"That's what we did. When you start with a positive note, it's contagious and you're almost a goat if you don't do that. When you're not hustling to first, when you're not avoiding tags, you're the goat. It's a special group of guys here."

With an 0-1 count, Axford's 93 mph fastball stayed up and got over the plate. Hernandez crushed it, watching it and raising his hands in celebration before he even reached first base, while manager Dusty Baker danced what appeared to be a jig in the dugout.

"When you have all your teammates waiting for you because you just won a ballgame, it's one of the best feelings you can ever feel," said Hernandez, whose homer capped a four-hit day. "Celebrating with your teammates is the best part."

It's something the Reds have plenty of practice at. Last year they were second in the big leagues with 45 come-from-behind wins and tied for second with 22 wins in their last at-bat, including Bruce's walk-off, division-clincher last September.

Shortstop Paul Janish, who along with starter Edinson Volquez were the only different starters from last year's opening day lineup, called the hitting "infectious."

Rolen called it "good baseball," while Drew Stubbs called it "magic."

Whatever it was, it was fun.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 7:10 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:58 am
 

R.I.P. Brewers: Pitching poor

As the sports world waits for the crowning of a champion, 22 other teams are busy preparing for spring training. What went wrong for these teams, and what does 2011 hold? MLB Facts and Rumors here at CBS Sports will be answering those questions through all of October. Next up: the Milwaukee Brewers.

Two years ago, the Brewers were exciting and a team to watch. They had potential, they had youth, they had star power. This year, they still had a team. It's not that the Brewers were bad -- they weren't good, but they weren't bad -- they were just immaterial. Still, the team has some talent and some hope for the future.

WHAT WENT WRONG

In a word: pitching. in two words: starting pitching.

Outside of Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers starters were not good. Randy Wolf had a winning record, but Gallardo and Chris Capuano were the only starters with an ERA+ of 100 or better, and Capuano was right at 100, but started just nine games. And then there was Jeff Suppan.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

John Axford The Brewers certainly have a potent offense -- they were third in the National League with a .759 OPS and fourth with 750 runs.

Rickie Weeks had the season everyone hoped he'd have when he showed such promise as a rookie in 2005. Weeks hit .269/.366/.464 with 29 homers and 83 RBI. Corey Hart had a great first half, hitting 21 homers en route to an All-Star appearance, but had just 10 the rest of the season.

John Axford (pictured) was lost in a sea of great rookies in the National League in 2010, but nearly any other season he'd find a way to pick up a Rookie of the Year vote or two as a result of his 24 saves and 2.48 ERA. Kameron Loe and lefty Zack Braddock were also impressive out of the bullpen.

HELP ON THE WAY

Amaury Rivas was a solid starter in Double-A, but beyond him, there's not much immediate impact in the Brewers' minor leagues for the rotation, which is where the team needs the most help.

The team's best position prospect, Brett Lawrie, plays second base. Weeks is headed to his third season of arbitration, so Lawrie may be a good choice to replace Weeks if the Brewers are out of the race at the trade deadline.

EXPECTATIONS FOR 2011

Right after the season ended, the Brewers announce they'd keep ticket prices the same -- that tells you something. Still, most will expect a little better than the 77-85 record. Most will be expecting a record around .500 with anything under the mark as a disappointment.

SUGGESTIONS FOR 2011

The Brewers have money to play with -- as they shed the contracts of Suppan, Bill Hall and Braden Looper. Plus they'll decline the option on Hoffman. That will help offset the raises set to kick in to Ryan Braun, Hart and Gallardo.

Prince Fielder They need to spend their extra money on starting pitching -- there's not a whole lot of attractive options out there, but I might go for a guy like Javier Vazquez. Vazquez has been a disappointment with the Yankees, but he's an innings-eater and going from the American League East to the National League Central would certainly help. They can also look through the trash heap at a guy like Kevin Milwood, maybe.

The biggest question will be what to do about Prince Fielder. The first baseman is a free agent after 2011, and this offseason would be the best time to ship him out of town. Fielder got his wish and the team jettisoned manager Ken Macha, but he's ready for his final year of arbitration and then free agency. He may be worth more before the 2011 season, but look for the team to hold on to him until the trade deadline.

2011 PREDICTION

The division the Brewers play in can't be stressed enough -- the National League Central has two pretty good teams in the Reds and Cardinals, but it's not as if they have a team like the Phillies or Yankees or Red Sox. If everything breaks right, the Brewers could be in it come September. More likely, though, they'll be comfortably in third place, behind the two better teams but better than the Cubs, Astros and Pirates.

Check out the rest of the R.I.P. reports here .

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: October 1, 2010 7:02 pm
 

Hoffman unsure of future

Trevor Hoffman Trevor Hoffman doesn't know if he's going to retire, but he does know he won't be back in Milwaukee.

"Why would they pay $7 million for me to pitch in this role?" Hoffman told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel .

Hoffman has been replaced as the team's closer by rookie John Axford. The team has a $7 million option for 2011 that includes a buyout of $750,000.

"If I'm going to continue playing, I don't want to continue in this capacity," Hoffman said. "I'd like to see what's out there, if there's [an] option to close somewhere. I know it wasn't a great year, but it's five months out of a decent run."

Hoffman will be 43 next week and has 601 career saves. He blew five of his first 10 save opportunities this season, but has a 2.67 ERA over his last 32 appearances.

