KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series gives you no-nonsense ratings of performances, injuries and managerial decisions in MLB bullpens. Get your arm loose: Let's find fantasy baseball players in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league who'll get saves.
|Job security (JS) score
||1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
|Health (H) score
||1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)
Closer: John Axford
Understudy/Fill-in: Francisco Rodriguez
Lurkers: Kameron Loe, Jose Veras
For the first time in his career, Axford has blown back-to-back save opportunities. As you can tell from Todd Rosiak's detailed recap of Milwaukee's Thursday tilt, the fire-balling right-hander's mates in the field let one another down in a couple of instances, although the inquisition is still focused on Axford.
K-Rod next in line?
It's tough to blame the team's closer in this one: "I can't say much after striking a guy out, getting a groundout and striking another guy out and still blowing a save." But, given the way that Axford has performed for much of this season and especially this month, it wasn't surprising that he was unable to answer the bell and pick up the slack, either.
The 29-year-old was still one out from doing so when he put the eventual winning run on with a free pass because the first batter he fanned reached on a wild pitch. The base hit that he surrendered to the next man up which drove in the tying run is on Axford, regardless; the throwing error that failed to make the play at the plate for the winning tally interesting was just gravy for the Kansas City Royals.
Ron Roenicke isn't ready to yank the chair out from under his closer because of Thursday's tumbled house of cards, despite the fury that he displayed on Wednesday night. Sometimes a shakeup is in order to wake people up, though. A break may do Axford some good.
As mentioned yesterday, there's no reason to believe that Axford's health is a problem. He may not have much to do to correct whatever it is that's troubling him. But so far, he's been stumped, and fantasy owners can do little but wait idly for a turnaround.
Rosiak offered a sound theory: Axford's velocity - which has gone up, particularly recently - is actually a possible indicator of his problem. The reliever acknowledged that he might be overdoing it, too, but part of the issue at this point could be the quantity of hypotheses he's considering. Maybe this, maybe that, maybe the other thing.
Another really poor appearance or blown save chance may land Axford in a different role. If so, it's almost certain that the change would be temporary. Nevertheless, to cover their bases, Axford owners should consider picking up K-Rod, who hasn't been much better this season but at least boasts an ERA under 5.00. In a temp demotion of Axford, Roenicke could even go with a committee, perhaps depending on how Rodriguez fares.
Things don't look good for Axford right now, but the resolution just doesn't seem to be terribly complicated. It does seem to be hard to locate, though, so how long he'll hang on to his role is uncertain. And if he loses it, he should get it back.
Your spring investment in him isn't giving you the return you expected, and at this point it probably cannot. But it shouldn't be all for naught.
Job security score: 3
Health score: 5
Dave Schoenfield posted an essay on the development of the closer's role in baseball. It's quite poignant and rather blunt.
And, if you didn't already abhor saves as a fantasy baseball category, the piece might sway you to become a despiser. The more people on that bandwagon the better, so that we can come up with an alternative.
Other Thursday saviors
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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