So much sadness in this pic (USAT Images)
Right here at the top, we should note that the first pitch John Axford threw in his 2013 debut was a 96 mph fastball to Chris Nelson.
Axford was consistently throwing 94-96 in the opener against Colorado, which is essentially where you'd expect him to be on any given day. Last season, the velocity on his average fastball was 96.2 mph. He struck out three of the four hitters he faced in his first appearance this year. The one batter he didn't punch out, Dexter Fowler, lined a homer to right off a 95 mph fastball.
So, basically, John Axford had a typical John Axford outing in Monday's opener. No real surprises. We're talking about a hard-thrower who piles up Ks, yet struggles with wildness and homer-control. That's his profile. Velocity hasn't been a worry ... until Wednesday
The Rockies absolutely teed-off on Axford in a non-save situation on Wednesday night. Michael Cuddyer and Fowler both homered, as Axford allowed five hits and three runs while recording just two outs. He was eventually lifted in favor of Tom Gorzelanny, who cleaned up his mess.
Here's perhaps the most troubling detail from Wednesday's implosion, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt:
Even more disconcerting, Axford’s fastball was topping out at 92 mph, down a whopping five mph.
“(His velocity) was way down,” said manager Ron Roenicke, who has been concerned about pitchers who had to crank up their arms early in the World Baseball Classic. “We’ll talk to him and see how he’s doing but I noticed it was way down. He says he feel fine.”
Yeah, regular old John Axford is frightening enough for fantasy owners. But Axford at 91-92 mph? NO THANK YOU.
Again, Axford's fastball had its usual life on opening day, so it's entirely possible that Wednesday's nosedive was simply a blip, an unfortunate one-time occurrence (for which he was thoroughly punished). But if you're an Axford investor, you'll want to keep a close eye on the radar readings during Milwaukee's weekend series vs. Arizona.
You'll also want to stash Plan B reliever Jim Henderson (19 percent owned), just in case.
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