Danny Hultzen
Explain it to Dr. D in one-syllable words

Originally posted Jan. 7, 2014.


Sickels is mass kewl.  I believe everything he says, that isn't countered by G-Money.  That's point A.

;- )

Here's the discussion thread at Minor League Ball.


As far as the comments at his site ...

A quick once-over brings only one question, and it is plenty 'nuff:  what in the world is going on in peoples' heads, with respect to Danny Hultzen?  Do people believe that there are 300-400 prospects more valuable than him?

More like 30.  Personally, I would NOT give you Danny Hultzen in exchange for D.J. Peterson.  And let me check that statement in a year or two.


Hultzen is about as healthy as James Paxton or Taijuan Walker are; they've got really good chances to hit the DL this year, and hit the DL never to return again.  It's like where people were with James Paxton's walks, or Michael Pineda's third pitch, or Tim Lincecum's height, or Felix Hernandez' youth.  The concern is there with Hultzen's shoulder, but why do we have to blow it up, to factor in about three times as important as it actually is?

It's just that we haven't seen Hultzen recently, haven't had the "reassurance" of watching him do what he does.  But it's like Stephen Strasburg or Michael Pineda.  If Strasburg or Pineda are confirmed to have thrown 97 MPH, post-surgery, then that's all you need to know.

Hultzen is a sidearm pitcher with a clean release, like Randy Johnson ahem, and if he's back he's back.

We haven't seen Hultzen, so he hasn't made an impression.  But the disconnect is delicious.


Ben Zobrist

5 WAR is 5 WAR, but Peterson-for-Zobrist strikes out on BOTH of Zduriencik's criteria, when only a single swing-and-miss would have sent this one to the bench:

  • No one-year player blockbusters
  • You ain't getting our four best players

Do we agree with Zduriencik's steady-hand-at-the-tiller approach?  Pretty much.  And now that we've got both Nelson Cruz, and Seth Ruggiano, there is far less reason to disagree now.

Give us Zobrist for a nice package that does not include the crown jewels, and we'll be happy to comply.

Carry on,

Dr D





Doc... you may be right on Hultzen. I do not know, and really no one knows - possibly even Danny himself. And that is PART of the disconnect.
I have been on Sickel's site a few times, and I do enjoy the discussions about where and how to rank prospects. I do not claim to have much expertise, but I do know a bit about pitching, and I have learned to parrot and adapt prior conversations from yesteryear fairly well towards new prospects - so occasionally I can sound intelligent. Before joining the DOV group, I was a Churchill disciple... so please forgive any sudden outbursts.
Regarding Hultzen though, if it were as simple as him coming back from surgery - yeah, he will bounce back. I would have very little doubt. And I agree with you that many at the Sickel's site are downgrading Hultzen for just this reason... because arm injuries have destroyed many pitching careers.
There are several people on Sickel's site though that give Danny an incomplete grade now for another reason... and it has very little to do with not seeing Hultzen pitch in Tacoma or where ever last year. The fact is - Hultzen's pitching motion is a Frankenstein creation currently. The Mariners changed his stride length. They changed his landing point on the mound. They changed where he stands on the mound / rubber. They changed his arm slot. They changed his release point - DRASTICALLY. They changed his deceleration process. They probably changed his entire timing of the delivery to the plate... but as Hultzen is still sight unseen, we really do not know. We DO KNOW though that the other things have been changed, because the Mariners have told us so. Hultzen is no longer throwing across his body. Hultzen is no longer stepping towards the on deck circle, and using his body to hide the ball / add deception to his motion. Hultzen is no longer throwing from an angled arm that can add stress to the elbow and shoulder. To do all that, Danny's motion had to go through a complete makeover.
Any one of these things done to an experienced MLB pitcher could take weeks to recover his basic form... as we have seen from Kuma when he has his timing is off, Kuma no longer has his pin point control.
To then compound coming off of shoulder surgery, which not many guys have come back from, Danny is changing everything. Not one or two things. EVERYTHING! The motion that Danny has used probably since high school. The same motion for at least 10 years. GONE. Learn something new kid - NOW. Period. End of discussion.
To give more perspective, look at the history of Blake Beavan. I know, not pretty. Stay with me. When Blake first started, he was the FIRST Mariner prospect to come up with EXTREME control in the Post Gillick ERA. We talked about Blake as being able to throw the ball into a coffee cup almost at will. However, despite some success, he was not quite making it. So after two years, the Mariners changed his delivery and motion. He hands started in a different place. His arm slot was raised. His stride was shortened. The whole idea was to try to get Blake's fastball and cut fastball to move more... because he was just too easy to hit despite his control.
After two years of changes, Blake's arm finally broke down. Further, Blake can not longer control the strike zone, let alone throw the ball into a coffee cup. Nobody knows if the changes the Mariners made were the cause or not of all this... but I'll take that bet.
Further back in time, one time loved prospect relief pitcher - ABD. Austin Bibens Dirkx. For those who do not remember, this guy threw 90 MPH+ submarine style. A throw back to Quisenberry. After two years in the system, the Mariners decided to raise his arm angle in an off season. Austin was never the same again... and he too needed arm surgery within two years of changing his arm angle, and whatever else that had to change to make that happen.
The point is, Danny is a complete unknown right now. No body knows how his motion will work once it is put into a live game. Pitching in several simulated games, and hitting 90 MPH without going all out / max effort - yes that means something. But there is a lot more that happens on that mound in front of thousands of people with Mike Trout on first base and Puhols at the plate.
Just ask Rick Ankiel.... and Danny has not done anything at the MLB level yet.

