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Cardinals acquire reliever John Axford from Brewers

Aug 30, 2013, 11:11 AM EDT

John Axford AP

With closer Edward Mujica pitching through shoulder problems the Cardinals decided to add some veteran bullpen depth, acquiring former closer John Axford from the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Axford pitched his way out of ninth-inning duties in Milwaukee after saving a league-high 46 games in 2011 and 35 games last season, and had an ugly two-homer appearance over the weekend.

However, since carrying a 9.00 ERA into mid-May he’s thrown 40 innings with a 2.70 ERA and 37/17 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .364 slugging percentage. That’s not quite the peak Axford from his 2011 success, but it’s certainly good enough to help the Cardinals in a setup role and he’s averaged 95.2 miles per hour with his fastball this year.

Axford is also under team control through 2016, although with a $5 million salary for this season and more arbitration-fueled raises ahead the Cardinals might deem him too expensive to keep.

  1. spudchukar - Aug 30, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    As long as the PTBNL isn’t a valuable commodity probably a good idea. Rosenthal could use some easing up in the usage department, and Axford should provide some necessary protection.

    Now about the SS position.

    • gibbyfan - Aug 30, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      good point Spud………..and maybe with his overall record not being so hot this year, the arbitration process will not favor him this time around—seems like another good move for the cards—–wish they could have gotten Lohse back in the same deal.

      • spudchukar - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        It would be nice, but the Brewers got him cheap, need starting pitching, and IMHO will be a contending team in 2015.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      Yeah…when I saw this I immediately thought about two things.
      What about that SS position? And this really bodes well for lightening Rosenthal’s workload.
      Problem is…are there any SS’s available (without breaking the bank)?

      • spudchukar - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Betancourt! Just kidding.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Well…Betancourt wouldn’t break the bank.
      I have nothing else positive to add with regards to him.

    • TheMorningStar - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      This deal is a perfect example of why St.Louis is the smartest team in all of MLB.

      Another low risk/high reward deal.

      • chc4 - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:54 PM

        Seriously? Bringing in a terrible bullpen arm makes them smart? Let’s see if you feel that way after Votto, Freeman and/or McCutchen take him deep to decide a postseason game.

      • TheMorningStar - Aug 31, 2013 at 5:21 PM

        Don;t care if they do, I’m not a Cardinal fan.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        He’ll never face Freeman or Votto, they’ll have to deal wish Kevin Siegrest, Randy Choate or Sam Freeman.

        ‘Cutch on the other hand…

  2. baseballici0us - Aug 30, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Nothing against Lucroy….having Yadier as a catcher makes any pitcher better.

  3. ddjesus - Aug 30, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    Sad to see him go… Worse to see him go to the Cardinals.

  4. perryt200 - Aug 30, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Glad that StL is making the moves to even be more competetive

    • cincinata - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      I think you will rethink that comment in the near future. As we saw in Cinti, this guy is done. He used to be very effective , but for a couple of years, the Reds have owned him. If he comes into a game at any level, the game is in doubt. I don’t see this move as smart or a game changer. It appears to be a desperate move as the birds are about to hit the skids for the last month of the season. It just remains to be seen if the Reds beat them to second place or not. The Cards can hit all they want however, without the pitching, the Birds are dead. I think it starts tonight, because I still like the Pirates to go to the W-S.

      • jm91rs - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        I don’t think he’s done, he’s just no good against the Reds. If the Cards are smart he won’t see the field this year against them. It’s not like he’s a garbage pitcher.

  5. paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    Axford just isn’t any good….there is no high leverage situation in which he should pitch. He is homer prone and walks way too many guys….his ERA since the ASG is over 6. He sucks. The Cardinals already have other options that suck, not sure why in the world you would want another sucky option when you’ve already got some.

    • paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      Plus on Sunday they can bring up a boat load of pitchers that are on the 40 man…if the problem is the bullpen is worn down….everyone got a day off yesterday.

      • spudchukar - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        Depends upon which Axford they get. Maybe they know something the Brewers didn’t, or maybe they believe his latest failures are just a blip.

      • paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        Nearly 1/2 his major league career isn’t a “blip”, he was horrible last year and he’s been worse this year. A guy with a straight FB that can’t locate it is the perfect recipe for walks and HRs…we already saw this guy, his name was Cleto….hopefully, he won’t lose too many games before they dump him.

