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2011 Stats: 73.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, 86 K, 46 SV, 2 BLSV
Why He's Here:
It's obvious, isn't it? John Axford was just incredible in 2011.
Axford's 2011 season saw him break Milwaukee's franchise record for saves in a season, as well as the franchise record for most consecutive saves.
He tied for ninth in Cy Young voting (with Craig Kimbrel), was 17th in MVP voting, and so far this offseason has won many awards for his contributions to the game of baseball on and off the field.
Quite simply, he had the best season a Milwaukee closer has ever had, and he firmly established himself as one of the three or four best closers in the game.
He gave Brewers fans a scare at the start of the season, when he started out of the gates limping. He blew a three-run lead on Opening Day to the Cincinnati Reds, a painful loss that I am still having a hard time coming to terms with.
Three weeks later he blew another save, this time to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Brewers ended up winning the game, and after that, Axford hasn't been stopped.
His 43 consecutive regular season saves streak is the second longest active streak behind Jose Valverde's 51 consecutive saves, and it is the fifth longest streak in MLB history.
Axford's 98-mph fastball simply overpowered opposition, and his curveball and slider consistently buckled his opponents. His success is tied directly to how well he is able to control the ball now, compared to when he tried to break through the league with the Reds and the Yankees.
All of this from a guy who has been cut from two other teams, and had only one team (Milwaukee) willing to travel through the snow to see him pitch in an open tryout in Canada? Not bad at all.
Axford is an invaluable member in the bullpen, and along with Francisco Rodriguez, is accountable for one of the best 8-9 inning pitching tandems in baseball. He is a likable guy, and he is the glue to a rotation that seems to see a lot more changes than most Brewers fans would like.
Look forward to seeing Axford and his legendary moustache continue to blow past hitters in the National League.