The position of middle relief does not normally present a path to an All-Star Game selection — only 33 players with fewer than five saves heading into the break have garnered a nod since 1971, according to STATS.
Through his team’s several clouds of doubt, Dull has been a shining model of consistency. During rare runs of A’s success, the 26 year-old has served as the bullpen’s metronome. His triumph has even transcended the manager’s noted superstitious beliefs to the point that Bob Melvin has grown willing to discuss it:
“I’ve talked about him so many times that it’s past the knocking on wood. He’s been as good as anybody in baseball in those situations. It’s not easy, (either).”
Dull’s work has gone beyond any base achievement. He is perfect.
Not only has the North Carolina native stranded the highest number of inherited runners, he has done so at a flawless 34-for-34 clip. On 22 occasions, Dull has entered the fray with the previous hurler having left runners on base. Twenty-two times he has brought an end to the inning without a single teammate’s number of runs allowed inflating.
Staff ace and 2015 All-Star Sonny Gray (3-7, 5.42 ERA) said that while a pitcher never wants to depart in the middle of an inning seeing No. 66 walk off the bullpen mound offers as much relief as can be imagined:
“(As a starter) it’s kinda like, you don’t want anyone to come into the game. But, if he’s the guy coming in, you’re confident in what the outcome is going to be.”
Of his 22 hazardous entries, the diminutive Dull has been called upon to rescue his team from nine multi-base runner conditions, including his most impressive Houdini act — escaping a bases-loaded, one-out situation against the Texas Rangers on June 16.
“It’s just amazing. His focus is on getting the hitter out. I know he knows there’s runners out there, but he doesn’t focus on that he’s just on making the pitch he needs to make.”
Aside from his knack for eliminating other pitchers’ damage, he has been among the best at limiting his own.
His WHIP (0.75) is second only to Yankees set-up man Andrew Miller (5-1, 1.51 ERA), as is his opponent’s batting average (.154) and on-base percentage (.200).
He has also shown that when the opposition needs merely put the ball in play he is more than capable of preventing exactly that, as his 9.4 strikes outs per nine frames would suggest. His 5.38 strike outs per walk are good enough to be among the league’s top 12 relievers as well.
Dull does not have a single save — the sexy stat for a relief pitcher’s All-Star resume — but in all other measurables he has been among the AL’s very best, and that is what the All-Star Game is supposed to represent.