IcebreakerX's picture

Started with the Rangers? I just don't remember him ever having 95+ with the Mariners, and as far as I'd had heard, the Rangers had started rebuilding his motion to improve control.
However, remembering the ABD hype, it'd be interesting to see the M's track record with shoulders... They did succeed with Iwakuma and Gil Meche, so it's hard to throw them all into the same bin.


Does he still come sidearm?  Great 'put TR.
A changed motion doesn't usually "remake" a pitcher -- maybe 10% or 20% of the time, it does.  Beavan being in that 10%.  Changing his plant point isn't in itself much of an issue.
But if the Mariners have cost Hultzen his control, his velocity and his changeup, then yeah.  That's something I'd be only too glad to throw a fit about, if Hultzen turns out to be "remade" in March.
Would be odd to me, to see prospect fans weight this factor so heavily.  Obviously YOU do, but I think you're the first (other than me, LOL) I've seen do it with this kind of emphasis.  
That is really the discussion at Minor League Ball?  That Hultzen would have been a #35-in-MLB prospect, but they (maybe) ruined his motion, so now he's #300?


The poster child for tinkering just to tinker.  At D-O-V we couldn't believe our eyes as it happened.
As you say, Ice, often a reinvention brings a career back to life.  Seems the "remaking" of Danny Farquhar did that.
But yeah.  If Danny Hultzen is now a fundamentally different pitcher, all bets are off.  I'd be pretty surprised if that turns out to be the case next month.  
It would be (loosely speaking) like reinventing Stephen Strasburg, post-op.  You might change his arm angle, sure, but ... you were kind of invested in what he was originally.


Ice... Yes the Rangers started changing Beavan right away - like they took away his split finger / fork ball pitch because it was supposedly too hard on young players arms. Further, Beavan never threw 95 mph for the Mariners - BUT he did hit 95 occasionally in high school - but I do not know why that went away... but it was not here for the Mariners, which meant he needed "something else" to help him make it... and control was not enough per the Mariners.
However, MY POINT for bringing up Beavan and ABD was NOT that the MARINERS are destroying pitchers - they are not... the point is that once a pitching motion is changed, NO ONE knows what the MLB finished product is going to be from a few bullpen sessions. You have to watch and see how things develop.


Thanks for it TR.  Was totally unaware of this uproar.  :- )
That said, it's pretty rare for mechanical changes to have that kind of impact.  Witness Taijuan, for example.  ... I screamed bloody murder about the bright blinkin' idea of lowering Paxton's release point, but losing a few grounders wouldn't exactly turn him into John Halama.
Personally don't get as alarmed as all that, about news that a pitching motion has been changed.  We'll have a look in March.

RockiesJeff's picture

Jeff, I remember when the M's drafted Hultzen. I think right after he struck out 13 in the college World Series with a mlb ready change up. I suspect they will go easy on him this year but.....it would be great to see him come back. Obviously he had talent. Please prevent any trades with that name...or his young cohorts.


