John Axford recorded 46 saves in 2011, which began a streak of 49 in a row—second most all-time. Axford’s magical run ended this year and it has been a struggle for him to even record a save. Axford has done so poorly that he even cut off all his hair to remove the jinx on his performance.

It didn’t work.

Eventually, manager Ron Roenicke removed Axford from the closing role and replaced him with former closer Francisco Rodriguez. That move ended up being disastrous for the Brewers. Rodriguez blew two of his three save opportunities and failed to record a full inning in three straight appearances.

Because of the underwhelming performance by his late-inning men, Roenicke announced a closer-by-committee routine. Save opportunities now vary from Axford to Rodriguez, though neither of them really deserve the chance.

Axford has blown seven saves while Rodriguez has blown six. They both have ERAs above 5.00 and have a hard time finding the strike zone. In a combined 94 innings, they have issued 52 free passes.

Roenicke must determine who his closer is going forward. Using a different closer every night breaks up players’ routines and uncomfortableness sets in. Being uncomfortable while playing baseball is almost guaranteed failure. Taking away the closing role from Axford and Rodriguez has surely stung their confidence, which has contributed to their late-inning failure.

The question is, who should close for Milwaukee for the remainder of the season?

Axford and Rodriguez have had their shot. It’s time for new blood to taste the most thrilling inning in baseball. For the rest of the season, Jim Henderson should command the closing role.

After posting a 1.69 ERA in 48 innings, striking out 56, and closing out 15 games for Triple-A Nashville, Henderson was promoted to the Majors. His 10 years spent in the minors seems to have finally paid off. Although he has only pitched six innings for Milwaukee, his lights-out stuff has transferred from the minors to the bigs and it is apparent that he belongs.

In his six innings of work, Henderson has struck out eight while just allowing one earned run. His confidence is uncanny—a trait that Axford and Rodriguez have lost. 

His above-average fastball is complemented by his swooping breaking stuff. If Henderson locates his breaking pitches as he’s done so far (zero walks), success should come with it.

In all likelihood, Rodriguez will be gone after the season and Axford will be placed back in the closer role to start 2013. But for now, Henderson has been the only bright spot in Milwaukee’s subpar bullpen and deserves the nod.

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