Axford, the Latest Brewer Closer Casualty???
There is a reason that the answer to the trivia question “Who is the Brewers all-time saves leader” is Dan Pleasac and that has been the case since 1990. For some reason, Milwaukee has only been able to get a year or two out of the back of the bullpen before a career collapse or some other unfortunate event like trade or retirement. Axford might (CAPITAL M I G H T) just be heading down that path.
I know, I may be jumping the gun on this AND Axford’s run has been a lot longer than some of the one-or-two-year wonders of the past, but there is a reason why the Closer role sees so much turnover in baseball. Axford has 81 career saves and is (I’m guessing) a-season and a-half (53 saves) away from eclipsing Pleasac’s 133 save franchise record. He will have to buck the trend in order to do that. Let’s look at the closer role in Brewers history since the year 2000 when this “curse” began…
John Axford (2010 to 2012) – Axford took over the 9th inning role from Trevor Hoffman early in 2010 and was as good as Milwaukee has seen in years. He converted 24 of 27 in 2010, 46 of 48 in 2011 (including 43 in-a-row) and is 10 of 12 this season. However, Axfords 2012 ERA of 4.94 is over 2-runs higher than his 2.65 career mark. Axford’s struggles have been primarily in his non-save situations but he has blown 2 of his last 6 opportunities. Hopefully, for the sake of the Brewers, his problems
stopping leaking into his save opportunities…scratch that,just flat out stop.
Trevor Hoffman (2009 to 2010) – Hoffman was everything the Brewers could have asked for in 2009 recording 37-saves in 41-tries at the age of 41 giving Milwaukee fans a glimpse of his Hall of Fame career. Then in 2010, age set in and Hoffman lost it. Hoffman blew 5 of his first 10-saves and Ken Macha was forced to put him in a set-up roll. At least he was able to get a few saves late in the season to hit 600 for his career.
Eric Gagne (2008) – 1-year, $10-million (I didn’t mind the deal because of 1-year but it still has to be brought up). Gagne blew 5 of his first 15-chances as the Brewers closer and lost the role and now sits on many people’s list as forgettable Brewers.
Sal0mon Torres (2008) -Torres took over for an ineffective Gagne and was a savior…He recorded 28-saves that season blowing a handful after taking over the role. As luck would have it in the history of Brewer closers, Torres retired after the season instead of coming back to the closer role for 2009.
Francisco Cordero (2006-2007) – In my mind everything that Cordero did good for Milwaukee got erased when he bolted via free agency before the 2008 season. Yup, I said bolted (more in a second). In 2006, Coredero took over for Derrick Turnbow after coming to the team in the Carlos Lee. Cordero was 60 of 69 in his brief stint as Brewer closer including a (then) franchise record 44-saves in 2007. 60-saves enough to have Cordero at #10 on the franchises all-time save list. Doug Melvin had a 3-year deal on the table for Coco but the Reds came in with 4-years and without giving Milwaukee a chance to counter he was gone. Cordero notched 134 saves in 150 opportunities with the Red Legs.
Derrick Turnbow (2005-2006) – Turnbow’s 65-saves has him 6th on the all-time list but his fall from grace may be the grandest of them all. In a short time, Turnbow became a NL all-star and a Brewers Rock Star. Turnbow emerged from the 2005 bullpen-by-committee at the beginning of the year and tied Kolb’s (then) franchise record of 39-saves (in 43-tries). In 2006, Turnbow recorded 12-saves in a row to start the year and was an All-Star. But on his very own Bobblehead Night in May, the end began. Turnbow blew 9-saves and recorded only 12 the rest of the year before losing his job to Francisco Cordero. Turnbow stuck around until 2008 when Ned Yost could no longer find any use for him. that says all you need to know.
Dan Kolb (2003-2004) – Kolb’s role as closer started in 2003 when Mike DeJean’s struggles began. In 2003, Kolb posted 21-saves in 23-opportunities winning him the job the next season. In 2004, Kolb set a (then) franchise record with 39-saves in 44 opportunities before Milwaukee traded him to Atlanta. Milwaukee got Jose Capellan from Atlanta for Kolb.
Mike DeJean (2002-2003) – Another “one year wonder” at the closer spot. DeJean had a magnificent 2002 recording 90% of their saves at 27 of 30. DeJean had a rough go of it recording 18 of 26 saves before Milwaukee shipped him to Cleveland…The Indians, where Brewer closers go to die!
Curtis Leskanic (2000-2001) – Hold on, let me try this again…CURTIS LESKANIC! He did notch 12 saves in 13 attempts after the infamous Bob Wickman for Richie Sexson deal in 2000 but 2001 Leskanic was 17 of 24 before injuries came in and put the rest of his career on stand-by.
Before the 2000′s, Milwaukee had a steady run of solid closers with guys like Doug Henry, Mike Fetters, Bob Wickman and Dan Pleasac. What happened when the Brewers went to Miller Park?