Chicago Cubs: Ranking this year’s most valuable pitchers

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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Kintzler goes from has-been to lights-out

When the Cubs went out and acquired Brandon Kintzler mid-season last year, he was supposed to bring a veteran presence to the bullpen and give Joe Maddon another option late in ballgames. Instead, he imploded and, by season’s end, was pretty much unusable in any kind of high-leverage spot.

After coming to Chicago, the right-hander made 25 appearances – pitching to a 2.000 WHIP, allowing 13.5 hits per nine and struggling mightily with command, evidenced by his 1.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Cubs promptly declined their $10 million team option for 2020, only to see the veteran opt in to his $5 million player option.

Thank goodness he did so.

Kintzler buried his 2018 struggles and became one of Maddon’s most trusted arms in 2019, racking up 62 appearances for the Cubs. He pitched to a sterling 2.68 ERA while striking out 7.6 strikeouts per nine – his best single-season mark since 2015.

At Wrigley Field, Kintzler was nails. In 30 1/3 innings of work, he turned in a 0.89 earned run average with a 6.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. When he took the ball at home, you pretty much knew he was going to get the job done.

He’s one of several veterans poised to hit the open market this winter. He’ll turn 36 next summer, so it remains to be seen if the Cubs will bring him back again in 2020. But one thing’s for sure. Without his contributions, the 2019 campaign could have ended on a much lower note than it did with him.