Colorado Rockies 2015 Crystal Ball: John Axford

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Apr 8, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher John Axford (66) celebrates with catcher Nick Hundley (4) after picking up a save to help the Rockies beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 in 10 innings at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

As the season gets underway, RoxPile.com is making some fun (but completely unqualified!) predictions about how members of the Colorado Rockies will fare this summer. In this edition: John Axford.

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John Axford came to the Colorado Rockies this year on a one-year deal worth $2.6 million, after closing games for the Brewers, Indians, Cardinals, and Pirates in his career. He’s saved 117 games in his career, and led the league in saves in 2011 (with 46) when he was a member of the Brewers.

Now, he’ll be a key member of the Rockies’ bullpen, which is deeper this season than it’s been in years past. Let’s see how he’ll do this summer.

What The Numbers Say

FanGraphs lists various projection systems, which you can learn more about here.

ZiPS and Steamer are divided on Axford’s possible 2015 season, as one (ZiPS) believes he’ll toss an ERA north of 4.50, and Steamer contends he’ll throw a sub-4.00 mark up across 53 games.

Neither one believes he will become the Rockies closer at any point, which should probably make sense considering Adam Ottavino’s recent dominance, but, hey, you never know. Unfortunately, both believe he’ll allow a higher batting average against and a higher WHIP than his career numbers thus far, so it seems no projection believes Axford will benefit from that thin Denver air.

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Call to the Pen

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  • Best-Case Scenario

    Axford has obviously been out for a little while, dealing with his son’s rattlesnake bite and ensuing surgeries.

    Nevertheless, when he returns to Denver, a best-case scenario would have him complement Rafael Betancourt and Boone Logan in the seventh and eighth innings in close games, setting up the bridge to get to Adam Ottavino.

    Axford has been downright dominant at times in his career, and, like many closers, he’s also had periods where it seems he’s blown every save a team hands him. With the Rockies, though, he can benefit from the good bullpen work and depth and be a functioning member of the pen as a whole, instead of a standalone workhorse (remember, in three straight seasons with Milwaukee – 2011, 2012, and 2013 – he threw 74, 75, and 75 games).

    He doesn’t need to be that guy for the Rockies this year; 65 appearances and eating important innings before Ottavino comes in will help Betancourt and Logan immensely and make Axford a very valuable set-up man.

    Worst-Case Scenario

    At hist worst in his career, Axford has fought bouts of wildness, walking 5.1 batters per nine innings in 2012 with Milwaukee (where he eventually lost the closer’s role), and throwing 10 wild pitches in just 54 appearances.

    For his career, he’s walked 4.3 batters per nine innings, and has a 1.342 career WHIP, both of which are higher than ideal for a late inning reliever.

    Any worst-case scenario with Axford would involve an inability to get ahead and stay ahead of hitters, and in turn, give up home runs (in 2012, he allowed 10 home runs in just 69 innings, and in 2013 allowed 10 more in just 65 innings).

    Crystal Ball

    After earning a save in the series at Milwaukee, and then leaving the team to be with his son, Axford will no doubt be due back very soon in Denver. He’s a great guy, he’s a fun Twitter follower, and it’s hard not to root for him (just like it’s hard not to root for Hawkins, both are good ballplayers and better people).

    Here’s to Axford throwing in 60+ games this summer, and solidifying himself as a 7th/8th inning reliever that, along with Logan and Betancourt, can be a bridge to Ottavino as Weiss chooses between bullpen members based on match ups on a day-by-day basis.

    Give us your predictions!

    Comment below, find us on Facebook, or tweet us @RoxPileFS and let us know. You can also use the hashtag #RoxCrystalBall.

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