Source: #Pirates acquire John Axford.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 14, 2014
Axford, 31, was not too long ago one of the better relief pitchers in baseball. Between 2010 and 2011, he acquired 3.6 fWAR, putting him sixth among qualified relievers. His 2.19 ERA was 11th in the majors, and his 11.07 K/9 put him eighth.
Between then and now, though, has been a long, hard road for Axford. He remained the Brewers closer in 2012, but finished the season with a 4.67 ERA and a 5.06 BB/9 rate. In 2013, he was traded after putting up a 4.45 ERA in 54.2 innings, but managed to find minor success in his limited time with the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out 9.58 per nine innings with a 1.74 ERA, albeit in just 10.1 innings.
In the off-season, he signed with the Cleveland Indians, and has had a season best defined as "more of the same." He's still getting strikeouts (10.51 K/9), but he continues walking every other batter he faces (6.18 BB/9).
The big problem for him has been the home run ball, as the last three seasons have seen him have a HR/FB rate north of 15% (this year it is 16.2). Between walking a lot of guys and giving up home runs, it is no surprise that his ERA is a rather pedestrian 3.92.
For the Pirates, though, they are taking their third shot at a back-end bullpen guy. Jason Grilli wasn't working, so they moved him for Ernesto Frieri. Frieri didn't work out, and was optioned to Triple-A. So now, Axford will get a chance to give the Pirates some meaningful relief innings as they continue to compete for the National League Central.