As soon as John Axford arrived in St. Louis after being traded from the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals sat the reliever down and dropped a bombshell on him. You’ve been tipping your pitches, they said.
The Cardinals had been scouting Axford for five years and had noticed something in his delivery that was giving away his pitches. They fixed it almost immediately and Axford turned his 2013 season around, posting a 1.74 ERA with the Cardinals, including a 1.59 ERA in the postseason.
While the Cardinals had noticed this flaw in Axford for years, Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz still has no idea how he was tipping pitches.
“I’m not quite sure exactly what he was doing,” Kranitz told Rupena’s Hot Stove Weekly. “But it could be as simple as just, like I said, your hand placement or just, you know, maybe a look on your face, or it could be just about anything.”
Kranitz has been the Brewers pitching coach since 2011, when he was hired as the Brewers pitching coach. In those three years, he failed to observe Axford’s defect, but gives the Cardinals credit for making the discovery.
“[The Cardinals] are very good at finding the little things,” Kranitz said.
But Kranitz makes sure we know that the Brewers are doing their best to notice pitchers who tip their pitches.
“We’re constantly looking at that. Ron Roenicke is real, real good at finding it,” he said.
If Roenicke is such a genius at discovering a pitcher’s shortcoming, why didn’t he see it in Axford? Yes, the Cardinals coaching staff and front office is one of the best in the business, but who knows how many other teams picked up on it? Chances are we’ll never know, but my guess is plenty. This calls Milwaukee’s coaches into question.
If I were Kranitz, I would be in the video room watching every tape I have of Axford, scrutinizing every little movement in his delivery. I wouldn’t rest until I figured out what he was doing wrong.