POTD Danny Hultzen, LHP - Intro & Pitcher Family

Q.  The Day After, is the mainframe still popping, crackling, and smoking in anger?

A.  You can only grok Dr. D's position on Danny Hultzen through a little war story.  

Bobby Fischer once wrote about one of his "evergreen" chess brilliancies...

In the '63 U.S. Closed, he produced a historical work of art, a "light, airy" Bishop & Queen attack that was Zen-like in its economical but long, angular moves and in its creativity. ... everybody was celebrating with him after the game.  Then some patzer went, "Hey, on move 16* what if Black had moved the other Rook?"

The grandmasters waved it off, but Fischer became subdued.  (In chess, if your attack is due to an opponent's blunder, it has little value.)  

That night he spent like 10 hours asking the patzer's question -- "I stared and stared, unwilling to let my brilliancy go down the drain.  Finally I had to admit the truth.  The more I looked, the more I liked Black's game!"

And Fischer had to concede that he had, impossibly in his case, completely misunderstood the position -- that he actually shouldn't have won the game.  At least in solving it correctly (in hindsight), he gained a bunch of light bulbs...


When I heard the name on the radio, I was "livid" also, as Jay put it.  ... then I figured, okay, they always know more than we do.  ... but then I figured again, they're just too chicken to take Bauer.  I got home and sat down at the databases, trying to grok the decision.

It took a few hours and it was a weird experience.  But the more I looked, the more I realized that Danny Hultzen was the correct first pick in the 2011 draft!


Q.  That's after-the-fact justification?

A.  It doesn't have a single thing to do with wanting to buy in to a new Mariner.  If Gerrit Cole or Bubba Starling had been the pick, I'd be panning the pick.  If the Angels had drafted Hultzen, knowing what I know now, I'd be ticked that they'd added a cheap young TOR.

To be more precise about it, I guess, if they re-drafted today I'd call Rendon the 1a, Bauer the 1b, and Hultzen the 1c.  With a big tumble down to the next tier.


Q.  What do you make of what the Mariners said about the pick?

A.  Before their comments came out ... there had been two ways to intepret the pick:

1.  That the M's disliked Rendon's shoulder, that they feared Bauer's pitch counts, that they realized how fractured Cole's motion is, that (as in the Washburn trade) they don't want to wait for HS players .... and that the overall draft was MUCH worse than thought.  The tide went out and left the merely-decent Hultzen on the shore.

2.  That the Mariners thought Hultzen was the next Barry Zito.  (His first 3 years, Zito won 20 games a year with a 2+ ERA; James at that time called him the best starter in baseball.)

Zduriencik and McNamara said (opaquely) that there were several players the M's liked at #2, including Rendon and the HS players, but that Hultzen was their #1-1 and that Hultzen is simply clearly better than everybody else.

So it was interpretation 2.  The Mariners thought Hultzen was great - so much that they were sweating the Pirates taking him, and gloating when the Pirates didn't.


Q.  What is the pitcher family?

A.  We've made up a new one:  the Z-Axis Lefties.


Q.  Was this a Bill James family?

A.  Bill didn't break LHP's down much ... did you know that LHP's comprise only 9 of the top 50 pitchers of all time?  You'd be surprised how rare a good lefty is.

So there weren't many all-time great LHP's to cut into groups.  Bill had:

  • Blow 'em away lefties - Koufax, Unit, Grove, Carlton etc
  • Picture-perfect / smooth lefties (IIRC) - Warren Spahn ... today Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson
  • Tommy John finesse / groundball lefties

Nowadays I'd call the middle one "whole package" lefties, guys with FB, cutter, change, curve, command.  And I'd add two more:

  • Blow 'em away lefties - Koufax, Unit, Grove, Carlton etc
  • Z-axis lefties
  • Whole-package lefties (IIRC) - Warren Spahn ... (Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, Andy Pettitte)
  • Finesse lefties (low velo, great command) - Jamie Moyer, Kenny Rogers, Tom Glavine, the older David Wells
  • Tommy John groundball, low-K, low-mistake lefties (Buehrle)

Hultzen goes into the Z-Axis Lefty category.  He is a high-strikeout guy on the basis of his fearsome changeup.






