When it comes to relievers, Brandon Kintzler isn't a sexy name.
He's no Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, both of whom changed teams right before last year's trade deadline, and in doing so, caused seemingly seismic shifts in the baseball landscape. Kintzler isn't Zach Britton, who in 2016 authored arguably the greatest relief season ever and was reportedly there for the taking this year.
What the former Minnesota Twins closer is, though, is a strike-thrower who keeps the ball on the ground and knows how to finish games. Those are highly transferable skills that should make him the Washington Nationals' new closer, which in turn increases the team's chances of doing something it has never done before: win a playoff series.
The truth is, there were no high-sizzle bullpen arms out there this year. Not like last season. Sure, Britton is a brand name, but after he spent two months on the disabled list earlier this season, there's an air of buyer-beware surrounding him. Even if that weren't the case, there's no chance in hell that Britton ever would've been dealt to a Washington club that's pretty much oil to Baltimore's water. And so it is that it was Kintzler who landed in the District.
Listed at 6-foot and 190 pounds, his vitals suggest that he is more likely to blow over than blow hitters away. And his numbers back that up. This season, Kintzler is averaging 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings, the lowest rate of any MLB hurler with a save and the fourth-lowest rate among all American League relievers. In other words, there isn't much about him that says closer -- except the fact that he has 28 saves.
We can talk all day about how the save statistic has become devalued in today's game (and deservedly so), but every playoff team needs a guy at the back end, and experience is experience. Kintzler has it. He doesn't have years and years of it, but with 45 saves over the past two seasons, he has enough of it to probably be Dusty Baker's first choice to close out games going forward. And make no mistake, Dusty wants A GUY.
Besides those 45 saves, Kintzler also has excellent control (19 walks in 100 innings the past two years) and a knack for the keeping the ball out of the air. Thanks to a sinker that he throws almost three-quarters of the time, he boasts a 54 percent ground ball rate that ranked among the top 15 in the AL. He's also stingy with the long ball (3 HRs in 45 IP), a trait that Baker is likely drooling over, given the problems his pen has had with home runs this year (3.8 percent HR rate, highest in the National League). Add it all up, and the 2017 All-Star has the tools to take over in the ninth, in which Doolittle -- who was serving in setup duty in Oakland -- has been good but not great since coming to D.C.
The bottom line is that even though Kintzler might not be a needle-mover when it comes to name equity, he's solid enough to capably fill the ninth inning void that has been festering since Opening Day in the District. That should allow Doolittle to go back to setup duty along with Ryan Madson, which in turn makes the Nationals' bullpen better than it was yesterday and way better than it was before the All-Star break.
Whether it's enough to get Washington over the hump and into the NLCS (and beyond) remains to be seen.