Chicago Cubs: Brandon Kintzler is the key to continued bullpen success

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

If the Chicago Cubs can get Brandon Kintzler back on the right track, the potential loss of Brandon Morrow suddenly becomes much easier to swallow.

When the Chicago Cubs picked up Brandon Kintzler, it appeared as if they added a late-inning arm capable of shutting down opponents in close ballgames. Instead, they’ve gotten quite the opposite.

Mechanical issues have plagued Kintzler since he came to the North Side, rendering him largely ineffective on the mound. The right-hander carries a 2.314 WHIP and has allowed north of 16 hits per nine as a Cub – making him about as reliable as the 2018 version of Brian Duensing.

But, for Kintzler’s part at least, he’s hoping he can get things turned around.

"“Oh, it’s a snowball effect,” Kintzler told NBC Sports Chicago. “Because mental-wise, the next thing you know, you’re out there and you think about mechanics and your body becomes very, very slow and robotic. Mentally, before you pitch, you’re trying to figure out – what do I move first? “"

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His first appearance in Chicago came against his former team. Out of the gates, things went well. He did not allow a run in his first five appearances and all was well. But after two runs in just a third of an inning on Aug. 18, things have really trended in the wrong direction.

Since that point, he’s allowed a run to score in more than half of his appearances, including each of his last two outings. His earned run average climbed by a full run since the trade – and he’s left a huge hole in the Chicago bullpen.

"“Kintzler has the capabilities of being very important to us based on his past and what he’s capable of in high-leverage situations, etc. But we gotta get more there,” manager Joe Maddon said earlier this week."

That’s putting it mildly.

Getting back to the original plan

Kintzler as he’s been in the past completely changes the make-up of the Cubs bullpen. With Brandon Morrow’s 2018 season very much up in the air, Pedro Strop has transitioned from setup man to the ninth-inning guy.

In the eighth, usually, it’s a combination of Justin Wilson and Steve Cishek – the team’s two best relievers. Of late, we’ve seen Jesse Chavez in all types of roles, ranging from long man to stopper, so he’s a bit of a wild card.

But if Kintzler can get things turned around, Chicago can set things up with a long bridge. You can go to someone like Chavez or even Mike Montgomery in the sixth or so before handing the ball to Kintzler. Then, you can mix and match with Wilson and Cishek before turning things over to Strop in the ninth.

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Really, that gets you back to the original plan when the season began (with the obvious inclusion of some new names). And, with a starting rotation of Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana and this group of bullpen arms, the Cubs could be on the road to another deep postseason run.