      • spudchukar - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        The difference is Axford has been very good before, and Cleto just never could get anybody out. This is on memory only, but if I have it correct, I believe Axford has good numbers in the runners stranded category.

        Meaning they may look to him to be more of a right-handed LOOGY, or ROOGY, or only use him vs. a couple of guys at a time.

        Look I am leery too, but if the Cards can get through the next 10 games they will have another 3 weeks or so to sort things out, and with Mujica iffy, a power arm might come in handy.

        As to the AAA relievers, neither Blasek, nor Butler were exactly lights out.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:22 PM

        Low risk, high reward through Cardinal colored specs.

        If he works out for the duration, great.

        If he doesn’t, no biggie.

        They took a flyer for a PTBNL, I doubt he’ll be the gold strike Dotel and Mujica were but who knows at this point.

        No matter, I’m not sure any bullpen configuration will be able to bail out their starting pitching issues – this weekend has ugly written all over it….

      • paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        This is what you choose to be optimistic about? Geez, you must love veterany goodness. The Cardinals starters are 4th in the majors in ERA, 2nd in FIP, and 6th in xFIP….horrible defense has been a far bigger problem than the starters. The Cardinals don’t have starting pitching issues…and the bullpen certainly hasn’t been there to bail them out.

        Axford’s HR rate and BB rate are a relief disaster waiting to happen, there is no high leverage situation in which he should be trusted. FWIW, Mujica and Dotel were both good pitchers when the Cardinals got them….Axford has been horrible for 2 years….hopefully, he’ll get lucky for a month and the let him walk

      • brewcrewchamps - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        There’s no way that runners stranded category is in Axford’s favor. He walks way too many guys, gets taken deep way too often.

        Honestly, it must have been the stache because he has been awful since he got rid of it.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 30, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        I was hardly optimistic, nor any mention or hint of veterany goodness.

        Good Lord, pape, you’re better than than – c’mon.

        The defense issue is valid though far less of an issue than a drastic increase in HR rate, decrease in IP, decrease in strikeouts and increase in walk rate provided by the starting staff since June.

        Simply put the “Cardinals don’t have starting pitching issues…” angle (not narrative) is a reputation that was built in May and June and has since been torn down.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 30, 2013 at 2:30 PM

        EDIT ^:

        Simply put the “Cardinals don’t have starting pitching issues…” angle (not narrative) is a reputation that was built in APRIL and MAY and has since been torn down.

      • paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        Cardinals starters had FIP: June 3.47, July 3.81, August 4.18 (thank you Jake Westbrook)

        The pitching has been fine, the fielding has been 12 kinds of awful.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 30, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        As stated – increase in HR rate, decrease in IP, decrease in strikeouts and increase in walk rate.

        No to forget, horrific pitch efficiency/high pitch counts leading to bullpen overexposure and the Memphis shuttle.

        All far greater concerns than the increased FIP.

        Cardinals starting pitching is far from fine – and nowhere near reliable since June.

      • paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 3:11 PM

        Well, on the bright side, Axford does help with the defensive problems, because there is no defense for HRs or walks.

      • paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        IP/S by month: 6.4, 6.3, 5.9, 6.3, 5.7

        That dip in August is all Westbrook and the Waino start Wednesday. Otherwise, the change has been non-existent to 1 out/game.

        K rate by month: 8.1, 7.5, 7.3, 6.5, 7.5
        BB rate by month: 2.8, 1.9, 2.5, 2.7, 3.7 (a lot of this is Wainwright coming back to normal and Westbrook)

        The HR rate has been increasing each month, starting at .38/9 and reaching .99/9 in August….that horrible .99 is better than the season rate of 18 MLB teams. The only current Cardinal starter with a HR/9 greater than 1.0 in August is Miller, Wainwright is 2nd worst at .84.

        I do believe the sky might be falling.

      • spudchukar - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:18 PM

        PL, look I will be the first person to emphasize that errors are not a very good indication of a team’s defensive acumen. That said it isn’t meaningless. The Cards still maintain the fewest errors in the NL. They catch what they get to. And when you score the most runs, the trade-off is worth it. It isn’t ideal, but it is what it is.

        Without a doubt the starting staff hasn’t been what it was in the first half. A couple of very good outings recently have been encouraging, except for the Wainwright anomaly, but if he is a concern then we are toast.

        Blaming the defense for the Cardinals ills, few though they be, isn’t particularly honest. It was better in the first half, but a team is a team, and all facets have to click if the low-salaried, extremely young, and injury riddled Cards can be a success in 2013.

