What Happened In 2014: Hyun-jin Ryu‘s second major league season was an improvement upon on his first in nearly every single way.
We don’t talk about Ryu enough. We just don’t. He’s not the best pitcher in his own rotation (hi, Clayton Kershaw!), he’s not the second-best pitcher in his own rotation (hi, Zack Greinke!), and for a significant part of last season, there were those who didn’t even think Ryu was the third-best pitcher in his own rotation, thanks to Josh Beckett‘s BABIP-fueled mirage of a first half.
This is unfair. This is wildly unfair. Check this out:
2014 FIP leaders, min. 150 innings:
- Kershaw, 1.81 (!)
- Jake Arrieta, 2.26
- Corey Kluber, 2.35
- Felix Hernandez, 2.56
- Chris Sale, 2.57
- Garrett Richards, 2.60
- Ryu, 2.62
This is basically how this post started, and then I decided I liked Ryu so much that I wanted to just do it over at FanGraphs. Which I did. Read that. Ryu is criminally underrated. He’s basically been as good as Cole Hamels over the last two years, though obviously a few trips to the DL has meant that Ryu has done so in fewer innings, which matters. Chad rightfully wondered in March if Ryu would be able to repeat his successful debut season, and all he ended up doing was improve in just about every way.
Ryu’s season actually got off to something of a bizarre start; due to the trip to Australia and ensuing off-days, he started three of the first six Dodger games. The first two were very, very good — 12 strikeouts in 12 scoreless innings, despite dealing with a cracked toenail suffered in Australia. At the time, I noted that his new curveball might be a nice new weapon; then Brim started talking about a new sinker. But the third start? Eight runs in two innings at home against the Giants, soon followed by 14 more scoreless innings on the road.
And once again, Hyun-jin Ryu is making people notice that the Dodgers have more than two outstanding starting pitchers. Ryu shut out the Giants on 112 pitches over seven innings, walking one and allowing four singles. That’s it.
If this sounds familiar, well, maybe it should. Ryu has now pitched three times on the road, and he’s allowed exactly zero runs in 26 innings against Arizona, San Diego, Arizona again, and San Francisco. His one game at home? Two innings, eight runs. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Other than, you know, nothing, probably.
But after a solid start against the Phillies, Ryu went out and got lit up by Colorado on April 27, but it wasn’t until five days later that we found out he’d be headed to the disabled list with shoulder soreness. (This opened up the door for Stephen Fife to make an appearance. Giancarlo Stanton was pleased.)
As Brim talked about a previous Ryu shoulder issue and we tried not to panic, Ryu came back in mid-May and was impressive, even taking a perfect game into the 8th inning against the Reds on May 26. (As well as being the subject of a very entertaining theme song.) Through June and July, Ryu sped right along, generally being pretty good, but also tossing in a terrible start (seven runs in 2.1 innings against Detroit on July 7) right before being very good (10 strikeouts and only two singles in six scoreless innings against the Padres on July 13).
But then in August, another injury popped up…
Hyun-jin Ryu left in the bottom of the sixth with what seemed to be a hamstring issue, but was called a “right gluteus muscle strain.” He’s termed day-to-day — and really, aren’t we all — but Don Mattingly couldn’t say after the game if Ryu would make his next start.
…and back to the DL it was. When he returned with a 16/1 K/BB in his next two starts, things looked fine, even as Brim proved that the myth of Ryu being better with more rest was just that, a myth. But as the Dodgers looked to wrap up the division and look towards the playoffs, Ryu went out in San Francisco on Sept. 12 and lasted just a single inning. The news, it was not good: another bout with shoulder soreness sidelined Ryu for the remainder of the regular season.
It wasn’t the last we saw of him, though. With all sorts of concern about what he could offer, Ryu was fantastic in Game 3 of the NLDS, allowing only one run over six innings before Scott Elbert, well, happened. And, of course, this…
… made Ryu’s 2014 not only productive, but entertaining.
2015 Status: Ryu is going to make $4m. Four million! Four! Million! We can’t pretend the posting fee never existed, but this is among the most team-friendly deals in baseball.