Brandon Kintzler over Rob Wooten? That’s crazy talk

Note: I realize the Brewers made this transaction to keep fresh arms in the bullpen. But that doesn’t mean it was the right move.

After four games and six innings, the Milwaukee Brewers felt it was necessary to give up on Rob Wooten in favor of a reliever who posted a negative WAR in 2014, didn’t make the team in ’15 and was designated for assignment just three weeks ago. This paints a clear picture as to just how bad things are going in Brew Town.

Brandon Kintzler is the new arm in a bullpen that desperately needs some help. As of May 7, the Brewers’ bullpen ranks 25th in ERA (4.27), 29th in FIP (4.64) and 28th in WAR (-0.3).  They’ve given up the second-most home runs in baseball which has resulted in a 1.46 home run per nine innings ratio. The Brewers have already shown Tyler Thornburg the door, with Wooten becoming the latest victim.

But Kintzler is far from the savior the Brewers need. Milwaukee gave up on Wooten too quickly this season, a fact they’ll soon realize once Kintzler starts getting the call.

Let me be clear. Wooten has been horrendous thus far. His ERA is north of 11 and his FIP is just south of 7. He’s even been quite lucky this year. And yet here I am, trying to convince you he should’ve been given a longer leash (I mean, the guy was only allowed to get 18 outs before he was canned).

For some reason, Wooten has lost his sense of the strike zone and, in turn, has become wild. He walked just eight batters in 34.1 innings a season ago, but has already walked six this year. He actually has given up more walks than he has hits. His abundance of walks is one of the very few reasons why sending him down makes sense. It’s better for him and the Brewers if he can work out his strike-throwing issues down on the farm instead of on the big stage.

Another aspect of Wooten’s woes (what a good name for a band) is batters are no longer hitting the ball on the ground against him. His ground ball rate sits at 37.5% after 53.3% ratio in 2014, and while that’s not good news, Wooten has somehow limited batters to a .250 batting average on balls in play. This is even more fascinating considering he has allowed a 58.8% hard-hit percentage (highest among Brewers). If both the lack of ground balls and the high hard-hit rate continue, Wooten’s BABIP would obviously rise considerably. He can’t stay this lucky for long. Wooten’s not a strikeout pitcher, meaning he relies a lot on groundball outs. I can only imagine what his ERA would look like if his BABIP was higher.

So, maybe Wooten does need a little time in Triple-A to get some things sorted out, but it doesn’t change the fact that Kintzler’s still not the answer.

Kintzler has been OK for the Sky Sox this season in extremely limited action because of a DL stint (6.35 ERA and 2.42 FIP), but I don’t really care about what minor league numbers look like for a player who would be considered a veteran at the major league level. In 2012, Kintzler was a slightly above average reliever. In 2013, he was damn good. In 2014, he was the fifth-worst reliever in Major League Baseball.

To my surprise, the Brewers tendered Kintzler a contract before spring training, and then not to my surprise, optioned him to Triple-A before the season started with general manager Doug Melvin saying he needed to work on “commanding his pitches” and “getting back his sink.” Apparently, he’s done just that. Otherwise, I don’t think Kintzler would’ve gotten the call. There’s a chance that Kintzler can return to the pitcher he once was, but the odds of that are small. Either way, the Brewers bullpen stinks with or without him.

I hope Wooten can fix his control problem, because I believe he can be a useful bullpen piece. And who knows, maybe a team in need of relief help will come calling.

 

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