some of Danny Hultzen's face
Do you remember May 23? You probably don't off the top of your head, because once they're gone most days tend to blend together. This is something that's always troubled me about scripted portrayals of police stations and courtrooms - people won't easily remember where they were or what they were doing on some specified date in the past. But let me try to jog your memory by talking about the Alex Liddi slugged a grand slam off of Scott Feldman. Kevin Millwood threw six shutout innings and Brandon League was still the closer. Sounding familiar now? Feel like that was a long time ago?. On May 23, the Mariners beat the 5-3 in Safeco to win a three-game series two to one. That was the day that
May 23 is also the last time that Danny Hultzen allowed a run. Ryan Anderson hasn't allowed a run since 2005, but he's been retired. James Paxton hasn't allowed a run since May 25, but he's been hurt. Danny Hultzen hasn't allowed a run since May 23, and he's made four starts in double-A in the meantime.
One of my favorite things on Twitter over the past few weeks has been watching Mike Curto just about beg for Hultzen to be promoted to Tacoma. Tacoma's been a disaster, and Hultzen would immediately make the team a hell of a lot more exciting. This isn't a post intended to insist that Hultzen be promoted right away - he'll be promoted shortly, probably after he starts the Southern League All-Star Game next week. The Mariners are aware of what Hultzen has been doing, and they'll try to give him a challenge.
But maybe you're not quite aware of the extent of what Hultzen has been doing. Quite simply, he hasn't been challenged, or if he has been challenged, he's won just about all of those challenges. There was a point earlier in the season when Hultzen's numbers weren't that impressive. Through his first seven starts, he had 15 percent walks and just under 24 percent strikeouts, to go with an outstandingly low hit rate. Hultzen's hit prevention was encouraging, but his other ratios were less so. The numbers suggested he wasn't as polished as he was supposed to be.
Hultzen has started six times since then. He's allowed two runs, with under 7 percent walks and better than 31 percent strikeouts. If you can't stand reading percentages, Hultzen has walked nine guys and struck out 43 guys in his last 37.2 innings. He's allowed one home run, a month ago, and one other run, weeks ago. He's allowed 21 hits. We don't pay a lot of attention to hits allowed in the Majors, because we know all about BABIP. In the minors, it can be considered more a sign of dominance, and Hultzen has been dominant.
As long as we're playing with numbers, batters have slugged .206 against Hultzen on the season. That's at .153 in June. Tim Hudson has a career slugging percentage of .210. Randy Johnson had a career slugging percentage of .152.
Still not satisfied? In the Southern League, 65 different pitchers have thrown at least 500 pitches. Hultzen's posted the lowest contact rate out of all of them, by a decent margin ahead of Paxton. He's allowed significantly less contact than Trevor Bauer did, by way of comparison. When the Mariners drafted Hultzen, he wasn't thought of as a shutdown strikeout pitcher, but that's what he's been so far in his professional career.
Danny Hultzen made his first-ever start in the minor leagues on April 8, in double-A. By June, Hultzen has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that he's too good for the level. The Mariners' stated policy is that they want to see top prospects dominate their levels before getting promoted, and that's exactly what Hultzen has done, to an embarrassing degree. He'll go to Tacoma soon, and then he'll have to prove himself all over again against new competition, but so far the Hultzen experience couldn't really be going any better. Whatever you thought of him when he was drafted, you think more of him now. Whatever odds he had of busting when he was drafted, those odds are lower now. Everything's been coming up Danny Hultzen, and so Danny Hultzen is coming up us. I don't know if that sentence structure works. Oh well, it's already written, nothing I can do about it. Damned typewriters.