In 2006, Brandon Kintzler reported to Peoria, Arizona for spring training as a member of the San Diego Padres organization. While there, he felt some discomfort in his pitching arm. For a while he popped Advil and hoped it would go away. When it wouldn’t a MRI was taken and a small tear in his rotator cuff was revealed. With his season lost, and his professional baseball career in question, Kintzler returned to Las Vegas to be with his family. After his daily run and rehab session, Kintzler would work at his sister’s Cold Stone Creamery. Since then, he has credited all the ice cream scooping with helping rebuild his arm strength.
In 2011, Kintzler needed a screw in his forearm to take care of a stress fracture. If he used any unorthodox rehab methods to return from that injury, pitchers everywhere would be clamoring to know what he did. In his first full season back in the majors, Kintzler has become a major part of the Brewers bullpen. Here are some of his impressive season stats —
Currently, his 63.1 innings pitched out of the pen leads the team and puts him within the top 20 in all of baseball. The 1.1 fWAR Kintzler has posted matches the output of both Sergio Romo and Aroldis Chapman. In his first full season at the major league level, Kintzler is proving just how valuable he can be.
Kintzler’s ascension to the role of the Brewers primary set-up man was not an easy one. His 2006 shoulder injury cost him not only that season but also his future with the San Diego Padres. Kintzler spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons pitching for the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the independent Northern League. 2009 saw him pitch for the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association before the Brewers came calling. Kintzler made 11 starts as a Saint that year. After the Brewers sent him to Huntsville, he made six starts (1-2 / 4.18 ERA / 1.286 WHIP) before making the switch to the bullpen. He hasn’t started a game since.
Though he’s come to embrace his role in the bullpen, Kintzler dreamed of being a starting pitcher in the mold of Pedro Martinez. Smaller than most pitchers, Kintzler (5’10”, 187 lbs) wanted to be a power arm with a devastating change-up. Kintzler featured his change-up more prominently in 2011. Though limited to 14.2 IP over 9 appearances before the stress fracture in his forearm, Kintzler went to the change-up 16.7% of the time. Compare that to how he’s used the pitch this year –
As is the story of his career, Kintzler has successfully adapted to his situation. No longer a starting pitcher, and disciple of Pedro, Kintzler mainly uses his change-up against left-handed hitters (18.3 % this season, according to Texas Leaguers) and sparingly against right-handed hitters (4%). In 2011, Kintzler went to the change-up 12.2% against RHB.
This year, Kintzler has gone to his fastball more frequently than ever before. This was apparent during Thursday’s game against the Pirates. Kintzler needed 18 pitches to get through two scoreless innings. Every pitch was a fastball. According to Texas Leaguers, this season, Kintzler has thrown his sinker a little over half the time. His four-seam fastball is used another 20% of the time. In the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” department both those percentages have increased in August. How much? Well, here’s how Kintzler’s 170 August pitches break down –
Kintzler can get away with so many fastballs because of his command. He consistently pumps in pitches away from left hand hitters and, to use one of Ueck’s phrases, on the fists of right hand hitters. Here are his pitch locations in August –
Back in 2004, Kintzler helped Dixie State College win the Junior College World Series. After a slick double play ended the game, Kintzler claims to have done “a belly flop on the mound, which was awesome!” Even if 2013 isn’t a banner year for the Brewers organization, it has been one for Brandon Kintzler. This season may not provide an occasion for him to do another on-field belly flop but count him as another solid addition to the Brewers core.