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Indians 2014 preview and predictions: John Axford

Can John Axford make us forget about Chris Perez?

This post is part of a contest in which you could win a free Let's Go Tribe t-shirt. In order to enter, just copy and paste the template at the bottom of this post into the comments, then fill in each category with your own prediction for how this player will do in 2014. Position players and pitchers will be featured as two separate contests. You need not submit predictions for every single player in either contest in order to win, but doing so will increase your chances, as points will be awarded separately for each player.

For pitchers, you'll be asked to predict each player's innings (IP), wins (W), ERA, WHIP, strikeout rate (K/9), and walk rate (BB/9). For relief pitchers there will be saves instead of wins.

Find every previous entry in the series here.

The comments on each post in this series will remain open through Saturday, March 29.

John Axford

2013 Recap:

Axford began the season as Milwaukee's closer, a role he'd held since 2010, but he allowed runs in each of his first 4 appearances and was demoted to a lesser role. He pitched reasonably well (not great, but not bad) for the Brewers after that, but those 9 runs dug a big hole for his numbers that he still hadn't gotten himself out of by the end of August, at which time he was placed on waivers and then traded to St. Louis.

On his first day with the Cardinals the coaching staff told him he'd been tipping his pitches. Whether that led to a significant adjustment, served as a placebo, or had no impact at all (and small-sample luck is the explanation), Axford did much better afterwards, allowing just 3 earned runs in 16 innings, with 20 strikeouts. The Cardinals have more good arms than they can fit on the roster though, so they let him walk, allowing the Indians to scoop him up for $4.5 million plus incentives.

Recent stats for Axford:
2011 28 MIL 1.95 74 46 73.2 59 4 25 86 202 1.140 0.5 3.1 10.5
2012 29 MIL 4.67 75 35 69.1 61 10 39 93 88 1.442 1.3 5.1 12.1
2013 30 MIL 4.45 62 0 54.2 62 10 23 54 89 1.555 1.6 3.8 8.9
2013 30 STL 1.74 13 0 10.1 11 0 3 11 217 1.355 0.0 2.6 9.6
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2014 Preview and Projections:

Axford will serve as the Tribe's closer, and hopefully have success like that he found during his brief time with St. Louis. Given the struggles of former closer Chris Perez as the 2013 season went on, the bar for Axford to clear is not especially high. At the same time, there are other live arms in the bullpen (including Vinnie Pestano, who was seen as the closer of the future a year ago, and Cody Allen, who is seen by many as the closer of the future now), and if Axford were to struggle early, he'd likely find himself moved out of that role again.

Hopefully it doesn't come to that.

Here are a variety of projections for Axford's 2014 season, all of which are available on his player page at FanGraphs, where you can find more detail, if you're so inclined:

System IP S ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9
Steamer 65.0 20 3.64 1.28 8.6 3.2
Oliver 69.0 ? 3.65 1.29 9.5 3.5
ZiPS 65.2 ? 3.84 1.31 10.1 3.6

My Two Cents:

I think Axford can split the difference between the numbers he posted in Milwaukee last year, and the ones he put up for St. Louis. I don't think he'll prevent Tribe fans from feeling carefree in the 9th, but I think he'll do better than Perez, and I think he'll do well enough to hold onto the job for the full season. Put me down for 64 innings, with 31 saves, a 3.40 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9.

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