TAD's picture

Yes this pick did cause some head scratching solely due to the fact no one had truly analyzed the pick as Dr D has.
Anyway the with his true major leage velocity + command + excellent change  (plus no sign of past injury issues) this will be a successful pick.  Will he have a Felix type impact - no but there may be 2-3 pitchers in ALL of baseball who would even be in that discussion, so using that as standard is a little too unrealistic and not to mention a somewhat unfair.  
But as Dr. D has elaborated the change is really the difference maker hear anytime a pitcher can get a hitter going back an for he as the advantage.  This is why Pineda could not get out of the 7th inning last night - you could just see the White Sox's hitters we no longer on the defensive they were dialed in so Pineda could not get them off his slider nor his fast ball.  After he missed taking Beckham's head off by a mere fraction of an inch, Beckham rifled a line drive right up back up thru the box.  Now if Pineda had a true offspeed pitch i.e. change or a slow curve, I bet he gets out of that inning.
As a side note Hultzen does fit Safeco better than Bauer. 


Churchill has a list of possibles.
Andrew Susac (RH hitting C) was considered top-20 or 30 before he broke his hand.  Either he or Josh Osich (LHP) would thrill the Ore. St. fans, but I think they are both good picks as well.  Wouldn't complain about either, and both were supposed to be gone by now.
Matt Purke's season fell apart due to injuries, but if he can get right and get signed, he's got electric stuff and is loads of fun to watch.  Legit concerns about how long his wiry body will hold up, and whoever takes him will have to pay above slot, so I can see why he may keep falling.  May be a later-round Paxton-type gamble (but Purke can return to school, and probably will).
Charlie Tilson was G-Money's early pick for #62 and he's still out there as well.


Rumor mills were buzzing last night that Hultzen has a $20 million inheritence if he graduates from med school by age 25, and is therefore expecting a corresponding payout from whoever drafts him. Supposedly, Hultzen's father wants him to be a doctor, and reamed out the D'Backs when they drafted him out of high school after all teams were instructed not to. Wouldn't be surprised to see the M's play chicken here, the #3 pick in next year's draft could very well be more lucrative than this year's #2 after all of the question marks about the possibles. If the slotting system is implemented with the new collective bargaining agreement, signability would no longer be in question for comp picks.


Nice write up Doc.  I feel better already.  (As an aside, though, for some reason I'm having trouble getting posts to stick).
I really wanted Rendon (partially b/c I went to Rice undergrad) because he fit so well.
Missing out on him hurts.  However, maybe this pick of Hultzen will be the preamble of a Paxton+ trade for a bat.  I like Paxton, but I guess the Nats don't need Zimmerman *and* Rendon...


Clemson LH hitter:
11 dbl, 3 tpl, 5 HR
40 BB/ 34 K
21-of-26 SB
Ranked as the top college SS by this guy.  Baseball America had him at #68 overall.


Norris went at #74.  Tilson went at #79.  Susac went at #88.
Brother of C.J. Cron, first-round pick
6-5, 245 RH hitter
Hit .560 with 27 HR in HS (FWIW)
BA had him ranked #133.
Two picks coming up at #121 (Stanek compensation pick) and #123


Capps: 6-5, 220; reportedly throws 97, potential bullpenner.  BA had him #151
Hicks: RH hitting college C from Virginia, BA had him #159.  Hit ..352 with 19 doubles

FNietzsche's picture

I was surprised you didn't mention Safeco Field as an addtional tick on the Hultzen knob.


I cannot even imagine creating that kind of condition for my own child.  Whose life is it again?  Good grief - reading stuff like that makes me want to puke.  Let the kid make a good honest choice.
The father is either lying or evil.  Of course if he is lying about that, that would make him evil too...

ghost's picture

Zduriencik seems to love raiding championship teams in the draft. Not only did he get Ackley from the UNC team...he also got Seager. Now not only did he get Hultzen...he got Hicks.
Interesting...the theory being that players on winning teams know how to win?

Jpax's picture

Wasn't Moran on that team also?
Actually, that draft and this one may indicate that Z and mac may trust their east coast scouting more?


And finally a 3b, Steve Proscia.  BA had him at #144.  They are loving their ACC players lately.  Seems to be shaping up as an interesting all-around draft.


I have an idea that Z dislikes short RHP's, but doesn't concern himself about the height of LHP's.
The arguments to take the college hitter, or Bauer, remain difficult to deal with.  However, for me it changed the equation once you realize that Hultzen is a 1c in this draft.


To go back through the annals and see what sort of bats that pitchers like DOOGIE brought.  ;- )
It says here that Fister and Vargas can go in packages that will bring any hitter you want.  They are good and are massively underpaid.
Ya, no matter Hultzen's future, missing out on Rendon and Bauer hurts.