"I might not get to that stage [of fielding offers]," Hoffman said. "I might make my decision before I ever get to that. It would have to be a fit like this. I don't know how many fits are out there like this."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 27, 2010 11:47 am
 

Hoffman cashes in


All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman has been relegated to the background with John Axford's emergence in Milwaukee, but his appearance Sunday, just his third this month, was a big one. It was a $250,000 inning.

Hoffman pitched the ninth inning against Florida, his 35th game finished this season. According to his contract, that threshold kicked in an escalation of his 2011 option, from $7 million to $7.5 million. Obviously the Brewers won't be picking up their end of that mutual option, but the buyout also increased, from $500,000 to $750,000. Not bad for a few minutes' work.

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
Posted on: August 23, 2010 1:42 pm
 

Axford will not have innings limited

John Axford John Axford has logged a significant amount of time on the mound recently. Of the new Brewers' closer's last five outings, four have gone 1 2/3 or more innings, with his last three saves requiring five outs.

Normally, that would be a concern for a rookie, but Axford logged 76 innings in 2009 between the Brewers and farm system. That number is far and away over the 2010 season's 57 1/3 innings. Given Axford is pacing to throw roughly 10-15 more innings in the year, the 27-year-old is in no danger of far exceeding his innings limit.

"I've looked at how many innings he pitched last year and where he is this year, including his minor leagues, and he's still got a way to go," manager Ken Macha told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel . "There is something to say for getting up, throwing, sitting back down and getting up again, but that's not like any other relief pitcher."

Axford has been a revelation in a year where Trevor Hoffman seems to be bringing about an ignominious end to an otherwise stellar career. He has a 2.64 ERA on the season, notching 19 saves and should have no difficulty entering 2011 as the incumbent closer.

The former Yankees prospect took a long road to the majors, at one point being released by New York at the end of 2007. While Axford was similarly unsuccessful in high-Class A as a 25-year-old, so he was rather old for that level. 2009 is when things started changing as he started to cut back on his walks. He took another big leap forward in 2010 in learning how to control the strike zone.

Don't feel bad about the Yankees missing out on John Axford as a potential Mariano Rivera replacement -- Rivera could probably pitch 20 more years and not miss a beat.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: August 8, 2010 8:39 pm
 

Hoffman, Axford to share closing job

Trevor Hoffman Trevor Hoffman has scaled the mountain back to being a closer -- somewhat.

Brewers manager Ken Macha announced Sunday that Hoffman would return to his long-familiar role in tandem with incumbent closer John Axford.

"The thing with Hoffman is he's earned his way back to saving games," Macha told MLB.com. "If you're going to stay with the premise that the players write the lineup and things like that, he's put his name back in there.

"That's not to eliminate Axford from doing things, too, because he's done nothing to write his name out."

Hoffman, 42, received career save No. 597 Saturday night in lieu of rookie Axford who has 16 saves in 28 games comprising 35 1/3 innings pitched. The 27-year-old appears to be the closer of the future, while Hoffman is struggling to end 2010 on a good note -- both professionally and personally.

Hoffman struggled to get the year off to a good start, posting an obscene 11.65 ERA through his first 18 games, saving five and blowing the same amount. In his last 19 appearances, however, Hoffman has a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings, walking three and whiffing 14.

"It's about doing what's best for the team," Hoffman said. "Macha's biggest concern is how to get to the end of the ballgame with a win, and it's nice that a personal situation had a chance to take place. But his job as a manager is to win ballgames. In mid-May, he was looking for solutions. Pitching well helps, and I have to give him confidence to call my number out there and put me in the ballgame."

While speculation, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com believes he knows how Hoffman will be deployed. He writes:
The Brewers could use Axford for multiple-inning save opportunities and to protect one- or two-run leads. Hoffman could pitch when the Brewers have multiple-run leads -- with Axford available in relief if Hoffman falters -- or on days when Axford needs a break. The Brewers aren't going anywhere with a 53-59 record, 11 games behind the Reds. While Axford is clearly the closer of the future, giving Hoffman a chance at 600 saves is simply the right move.

Not only has Hoffman proven his worth lately, but the team can only benefit from the public relations and goodwill that the run at 600 saves will engender -- both to its fans and players around the league. Hoffman is one of the best closers ever to put on a uniform, and players will notice that he is getting his fair shot at No. 600.

For Axford's part, he'll still grab the bulk of saves moving forward and pitch in high-leveraged situations regardless, so it shouldn't retard his development in the slightest.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: August 7, 2010 10:52 pm
 

Hoffman gets No. 597

Trevor Hoffman
The Brewers are in a tough position, having all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman just a few saves away from 600 for his career (and with a countdown banner in place at Miller Park) but also having identified their closer of the future, John Axford.

Saturday, manager Ken Macha found an opportunity for 42-year-old Hoffman to tack on No. 597, as he pitched a perfect ninth, needing just eight pitches, as the Brewers beat Houston 5-2.

It was Hoffman's first save opportunity since May 18, and his first converted save since May 7. He is 6-for-11 in save opportunities this season.

The Brewers are out of contention, which gives them the luxury of letting Hoffman try for the round number, but at the same time 27-year-old Axford needs all the experience he can get. We'll see how Macha handles it.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.



Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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