Washington Nationals: Brandon Kintzler leading the way in shaky bullpen

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Washington Nationals pitcher Brandon Kintzler
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Washington Nationals pitcher Brandon Kintzler /

The Washington Nationals’ bullpen has gotten off to a rough start in 2018, but Brandon Kintzler has been phenomenal.

With the season’s first month winding down, the Washington Nationals are starting to get a better understanding of what they have in 2018. They are still suffering from a plethora of injuries, but small sample sizes are beginning to disappear.

For instance, Howie Kendrick, who entered the season as a bench player, has established himself as a starting-caliber veteran. A.J. Cole made quite the impression as well, but has since been traded to the Yankees because of it.

After 28 games, the Nats are able to notice substantial trends. Unfortunately, one trend has been a shaky bullpen.

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The Nats’ bullpen has collectively pitched to a 4.91 ERA, good for fourth-worst in the National League. Only the Rockies, Reds, and Marlins have fared worse.

Despite the collective struggles, Brandon Kintzler has dominated. His stats would lead you to believe otherwise, but relief stats are often misleading.

In 14 appearances, Kintzler has pitched to a 4.50 ERA. He got off to a rough start, pitching to a 15.75 ERA in his first four appearances, which is responsible for his uninspiring stats. However, he has been dominant since beginning the season on a sour note.

In Kintzler’s last 10 appearances, he has not allowed a run and has only surrendered four hits. For Dave Martinez, who has been tasked with managing around a struggling bullpen, Kintzler’s dominance has been just what the doctor ordered.

Now that he is settled in, the Nats can rely on Kintzler to continue to dominate. He appeared to struggle with the cold weather in his first few appearances, but has trended upwards with the temperature.

Kintzler does not possess overpowering stuff, which makes him a little more susceptible to hard contact. His mechanics were a bit off to begin the year, which resulted in diminished command and movement, but he has righted the ship.

As a former All-Star closer, Kintzler is one of the most reliable relievers in the league. He got off to a discouraging start, but he finally looks the part once again.

Aside from Kintzler, Sean Doolittle has been the Nats’ only reliable reliever. Other relievers have had their moments, but even Ryan Madson and Sammy Solis have struggled at times.

The Nats’ bullpen is full of quality relievers, so they should be able to turn things around as the season progresses, but Kintzler will need to continue pitching well while they struggle. Koda Glover, Matt Grace, Shawn Kelley, and Joaquin Benoit are also all on the disabled list, so the bullpen will receive a boost when they return.

Next: Howie Kendrick leading the Nats' offense

Martinez has been forced to manage around a scuffling bullpen, but Kintzler makes the task remarkably easier.