Team president Mark Shapiro continually hinted that Cleveland would sign a reliever with closing experience in recent weeks and that prophecy came true Sunday night, as the team agreed to sign former Milwaukee closer John Axford.
The only reason Axford was available with three years of team control left is due to his struggles in 2012 and 2013. The right-hander posted a dominant campaign in 2011, but since then, the results have not been there.
The big problem for Axford over the past two seasons was the tripling of his home run rate. While that can be the sign of decreased velocity — not allowing a pitcher to blow fastballs by hitters in the zone anymore — Axford’s average fastball velocity has been in the same 95-96 miles per hour range from 2011 through 2013. Though he has given up more power against his fastball since 2011, that 2011 season was always an outlier; pitchers do not typically maintain a six percent home run per fly ball rate (the average is around 10.5 percent).
Where Axford has seen a decrease in velocity is in his secondary pitches. The right-hander uses a slider and a curveball to augment his fastball, and as the graph below shows, both have slowed since 2011. Read More…
From Indians Baseball Insider, December 17, 2013