That factor didn't even occur.  LOL!
Offer up Santana or Hamels in a deal and their fit to the park is almost beside the point.
But yeah.  As a sidearmer, Hultzen is probably going to be somewhat of a sidearm pitcher.  As with Vargas, Safeco could eliminate his one minor chink in the armor.  And create a league-leading ERA.

ghost's picture

If this were ture...and I'd need to see proof...
THen his parents are ridiculous anal rententive control freaks who deserve to be scorned by all who approach them.


It has something to do with ego.  All these kids are asking for millions of dollars already, and Zduriencik has shown a preference for players that show leadership qualities, play hard, and who are more concerned with team success than personal success;  and don't forget Dr. Elliot's unusual training regimin being implemented throughout the organization. 
Now consider that Bauer put himself on his own pitching schedule, and his own training regimin, and his own pitch count, and has said that he will be continuing that regimin regardless of what the organization wants.  So you want coachable kids?  This one says he's not coachable.  You want guys that are team players?  Bauer seems to be playing for team Bauer.  I think Zduriencik doesn't want a player who thinks he's smarter than everyone else in the organization.


Please contact my "advisor," Mr. Boras.
My conditions: a permanent moratorium on the use of the term "Lincecum 2.0"
*joke* :-)
I will post when I get a chance to follow up on them a bit.  Overall I think I like what I've seen.


Maybe we can meet for an M's game on the 14th (if you are comfortable in town by that evening) or 17th.
Appreciate the invite!


Not a bad way at all to characterize it.
MLB teams are much more willing to accept "high-maintenance" players than they were in the days of Mike Marshall, but still, would agree that you don't quite know what you're getting into with Bauer from a coachability standpoint.  
That said, the M's indicated that Hultzen was 1-1 for them and that they were even afraid that the Pirates would take him...

Anonymous's picture

You are portraying Bauer as hard headed and self-centered when I see no evidence of that. He may have his own routine, but that's because he is so driven to succeed that he has methodically determined the optimal approach for his skill set. If every player was like him the team would be much better. If he were stubborn and doing things without good reason, then this might a serious issue. That's not the case. His workouts would very likely conform just fine with what the M's are doing, at a minimum their heavy emphasis on long toss would be in sync. If anything, I would bet that Bauer would absolutely jump at the chance to work with Dr. Elliot. Bauer is extremely analytical and wants to know about cutting edge ideas, and Elliot seems to be interested in implementing the most modern approaches to pitching development available. They'd probably be work great together. It's the teams with backwards attitudes toward long toss that would have a problem with him.
Bauer is like Ichiro. Ichiro has his own routine that he follows religiously, but that isn't because he has a giant ego and doesn't care about the team. On the contrary, he is intensely competive and it kills him when the team struggles. To say that someone is selfish and only concerned with themselves simply because they have an unorthodox workout is absurd. If I were a manager, I'd love to have 14 Ichiros and 11 Bauers. I'd have the hardest working and most fundamentally sound team ever, and I'd win A LOT of games. And I'd probably have less clubhouse conflict than normal because everyone would be so focused on success.

Mariner Optimist's picture

Grumpy - didn't know you were a fellow Rice undergrad!   Jones '90 here...
Between Rice losing in regional and Rendon not coming to the Mariners, it was a lousy 24 hours.
Definitely gonna have to adopt the Nationals as my new fave NL team - what a lineup/pitching they have shaping up in the next few years - Strasburg, Harper, Werth, Rendon, ZimmermanX2, Storen, Espinosa, WRamos.  3rd round grab of Purke!  Rumors have them looking at FA Fielder to complete the set... holy smokes!

3towncoug's picture

I had a change encounter with a scout working for a team with a very early pick in the draft and he told me the following.
He thought Bauer was the best pick in the draft.He thought Cole was pretty good, not as good as Bauer but more durableHe told me Hultzen wasn't a one or a two or a three but a four or a five.He wasn't impressed with Rendon. He wasn't concerned with the medical reports but he was concerned with his power at the next level.
It was a very brief conversation so I didn't pester him with question after question but I found this perspective interesting.
It's clear major league teams weren't sold on Rendon. I have to think he is playing for the Rice Owls next year.
All the talk of Vargas 2.0 bums me out for the second pick in the draft. I'm hearing way too much of this for it to be dismissed.


Lovett '93.  I do like the Nats for an east coast team also. 
I'm hoping they might make Zimmerman available for pitching, unless they plan to make Rendon into a 2B. 


