Milwaukee's Axe Man Could Get Early Axe Himself

46 of 48 save opportunities in 2011 is pretty good. An early 21.60 ERA this season is not.

Early season stats are fun. This includes Roy Halladay’s 26.13 K/9, Michael Morse’s 1.083 slugging percentage and Yu Darvish’s 0.12 WHIP.

One stat that’s far from fun? John Axford’s 21.60 ERA. That’s the Tommy Wiseau of earned run averages: it’s so ugly… but you just can’t look away.

Axford’s stretch last summer where he blew seven out of 15 save attempts was enough to send Brewers fans into a tizzy unparalleled since the start of prohibition. While Axford was able to convert 17 of his last 18 save chances in 2012, his leash with the fans is short, and it should be with Ron Roenicke as well.

The first two outings for the 30-year-old right-hander have exhibited characteristics similar to those of last year, and not in a good way.

On Opening Day, Axford allowed a game-tying home run to Colorado’s Dexter Fowler with two outs in the ninth to blow the save. The Brew Crew would go on to win it 5-4 in the tenth, but Axford’s performance was the top story.

Yesterday, Axford entered the game in the ninth with Milwaukee trailing by a run, a non-save situation. He proceeded to give up a two-run dinger to Michael Cuddyer and another solo shot to Fowler to give the Rockies a comfortable four-run lead.

This conforms with Axford’s troubles of last year. In his first three seasons at the major league level, Axford allowed only five home runs in 131 appearances. Last year alone, opponents went yard 10 times. It doesn’t take a genius/pitching coach/goatee connoisseur to see that this isn’t right.

Does this mean I think Axford is a bad pitcher or that he should be removed from his role? Absolutely not. Axford’s 2011 season, where he converted 46 of his 48 save opportunities, shows that he is fit to be a closer in the big leagues. But my opinion could change in one crack of the bat.

If Roenicke does decide to pull the trigger, keep your eyes on Jimmy Henderson. Henderson last year appeared in 36 games, picked up three saves, 15 holds and compiled a WHIP of 1.27. The biggest thing on Henderson is his 13.21 K/9 last year and his 3.46 K/BB ratio. The Brewers figure to have plenty of save opportunities for their staff this year, so Henderson is immediately a viable fantasy option if Axford is removed.