The John Axford Project

Editor’s Note: Sometime last night, Senior Staff Writer Colin Bennett cut off all ties with society, leaving behind only a collection of badly worn notebooks, all of them simply titled “John Axford.” While most of it was completely unreadable and the illustrations were extremely poor, the staff at Reviewing the Brew transcribed them as faithfully as possible in order to give the reader some semblance of what Colin was trying to accomplish.

As of this publication, Colin Bennett has not yet returned to his home. He is presumed to be drunk and extremely emotional.

John Axford is pictured here, in lieu of posting the illustrations Colin left behind. Many of which were graphic and in poor taste. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

April 1st, 2013

John looked dialed in today. Sure, he gave up that one dinger to Dexter Fowler. He did strike out three, though. It was probably more dumb luck than anything. His velocity looked good, his curve ball was straight up sick. Just luck. That’s all. The old Axford is back. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. No more arguments, no more defending him, no more trying to explain context – this year will be different.

April 9th, 2013

This…this wasn’t supposed to happen. This year was supposed to be different. He just gave up eight runs in less than three innings. EIGHT RUNS. (Illegible, expletives)

OK, I need to calm down. I mean, I can forgive a guy for giving up home runs – it does happen to everybody – but MAN IS THIS ROUGH. Maybe he is tipping his pitches somehow, after all.

(Several pages are missing, signs suggest they were either burned or torn out)

Wait, the release point argument doesn’t add up to me. How many plate appearances does a batter face against Axford?….According to Baseball-Reference, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina are at the top with 14 - is that enough time?

…Even with film time (which seems tough to actually attribute anything to) would you really notice a difference in release points? Would you really notice if he’s tipping pitches?

I think Jeff Sullivan is right. I think this is just the randomness of baseball. It smells fishy though…

…Could they ALL be watching ALL that film? Could they ALL be seeing the EXACT SAME THING? Is this a league full of Rain Men?

Possible Theories

  • League-wide Conspiracy to rid game of Canadians
  • Facing more middle-of-the-order hitters/power hitters
  • Axford’s beard is weighing his head down, thus moving his release point
  • Fastball is slightly slower
  • Early season jitters
  • TOO MUCH TWITTERS

April 11th, 2013

Several pages are filled with the words WHERE’S AXFORD? Scrawled in red and blue ink, varying from artfully done renditions to childish scribbling. The pages look as though they have been stained by tears.

April 13th-30th, 2013

Pages are filled, marking all six of his holds during this period, and a running total of his innings pitched without surrendering a run – another column has the eight strikeouts he earned over the same period. On April 18th, Axford gave up a home run – at which point Colin simply drew a large black circle in ink, driven so hard into the surface that the paper tore in several places.

…He’s been doing really well lately, getting more ground balls…

…It’s only a matter of time before he and Jim Henderson switch places and Axford is back to closing games. Maybe what this bullpen needs is more flexibility. No one (outside of Henderson) seems really comfortable in the situations they’ve been in thus far, and it seems like many of the fans are piling blame on Axford where it needn’t be. After all, the offense hasn’t been spectacular in scoring runs late.

…WHY ISN’T ANYONE NOTICING HOW WELL HE’S PLAYING?????

Everyday it’s “Team Rickie” this, and “On-Base Percentage” that, and “Leverage” whatever (Illegible)You want him to have confidence? Booing certainly won’t change that!

He’s playing well and people still don’t believe in him. Maybe I have it wrong, maybe he is the worst…

(The rest of the pages are filled with various drawings. One has Axford saving a scantily clad female Brewers fan from a giant Cardinal by pitching a fastball through its chest.)

May 1st, 2013

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 2nd, 2013

I spent most of last night trying to convince people that what happened to him

At one point, Colin drew a picture similar to this in his notebook. Underneath, he wrote “Colin Bennett-Axford” with tiny hearts. We apologize to his girlfriend and family (David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports)

last night just DOESN’T HAPPEN on any given day. That pitch…

…THAT. PITCH….