My first words of my first response were - you could be right Doc, I don't know.
I just wanted to make sure people were not assuming that Hultzen had minor surgery and now the Mariners have a guaranteed number 2 starter in Tacoma when we need him.
As you say, we will see in a short 50 days or so.


And I agree 100%.  Hultzen is anything but a guarantee.
With top prospects, all roads lead to Rome and we wind up at the same bottom line ... they're going to throw him out there and answer the Q's that way.


Killer post, man. I'm very eager to see him on the mound now. If the changes are that drastic, it's like having a completely new guy to watch.

RockiesJeff's picture

15+ years....congrats. I will be watching for your comments more. Thanks. Isn't it amazing how few have good mechanics. I am shocked at the kids who are athletic and able to get to higher levels, whose parents shell out a lot of money for instruction yet show no improvement and their mechanics are often more of an accident waiting to happen. It will be interesting to see how Hultzen proceeds. Patience is a virtue. The key is like anything - if he can really buy into it and start to repeat it under pressure. That is why a golfer will make a simple change and often struggle. It isn't just mechanics but it is the mind as well. Thanks for your good words!!!


Doc...again I am no expert, but I know enough to be dangerous.
From my 15+ years as a pitching coach for 12 to 18 year olds, I know that if a pitcher is throwing across his body like Hultzen used to do - there are tremendous advantages IF your body can take it. For several young kids / pitchers, I felt I needed I had to tweak / change their motion based on a few results - like they were getting sore arms, could not consistently throw to a certain side of the plate, their release point was different for different pitches, and etc... There were mixed results, and several not good discussions with parents...
However, to now go to a new motion where he is not throwing across his body, which I only remember trying once... now things have drastically changed. I guarantee Hultzen's release point is at least 16 inches away from where it used to be. Hultzen is still probably less the 45 degrees (meaning sidearm) but I bet his arm is straighter - more like Paxton. Guaranteed that the entire deceleration process has changed, because throwing across your body means you slow down towards third base as well as towards the plate versus now there will be more downward pressure on his plant leg / knee (Paxton).
The total impact of the above changes alone is now EVERY TYPE of pitch that Hultzen now throws has different movement than it did before. So Hultzen is learning how to pitch again with a whole new arsenal. It is great that the Mariners said his velocity is back, and that Hultzen is hitting his spots in the simulated games... but things change when you are put under pressure, and LORD knows what his body will do under pressure and for the long run.
There are more points / potential issues, but I think you get where I am going.
Now I am sure the Mariners believe Hultzen is on the right track, or else they would not have said those extremely positive things last fall... but it is interesting that they never let the public see his new motion.


Glad to see RJ's post mentioning golf and golfers.
High level/high performing athletes are constantly "tweaking" what they do.  Golfers constantly fiddle around with simple (and most often unnoticed by the layman) things.  Batters do, too.  And jump shooters, bowlers, etc.  Something feels a bit wrong so they tweak something, ever-so-slightly.
Nature of the games.
But "changing" things is a different beast.  Sometimes it works.  More often (in my experience) it doesn't.  Not only do you change the kinesthetic "experience" of the effort but you frequently change the visual experience, as well:  Not only do things feel entirely different but (to the athlete in question) they look entirely different, too.
I'm a believer that a guy like Hultzen throws the ball in a particular way because it "fits" his body, his particular muscular abilites, his unique nature.  There are a bunch of things that can go wrong when you begin to make drastic alterations, both physical and psychological.
I hope that whatever we've done to/for Hultzen is a slight "tweak" or two and that we've done them one at a time.  I further hope that he has complete buy-in.  If not, in both cases, I am not particularly optimistic.


I will be very interested in seeing how different Hultzen is... I may be completely off in my analysis, but I do not see how you can stop throwing across your body and reduce stress on the elbow and shoulder areas without making HUGE changes - not a minor tweak.
However, the Mariner coaches are professionals, and I occasionally write on a blog


Well I have stuck my neck out there on this one. We will see how much I actually learned during my 15 years.
Working with kids though was probably the most fun endeavor I have done in my adult life, with lots of great memories that I would not trade for anything. And even though the confrontations happened with parents and kids doubted... there is no feeling like getting a high five from a kid who just used your suggestion in a game where it worked.
As you say, patience is a virtue. The hardest part is seeing the bad mechanics, but the player is getting results so you can not do anything.... and then you have the talk with the player or parent AFTER you made a tweak that worked when the time was appropriate... and the question comes "why did you not suggest the change earlier?"... and you just gotta laugh.
One thing the coaching has done though is make me a worse golfer... because I think I can tweak myself into doing something.


