Tag Archives: Brandon Kintzler

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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Two years, two different Brandon Kintzlers

The Milwaukee Brewers optioned Brandon Kintzler to Triple-A on Sunday, effectively clearing a spot in the bullpen. This was a somewhat surprising move, but a move that makes sense when broken down. The Brewers tendered a Kintzler a contract of $1.075 million this offseason, which makes him an expensive minor-league player. For that reason, I find it hard to believe Kintzler will spend the season riding buses. He’ll either find his groove and be called up by Milwaukee or the Brewers will find a trade partner in order to unload him.

But let’s look at why the Brewers removed him from the bullpen picture. His spring training stats weren’t favorable, but as we all know, how a player performs in spring training is completely meaningless. However, his 6.48 ERA in eight outings this spring, coupled with his underachieving 2014 season, made it apparent that Kintzler had a lost a step.

Here’s what GM Doug Melvin had to say about the right-handed reliever:

“(Kintzler) is just not showing progress you would like to see. We’re hoping to get him back to where he was but he has to go out and pitch. He just needs to keep working on his pitches and getting his ‘sink’ back. He’s a sinker-ball pitcher. He was a guy you could always count on to throw a 12-pitch inning and his pitch counts are just too high (this spring).”

In 2013, Kintzler was the best reliever in Milwaukee’s bullpen. He posted the highest WAR (1.4), FIP (2.54) and xFIP (2.93). His sinker worked wonders as he forced hitters to put the ball on the ground 57.4% of the time and posted a 13.24 RE24. Most importantly, he kept the ball in the yard. It looked like Kintzler was destined for a brilliant 2014 season.

Things didn’t go as planned, though, as Kintzler began giving up home runs, started walking hitters and saw his strikeout rate plummet (see table).

Year K%
2011 24.6%
2012 19.4%
2013 19.0%
2014 13.0%

Melvin acknowledged that Kintzler’s sinker has stopped being effective, and one of the possible culprits could be from a decrease in velocity.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (2)

To sum up, Kintzler has been losing zip on his sinker and has been racking up fewer strikeouts for a while now. Like Melvin said, there hasn’t been much improvement for the 30 year old, and moving him to the minors was a necessary move for the club.

As of now, Kintzler’s 2013 season seems like a fluke. There’s a chance he could rediscover his sinker, but he’ll need to find velocity as well, and that’s no easy to task. This may be the last we hear from him.

Pick a pitcher: Marco Estrada vs. Brandon Kintzler

Let’s play a game.

If you were the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and were forced to choose between relief pitchers Brandon Kintzler or Marco Estrada for the final spot in the bullpen for 2015, who would you pick?

Now, before we dive any deeper into my fascinating game, let it be known that there’s a very real possibility that both players return to the club next season, as neither of them are pending free agents. Kintzler is entering his first year of arbitration and Estrada will be entering his last. But, for the sake of my game, let’s make a decision anyway.

Both pitchers are coming off abysmal seasons, but we’ll start with Contestant #1 Marco Estrada.

Estrada couldn’t keep the ball in the park and was kicked out of the starting rotation in July. As a starter, he had a 4.96 ERA, 5.73 FIP and 4.25 xFIP. He also had the league’s 23rd-worst RE24 (-10.45) as a starter. It still amazes me that Ron Roenicke waited all the way until July to stash him in the bullpen. I mean, the guy gave up 27 home runs in 107 innings. Roenicke probably wanted to wait until the home runs began to normalize, but they never did. Jimmy Nelson or Mike Fiers should have replaced him in early-to-mid June. And what do you know, once Estrada got to the bullpen he started to pitch like an actual major league pitcher. His spot is in the bullpen. The starting rotation is his Mount Everest and he hasn’t conquered it yet, and who knows if he ever will.

Estrada is 31 and hasn’t done enough to keep a roster spot, but there are limited options to replace him. SB Nation’s Brew Crew Ball predicts he’ll make $4 million in 2015, a raise up from $3.3 million in 2014. But you have to decide if he’s really worth $4 million for one year. Remember, you’re the GM. It’s your call.

Next up, Contestant #2 Brandon Kintzler.

Kintzler was arguably the best reliever in 2013 before completely imploding for most of the 2014 season. But the funny thing was, he actually thought he pitched well. Here’s my favorite quote from him this past season:

“I never know where I’m going to throw, but it’s to the point that’s what I deserve,” Kintzler said, “because apparently a three-something ERA isn’t [good enough].”

Those were some harsh words he dished out in August. He actually finished with a respectable 3.27 ERA, mainly because of his superb month of September (0.90). But his FIP was a mere 4.68, and really struggled for the majority of the season. His sinker, his main pitch, decreased in value and wasn’t nearly as dominant as it was a year ago. He gave up five home runs on his sinker after allowing only one in 2013.

Kintzler is only a year older than Estrada, but will cost roughly $3 million less. If the Brewers are confident he can return to the Kintzler of 2013, the Brewers will gladly offer him arbitration and welcome him back with open arms. But where would he be used? He can’t be trusted in the seventh or eighth innings and his arm isn’t stretched out enough to be a long reliever like Estrada.

This is a tough decision.

My pick would be to keep Estrada and let Kintzler walk. Yes, Estrada is older and more expensive, but he’s had success in the long-relief role and can make a spot start whenever necessary. Those are two things Kintzler can’t do, and because of that, Estrada is more valuable.

But I’m not the GM in this scenario. You are. Who would you choose?