He never should have swung. It would have been a ball (This phrase was repeated several times) I don’t know how he muscled it out. I really don’t. The whole thing was a series of unfortunate and unlikely events, compounded by errors (Illegible, but the staff picked out a reference to Jonathan Lucroy, Rickie Weeks, and oddly enough, Mark Kotsay) He’ll be just fine.

I’m letting the comments and angry tweets get to me. Not everybody believes that stuff.

…Am I missing something though? I better look at his stats year-to-year.

May 5th, 2013
( This is the last date in any of his notes. We can only speculate when, where, and truthfully, why, Colin continued)

Two hits. Two walks. One earned run. Another loss. Another loss for Axford. I did it though, I remained calm. Look at the numbers, Colin. They can’t lie. They can’t steer you wrong. They never have before.

2011

73.2 IP; .289 BABIP; 82.9% LOB; 49.7% GB; 6% HR/FB; 96% SV

2012

69.1 IP; .307 BABIP; 68.2% LOB; 46.3% GB; 19.2% HR/FB; 89% SV

2013

13.2 IP; .381 BABIP; 66.3% LOB; 24.4% GB; 27.3% HR/FB; 0% SV

THAT’S IT! The home runs to fly balls. Totally solved it. HE NEEDS TO STOP GIVING UP HOME RUNS. But we’ve already seen some pretty good pitches end up in the seats. Or, at least, some pitches that ought not to be swung at all end up in the seats. Up in the seats. UP. More pitches are up. That’s what it is.

How do you fix it? In the Minors, maybe? It’s working for Francisco Rodriguez

He’s not throwing enough ground balls. Look at the difference. LOOK AT IT.

…But he’s only thrown about a fifth of his previous workloads. Is that enough to state definitively what the issue is? He’s still stranding (roughly) the same amount of hitters. Honestly I never saw how similar 2012 was to 2011 for Axford…

…How did people turn on him? Do we put too much stock into what a save really is? What is a save? (This phrase is repeated for a number of pages)

Opponents don’t score inherited runners on him. He’s already in lower leverage situations this season compared to previous years. (Repeatedly) Does leverage matter?

(Largely illegible, but several times the words “John Axford Sucks” and “Fire Ron Roenicke” were written and crossed out)

Two infield hits already this year. He had 10 against him last year. Could that be it? His fastball is 1.8 MPH lower than last year, and he’s throwing it about 15% less as well. His curveball is slower, too, by about 1.6 MPH, but he’s throwing that about 8% MORE often. Could this ratio have something to do with it? Is he mixing pitches enough? According to FanGraphs all of his pitches are less valuable. This is indicative of…something. I don’t know what yet. I think it means he’s bad. But I still don’t know WHY.

The strikeout rate is holding just about steady. The same goes for his walk rate. Everything seems to point to this smoothing out. Any day now…

(At this point, the writing shifts dramatically. Much of it is unreadable, and much of what is readable is highly inappropriate. The drawings are crude. In several places it appears he has been writing in crayon.)

…The plate discipline numbers…they’ve barely moved…batters seem to be approaching him exactly the same. How are they getting to him more?

…he’s regressing…the velocity…the key is the velocity, but the sample may yet be small enough to discount the slower pitches.

It’s getting harder to search for an answer. Every time I say something nice about him people yell at me. Why can’t he walk more like Rickie? Would that help? Should he start batting? Maybe he should pitch in the 7th. Maybe in the 4th. Maybe he should start. Does he have enough to start? Probably not.

…Axford struggles, Axford should be gone. Everyone struggles, so why isn’t everyone gone?

…Am I going crazy?

…WHY IS AXFORD STRUGGLING?

I have to go find out.

That was the last thing Colin Bennett wrote in his notebooks. His search history revealed he had recently visited Baseball-Reference, The Milwaukee Brewers website, Twitter, Facebook, FanGraphs, and a website detailing tips to live “off the grid”.

Topics: John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers

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