When people say a pitcher is throwing across his body, the pitcher is actually doing that. It is NOT common today, but this motion was more common in the earlier days of baseball. This style was NEVER the most popular way to throw a baseball though - ever.
So in the pitching motion, the normal pitcher strides towards home plate. A pitcher throwing across his body though actually strides on a line aimed at or behind a batters box. So for Hultzen, his normal stride ended up with his leg aimed behind the left handed batter. So now, with the plant leg that far away from the straight line between the mound and home plate, the pitcher MUST then do something to compensate to get the ball aimed towards home plate. This compensation then means the pitchers MUST rotate his torso towards home plate... which now causes the arm come across the front of the body. Thus, when the ball is actually released, the ball is essentially on the opposite side of the body from where a normal pitcher would release the ball. This means that the release point of a pitcher throwing across his body can be 12 to 24 inches from where a normal pitcher releases the ball.
This gives the pitcher several advantages, especially towards same handed hitters... as you can probably already imagine. Guaranteed the ball / pitch is concealed from the same handed batter for a longer time... since the pitchers arm is hidden by his body until less than a second from the ball being released. Two, for most pitchers throwing across their bodies the ball will be released behind the batter, since their stride is aimed behind the batter. This release point makes it harder for the batter to actually pick up the pitch once the ball is in air AND usually the batter has to either adjust his body to see the ball better - so batter is now in more uncomfortable position (or even out of position) OR the batter tries to use his peripheral vision to start which means he is not seeing the ball as good as he should - making him more susceptible to off speed pitchers.
Also, throwing across the body gets the torque of a players core muscles involved with the pitch, so added velocity is not uncommon.
Lastly, depending on the uniform, the background from where the ball is getting released can help obscure the ball by color or change in colors on the body / uniform, since the ball is getting released in front of the pitcher's body... further adding to problems for the batter in seeing the ball.
I hope that makes sense.

RockiesJeff's picture

Good point Rain! People rip apart often what they don't really know. M's coaches are right there. It is easy for people to cast verbal stones from the bleachers....but we are still in the bleachers. Rain, I agree that one must assume there will be some big changes. Time will, as always, tell. And it will be interesting to see the progress. I hope that best for Hultzen. He seems like a sharp kid. Moe, I agree completely. A big change often will become unnatural seemingly going against the athletic skill that got the player to that level. I think that is where it has to be mind over matter....the mental discipline to do what might feel unnatural for some time is key to any such change. Want another golf illustration? I know you enough that you have to love the career of Ben Hogan. The Hawk endlessly worked to perfect his swing and correct his hook until he could repeat it under any circumstance. He had incredible hand-eye coordination and arm strength. But the most important element was his mental ability to not let down, get down or compromise his work even after his famed accident. Those stories are rare. No matter what changes Hutlzen is making, he has to first and foremost be victorious mentally as any pitcher. Gentlemen, please keep me updated from afar!!!


Taro, unfortunately you have a good chance of being correct - be it the shoulder or other injuries popping up that stop Hultzen.
However Jack (with logical sense also the Mariner medical staff) sounded fairly confident last September when they said Hultzen was throwing 90+ without breaking sweat and he was hitting his spots... and that Hultzen should be ready to go by Spring Training.
Maybe Danny can last 5 years or so and the Mariners can get a couple WS appearances first.

RockiesJeff's picture

Parents and kids....you got it. I know a lot of good coaches who didn't continue due to parents and politics. I see a whole lot of wisdom in you which is very encouraging to see. Thanks for sharing all that. A tweak at a time. How many coaches want to rework a delivery (or golf swing) in one session. Smart man to wait for the right time....you can't really teach if they won't really listen. Your insights are appreciated!!

misterjonez's picture

I can't say I disagree with it from *any* perspective, unless you're talking about a guy like 19 year old Felix Hernandez who, legitimately, could be something once-in-a-generation if treated properly. At some point, you have to concern yourself primarily with what the player will do for YOU, and at this point I think a guy like Hultzen is a good example of a case where we should be thinking in more of those terms rather than the player's long-term outlook.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.