Not even a quarter into the season and Indians closer, John Axford, is already winning over fans with his American League leading seven saves. The questions surrounding our closer concerns have finally been answered. John Axford wasn’t the ideal candidate to replace Chris Perez, but our new closer is diminishing that doubt quickly.

Axford has appeared in ten games surrendering five hits and three earned runs, including one homer. The Canadian has struck out nine batters while walking seven of them adding to a 1.38 WHIP and a 3.12 earn run average. Not to mention, Axford has only blown one save in eight opportunities. Although this may be true, no one should be drooling yet, since the season is still young.

At the same time, Chris Perez appears to regain form when you glance at his statistics. Despite not being a closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Perez has pitched in 11 games. Like Axford, Perez has allowed five hits and not a single home run and only two earned runs. Perez has recorded six punch outs, three walks, and six holds to accompany an incredible 0.83 WHIP and 1.86 earn run average.

In spite of premature phenomenal statistics, Perez has witnessed sporadic playing time. The Florida native has seen as much as two innings of work down to as little as just one out. Not to mention, the six year veteran is pitching without pressure, with no onus to close out the game. Lack of responsibility can straighten a pitcher out, but I just believe Perez can’t handle the demands of being a closer.

Be that as it may, Chris Perez owns better career statistics than John Axford. Perez, 28, who is three years younger than Axford, 31, entered the league one season earlier. Here is a look at both of their career numbers.

John Axford: 291 games, 282.1 innings pitched, 245 hits, 116 runs, 103 earned runs, 26 home runs, 130 walks, 338 strike outs, 113 saves, 25 holds, 22 blown saves, 3.28 ERA, 22 wins, and 20 losses.

Chris Perez: 355 games, 342.2 innings pitched, 271 hits, 139 runs, 128 earned runs, 39 home runs, 143 walks, 329 strike outs, 132 saves, 29 holds, 24 blown saves, 3.36 ERA, 15 wins, and 22 losses.

In view of all the stats, let us investigate what one more season of pitching got Chris Perez. Understandably Perez pitched 60.1 more innings (64 more games) than Axford. Obviously, he gave up more hits (26), more runs (23), more earned runs (25), more home runs (13), more walks (13), but achieved nine less strike outs. The former Indian registered 19 saves and six holds while blowing two more saves than the current Indian. Here is the kicker, Perez career ERA is 0.08, worse than Axford’s. Perez also has two more losses and achieved seven less wins.

Given these points, John Axford is not just a suitable replacement, but actually an improvement. Not to mention that Axford has significantly more playoff experience than Perez. With two post-season appearances, the 31 year old pitched in 12 games (12.2 innings) allowing two runs on seven hits accompanied by six walks and an amazing 18 strike outs. The Canadian possesses a 1-0 record with three saves in four opportunities.

Ultimately, I’m now a huge John Axford activist going forward. I may not demand tedious expectations for the closer, but I do have high hopes. Axford is off to a great start and must remain effulgent to keep the ball rolling.

-Max Gold

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