A 2017 Oakland A’s bullpen preview: Closer by Committee?

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Jul 27, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt (21) and relief pitcher Ryan Madson (44) celebrate the victory against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 27, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt (21) and relief pitcher Ryan Madson (44) celebrate the victory against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oakland Athletics
February 29, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher John Axford (61) poses for a picture during photo day at Hohokam Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

John Axford didn’t have the best year in 2016, his first with the Oakland Athletics, but it wasn’t a terrible year either.

The 33-year-old righty finished the 2016 season with a 3.97 ERA over 65.2 innings pitched and struck out 60 batters during that span. That isn’t too bad but his ERA was a bit inflated yet consistent with his season-long ERAs during his eight year big league career as well as his overall career ERA of 3.58.

Axford finished 13 games and accumulated three saves out of ten opportunities which isn’t a good percentage rate at all but the sample size was small.

However, Axford has been extremely successful as a closer in his past with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Axford was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 2006 but made his big league debut with Milwaukee in 2009.

In 2010 he collected 24 saves in 27 opportunities, blowing just three.

In 2011, arguably the best season of his career to date, Madson led the National League in saves with 45, blowing just two save opportunities. He finished the year with a 1.95 ERA and finished in the top ten in the Cy Young Award voting and the top 20 in the MVP Award voting.

That’s pretty high praise for a relief pitcher, even a closer, these days. The following season he saved another 35 games for MIlwaukee.

Axford then became somewhat of a journeyman after that spending time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies before landing a two-year deal with the Athletics last year.

So, while he may not have had his best season in 2016, Axford is a proven closer. He has what it takes to shut down his opponents in the ninth inning, making him another candidate for the “closing committee.”

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