Mike Rizzo continued his overhaul of the Nationals’ bullpen by acquiring reliever Brandon Kintzler from the Twins, squeezing the deal in just before the trade deadline expired. With his current contract expiring at the end of the season, Kintzler is only a rental relief arm. But he is likely to get the ball in key moments late in games now and into the post season. So who exactly is the Nationals newest pitcher?
Kintzler is a righty with a three pitch repertoire: sinker, slider, change-up. He relies heavily on his 93 MPH sinker, throwing it upwards of 80% of the time. The sinker gets good drop but is most effective due to the 7-8 inches of horizontal run Kintzler gets with the pitch. Kintzler then throws his slider around 15% of the time and has been holding hitters to a .238 batting average against the pitch. Kintzler sticks to those two the majority of the time but he does have a change-up that he throws every now and again.
As a Twin and a Brewer before that, Kintzler has been an astonishingly consistent big league reliever. He has a career ERA of 3.24 and, outside of an injury shortened 2015 season, hasn’t posted an ERA over 4.00 since his rookie season. Kintzler wasn’t a closer out of the gate, however. He didn’t get a shot at closing until injuries to other Twins’ relievers in 2016 left the job to him. He did a solid job in his first shot as a closer with a 3.15 ERA on the year and 28 saves to four blown saves. Returning as the closer in 2017, Kintzler has a 2.78 ERA on the 2017 season with 17 saves and three blown saves. It took him a while to get a shot, but Kintzler has proven he doesn’t shrink away from high-leverage situations.
While Kintzler’s stuff is good enough to strike out big league hitters, he doesn’t fit the typical closer mold. He’s struck out only 15% of batters in his role as closer over the last two seasons. That’s below league average and far below the strikeout rates of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game. Kintzler makes up for his lack of strikeouts by limiting walks and inducing a ton of groundballs. In 2016 he walked less than 4% of batters faced and so far in 2017 he’s walked only 6% of opposing batters. Though he is only forcing groundballs in 54% of at bats this season, he induced groundballs in over 60% of at bats over the two season prior. With Kintzler on the mound, expect to see a ton of weak groundouts. But with the lack of strikeouts there is also the chance Kintzler can get dinked and dunked to death and will find himself at the mercy of the defense behind him.
Though Kintzler has proven he can handle late innings, Kintzler will likely not be handed the closing duties in the Nationals’ newly constructed bullpen. And that’s a credit to the work Rizzo has done over the last couple of weeks. In the span of only a couple of weeks, the Nationals’ bullpen has gone from the biggest liability in baseball to playoff ready. And Kintzler is the final piece in Rizzo’s puzzle.Tags: Brandon Kintzler, Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals