There are a few other talking points from this game as well – particularly a solid start by Dave Bush and the solid offensive performances from Casey McGehee and Lorenzo Cain. However, one thing that I continue to be amazed by is the ability of John Axford to post solid, multiple inning outings in the closer’s role this season. In his ninth multiple inning appearance of the season, Axford recorded a five out save,
Perhaps the best part about the presence of Trevor Hoffman and this illusion that the Brewers present of “closers by committee” is that it gives Ken Macha license to use Axford outside of typical “closer role” situations. The most recent example of this, besides last night in the 8th, is when Macha brought Axford in with the game tied in the 9th on the road in Colorado. At that point, the leverage index was 2.34 – a perfect setting for a relief ace. Axford would remain in for the tenth, an inning with a 3.68 leverage index, and shut the door. That’s tremendously valuable, as evidenced by the .386 WPA Axford accrued on the game.
Axford was similarly valuable in Tuesday night’s game. Although his outing started out shaky, with the run-scoring wild pitch, Axford got past Jon Jay and Matt Holliday to escape the 8th with a one-run lead. The WPA when Axford entered was a lofty 3.94; at the start of the 9th it was a still-high 3.35. Again, Axford was the WPA leader for the Brewers, with a +.301 mark on the night.
I certainly don’t expect Ken Macha to be around next year, and I can certainly understand the reasons why he will probably not be brought back. I’m concerned, though, that the next manager will not be so willing to use Axford in unorthodox situations such as tonight. It will be a huge loss for the Brewers and this bullpen, both in terms of flexibility as well as the loss of Axford’s sheer talent in these big spots. Right now, though, let’s just enjoy it while it lasts, because John Axford is having a special year in his first as the Milwaukee Brewers closer.