Thought the biomechanical folks around here might enjoy this:
By all the basic research standards that we chose (except for stride length), Danny Hultzen has the biomechanical markers of an elite pitcher. A coach might suggest that Hultzen increase his stride length to increase his fastball velocity, but no research has correlated these two specific variables, regardless of what popular Internet pitching coaches will tell you.

He does have a shorter stride, but I do love how high that knee comes up, and it may be that the short stride is to better control the ball in the zone and maintain balance throughout the pitching motion with that huge knee-up motion he starts with.
Anyway, just something for fun.


If Hultzen were using a stock "stand tall" motion with his left leg, how high would his knee be?
Yeah, it's kind of interesting that he has a compact stride, but leans over his hip a lot.  Am guessing that El Sid and George Sherrill did the same?
My usual protests apply, that these biomechanics are miles away from being "captured"... and I like the guy's phrasing "Research suggests that elite healthy pitchers tend to have shoulder abduction between 80 and 100 degrees."
That is a long, long way from saying that if it's over 90 degrees you're doomed, and that recognition of ignorance is all SSI ever asks.
Caveats aside, it's very nice to have the facts about these mechanical checkpoints.  Great link G.

Taro's picture

The biggest new is that his shoulder abduction is only 93 degrees at foot plant. It get higher than that earlier in his delivery (am still slightly worried about that), but I never saw the slow-mo and jumped to conclusions based on the elbow hitch Hultzen does.
Boddy is the expert here, and it doesn't look like he has that high elbow once his foot plants (only slightly above-average in Hamels fashion).


That Pineda's abduction measures inside 100 degrees per that checkpoint system ... ;- )
But hey.  Supposing it didn't, the best that we can say is that research suggests that it may be better if it's within 80-100 degrees, no?
Somebody ought to be able to process a 2011 image of Pineda and measure that.  Bet you that, like Hultzen, his shoulder abduction is quite a bit more conventional than it appears on TV.  Then RotoChamp could relax and enjoy the kid.  


Not to hijack the Hultzen convo... this image is the money shot for me...

The line at 180 degrees is the average for elite ML pitchers - you can see that Hultzen is getting a ton of "elbow lag" even compared to them.
This factor is, IMHO, the equivalent of the "wrist hinge" that gives Ichiro, Smoak, and PGA golfers their special power.  
So the fact is, that Hultzen has genuinely special leverage on the ball, which is okay with me as a Mariners fan.  (You would expect the 1-2 overall to have some things that make him different.)
Earlier, I pooh-pooh'ed the idea that Hultzen would have high velo, but that was before seeing the UNC tape that DreamCatcher linked up.  You start to wonder whether Hultzen isn't going to have Paxson-like velocity into the bargain.
AND:  low sidearm velocity is often apparently quicker.  It's why sidearmers do well at 84 mph, why El Sid fanned 10 a game at 91 mph, why the Big Unit's FB couldn't be hit, why George Sherrill fanned so many guys with mediocre stuff, etc.
Can certainly empathize with the "#1 overall" sentiment at this point.  Paxson and Hultzen are gonna be a load.


You might as well call Michael Pineda "Doug Fister 2.0, add 5 mph".
Jason Vargas 1.0 has the #25 FIP in the American League, ahead of Brett Anderson and Ricky Romero ... and that's laboring with the 3rd-slowest fastball in the AL.
Francis, Buehrle, Vargas, and Tomlin are really in a class by themselves for softest fastballs in the AL.  Danny Hultzen throws hard.


Am going back and forth here, but your reply was convincing...
Morgan said about Pete Rose, "he was the most selfish teammate I ever had, and for that reason he was the best teammate I ever had"... the overtones about selfishness aside, Ichiro's drive for 200 hits echoes that...