      • paperlions - Aug 30, 2013 at 7:19 PM

        The defense is the weakest part of the team…easily. The cardinals have one definitely plus defender: Molina. Jay is average when he is at his best, Carpenter is solid, Kozma was solid, Craig is averge-ish…no one on the team has plus range, and the corner OFer have horrible range.

        The difference between the Cardinals “errors” and that of the “worst” defensive team is 39…about one ever 4 games. Errors tell almost none of the defensive story.

        I know you hate advanced defensive metrics under the guise of their imperfection…but they are still better than anything else available, and they are based on video review. The Cardinals team UZR is 27th in baseball at -43….their DRS is 25th at -38. They are a really bad defensive team…they don’t get to squat, they are bad at turning batted balls into outs. Failing to do so makes pitcher face more hitters, in more stressful situations, and leads to runs. Acting like the Cardinals team defense is not horrible is dishonest…because, it is.

      • spudchukar - Aug 30, 2013 at 7:49 PM

        Sorry, but you dismiss their strengths, be it few. They rock in DPs and that isn’t just situationally luck.

        You are correct that I recognize how awful UZR metrics continue to be, but that isn’t my fault. And no they are not better than my eye.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:37 PM

        Thank you for providing the specific data to reinforce the very real starting pitching issues.

        Now it’s time to stop smoking the FIP (Mc)Crack(en) and blaming it for the sole purpose of the pitchers decline. It’s a piece of the puzzle for sure, but an extremely small piece that should always be smoked in moderation and in the comfort of your own home.

        Regression to the mean (so cliché, that’s maybe worse than narrative-ing) was always going to be mean to this staff (was that bad or what? – apologies) and though the sky may not be falling, dark clouds have been forming for 2 months.

        Bottom line for me, starting pitching was always going to be the rise or fall of this club.

        The Kool Aid tasted great for 2 months, not so much since.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 30, 2013 at 8:21 PM

        As though it was scripted…

        A microcosm of the Cards starting pitching over the last 2 months being fully realized early on at Pittsburgh tonight.

        But hey, they’ll be fine – the lack of command, walks, HR’s, assorted frozen ropes and high pitch count don’t paint the picture…

      • paperlions - Aug 31, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        You know, if you are always expecting the worst, you will be right eventually. The staff that was good for the first 2 months and also in July, is the same one that struggled in June and August (though most of August was Westbrook). What solutions, exactly, do you think exist?

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 31, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        I didn’t think there was a personnel solution at the break (that made sense) I don’t think there’s one now. They’ll play the hand they have now.

        Beyond Waino, there’s little to trust. Kelly has pitched (seemingly) well of late but has teetered in and out of trouble with a WHIP around 1.4 – I suspect that will catch up to him sooner than later. Miller and Lynn will continue their Jekyll and Hyde with much more Hyde than Jekyll.

        Smart money says we’ll see the trend continue – short, sporadic, extremely labored, ineffective starts with the occasional quality start (more than likely at home, some of the splits are just crazy) with a lot of the games going to the bullpen at first sign of trouble.

        I think a majority of the games, (especially through next week) will be played from behind and that’s not a good scenario for the Cards, their comeback ability isn’t exactly a strong suit.

        The offense needs to step up as well, score early and often when the opportunities present themselves and take some pressure off an extremely fragile staff.

        They’re going to have to take full advantage of the 40 man and hope those called upon can earn trust through performance.

      • okwhitefalcon - Aug 31, 2013 at 8:20 PM

        And the script is playing out again this evening, not surprising.

  6. chc4 - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    The Braves, Reds, Pirates and Dodgers are very happy about this move.

    • jm91rs - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      Exactly what I was thinking. He might help them win ball games but if they use him against the reds they will regret it. The cards have cincy’s number but the reds have absolutely owned Axford for awhile now. This might level the playing field for a game or two

    • cincinata - Aug 31, 2013 at 3:06 PM


  7. thomas844 - Aug 30, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    Axford will probably get back (or close) to 2011 form because seemingly most of the struggling players that come to STL suddenly find their groove once again.

  8. brewcrewfan54 - Aug 30, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I’m going to hate it when the Cardinals go all Cardinals with this guy and turn him into a great pitcher again.

  9. greej1938l - Aug 31, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    Axford is awful….cardinals problem now…

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