I like Brandon Kintzler. I like his tenacity on the mound. I like his story about getting married in Vegas -- in the chapel where Britney Spears was married. I like how he can get ground balls. I like how he has blossomed from relative obscurity to become something of a fixture in the Brewers' bullpen.
However, I don't like how a step backward in 2014 has relegated him to the label "lesser." It is deserved. Kintzler, for whatever reason, simply stopped missing bats this past year. Kintzler earned a chance at a greater role in Ron Roenicke's bullpen with an impressive 2013 campaign, but a spike in HR rate and increased hittability forced Kintzler into a middle relief role for much of the season, with few high-leverage innings to speak of.
Kintzler's K/9 plummeted to a career low and miniscule 4.78 - these lost strikeouts were unfortunately displaced by walks (+ .6 BB/9) and home runs (+1 HR/9 --> !!!). You can't necessarily blame a decline in "stuff" -- Kintzler's pitch/fx data shows virtually identical movement and velocity in 2013 and 2014.
But it isn't all grim - Kintzler still induces groundballs at a high rate (~57%) and actually left a very high percentage of runners on base in 2014 (83%, up from 71% in 2013). In comparison to 2013, he essentially traded a bunch of line drives for fly balls, which resulted in a handful of extra HRs.
We've seen the HR bug bite some of our favorite Brewers in recent years. By some, I mean Marco Estrada. Just you, Marco. I can detect an impatience within the fanbase. I guess I can't blame them. We can only hope the tide turns and Kintzler shakes it off before next season.
Kintzler's best game by WPA was a game in which he helped bridge the gap to K-Rod in an extra-inning affair against the Mets. However, he walked 4 (3 unintentionally) in 2 innings of work, which is just too inefficient to consider the "best" of anything.
Perhaps Kintzler's best outing occurred at Fenway Park way back in April, when the Brewers swept the then-not-known-to-be-bad Red Sox in a wonderful 3-day weekend series. Kintzler pitched an inning and two thirds in a tie game, finishing the 7th and working through the 8th, earning a hard-earned strikeout of Xander Bogearts and an inning-ending double play by Jonny Gomes. The Brewers would go on to win the game in 11 innings. Logan Schafer played hero. It was cool.
Plus, Boston's perfect CF camera shows off Kintzler's darting sinking fastball, a personal favorite of mine when it's working:
Kintzler is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2015, where he will likely get a rather significant raise relative to his $507K paycheck in 2014. Expect him to threaten the seven figure threshold in 2015 after a couple dependable seasons in the middle of the Brewers' bullpen.