...that stated "Any pitcher with multiple above-average pitchers should be regarded as a fringe starter if he doesn't throw 97 - even though other "fringe" starters with worse stuff are actually #2-3 starters if you replaced their names with sexier ones."
Hultzen can PITCH.  He can also throw a bit, which is fun.  I would not ask him to be my ace, certainly not off the bat, because he might need to adjust to the pro strike zone, get his little black book with hitter habits all scribbled in and annotated, etc.  But we're not asking him to do that.  We're asking him to be our 2013 #3 pitcher and get better from there.
He can do that.  The Giants drafted Madison Bumgarner 10th using the same philosophy (since they already had their 2 front-liners as we do), and all he did was come up and help them win a championship.  If we'd drafted Hultzen 10th people would have been crowing from the rafters.  FIFTH and he would have been a good pick.  I'm not sure why tagging someone with a #2-in-the-draft label suddenly makes his outcome "Vargas 2.0." 
It's like the idea of taking the #3 guy on your particular board instead of the #1 turns the #3 guy into a #30 guy immediately.
Funny, that.  Hultzen was always a top-5 pitcher in this draft, and that hasn't changed.  He's a great shot at an immediate-impact starter.  Just imagine what might happen with the ultimate Pitcher in the draft who gets on a rotational workout that could add a foot to his fastball.  We talk about upside like we know anything about it.
Hultzen would not have been my choice, but he's an exceedingly fine pitcher who is absolutely worthy of the pick, and less risky than most of the other selections on the board.  That doesn't mean no risk, and I hate drafting pitchers this high with a great bat or two on the board, but Jack went with his gut feeling.
And he's betting his GM-ship on the fact that he can trade for or sign quality hitters while this pitcher makes our rotation nearly untouchable for the next half-decade.
I'm absolutely rooting for him to be correct on both counts.


If you were dealing, say, Doug Fister this winter -- how could there not be a huge market for him, at his salary?
I don't notice that a lot of certified #3-4 AL starters are available ---> pre-arb.  I don't notice that ANY are.  :- )
Somebody explain to me how Doug Fister, making $1M for several years, wouldn't be the centerpiece of a package for a big bat.  Especially like to a Tampa Bay shedding a Carl Crawford.

Taro's picture

After getting Boddy's review of his mechanics and hearing of the velocity coming back in the past couple starts I like Hultzen a lot better now.
That said, even Boddy said in his opening paragraph that he prefers Bauer. Unless Hultzen peaks Bauer, Z will catch flak for that decision and deservedly so.
Still, think Hultzen is more of a #2-3 now, then a #3-4 as some scouts are saying.

Taro's picture

I kind of of doubt it on Pineda but I can't say definitively as I don't have the tools to measure exactly where his arm is at. Maybe we'll get lucky and Boddy will review Pineda too. Don't don't like Pineda's delivery  (you can see the early pronation there as well).
Not a fan of high elbows in general. Even Hultzen, still leaves me shaky because hes a bit higher before footstrike and still on the upper end of the acceptable range at footstrike. I definetly thought he'd be higher based on the video footage (never did slowmo with him).
Boddy is at the cutting edge IMO, so I defer to him. Hultzen is down to average injury risk for me.

Rick's picture

Everybody (including me) wanted to take a chance on Rendon's shoulder, which is most definitely hurt, while even a suggestion that a Hultzen or some other pitcher might someday develop arm problems causes us to fret and look elsewhere.  Understandable, seeing how pitchers rise and fall based on the health of their arms. But ironic, nonetheless.
Perhaps it's the spectre of Salkeld and Baby Unit Anderson.  But for every washed out pitcher we drafted #1, I can probably give you 3-5 washout position players who simply never had what it takes in the first place: Tito Nanni, Al Chambers, Pat Lennon, Jeff Clement, Ryan Christiansen, oh jeez, need I go on??

Taro's picture

I can understand the reluctance to go with Rendon given the injuries, but I still don't get Bauer over Hultzen.
Regardless, I think Hultzen is going to be an excellent SP. I love a great changeup. I think its the best offspeed pitch a SP can have. I used to scour the minors for guys with great changeups for fantasy purposes and you'd stumble on guys like Shields or Sonnanstine (when he wasn't broken). These guys tend to overperform their projections.
If Hultzen is back to a legit 90-95mph with a plus change, he is a potential #1-2 SP thats a perfect fit for Safeco.

dream catcher's picture

Danny Hultzen was sitting 89-92 all day, but lacked the command he usually has.  To his credit he really battled hard and got out of a couple jams, and even had an RBI.  Love his change-up, when he is actually commanding his pitches it can be deadly.  Didn't see much of the slider today, I saw it a lot more vs North Carolina.


Whose makeup hasn't left me with a good impression at all.
Season-end ERA's have a lot to do with limiting the damage on the lesser days.  The Felixes and Bedards are verrrrrry experienced at pitching effectively when they're not having fun.

dream catcher's picture

yep, he has an incredible makeup, which is one reason why I loved the pick by the M's.  You can never have too many Danny Hultzen's .  If scouts graded your makeup on the 20-80 scale, Hultzen would have an 80 no doubt.  Every article you can find on him says the same things over and over.  His coach and pitching coach rave about him.  He is the type of player you can go to war with in a World Series. 

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