A 12-year veteran and one-time All-Star, Brandon Kintzler came into the season with a track record of success as a major league reliever. Last year, he served as the Miami Marlins’ closer and recorded 12 saves in the pandemic-shortened season.
Based on that track record, his former teammate Bryce Harper encouraged Kintzler to come to the Phillies where he would theoretically provide leadership and effectiveness. Persuaded by Harper, Kintzler turned down a guaranteed contract to return to the Marlins in order to take a minor-league deal with the Phillies.
Kintzler made the Opening Day roster and got first crack at the important “get out of a mid-inning jam” role.
29 games, 2-1 W-L, 6.37 ERA, 2.4 K/9, 6.7 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Kintzler made a strong first impression. In his first appearance, he entered the game with the bases loaded, and escaped by coaxing a double play. He then completed another scoreless inning, helping the Phillies to a win over the Mets.
Pretty much everything after that. It was like Kintzler used all of his effectiveness in that first appearance and had nothing left for the rest of the season. If he entered a game with an inherited runner, it felt like a given that the inherited runner would go on to score.
Kintzler offered up an explanation for his struggles: His body shut down after receiving a COVID vaccine.
That’s one possible explanation. Another explanation would be that he isn’t actually good anymore. Even when he was seemingly performing well in 2020, his FIP was much higher than his ERA due to an increased walk and home run rate. So there were plenty of warning signs that this was coming.
He spent time on the Injured List with an strained neck - possibly suffered watching all the baserunners go by - in June. Unfortunately, he wasn’t any more effective after his return. After he allowed seven hits over four innings in his last three appearances, the Phillies had seen enough. He was designated for assignment on July 30th, and then eventually released.
At age 37, Kintzler doesn’t have much career left. Maybe some team will give him a chance on a minor league deal based on his 2020 season, but it seems unlikely that it will be the Phillies.
Final grade: F
Kintzler certainly wasn’t the only Phillies pitcher to fail as a middle-inning reliever, and he probably wasn’t the worst. (Don’t worry, David Hale, your day is coming.) But between his seeming love of allowing inherited runners to score, and his blaming of the vaccine, Kintzler’s 2021 season was definitely a failure.