Hyun-Jin Ryu may only have been in the Majors for five years, but the baseball veteran has been playing professional baseball since 2005. He joined the Dodgers out of Korea after the 2012 season, and signed a six-year contract with Los Angeles.
Over the course of the last six seasons, Ryu has had his ups-and-downs, struggling both with consistency and health. So far in the 2018 playoffs however, he started one LDS gem, and pitched decent enough in the LCS to help the Dodgers split the first two games of the series.
Ryu’s 2018 has been a microcosm of his baseball career. When he’s been healthy and on the field, he’s played very well, but staying healthy has been the major challenge. In his first six starts of the season (April 2nd through May 2nd), he threw 29 2⁄3 innings, and posted a 2.12 ERA and a 2.41 FIP. His 36 to 10 strikeout to walk ratio was ok-but-not-great, but all-in-all, Ryu served as a reliable and effective starter.
Unfortunately, Ryu ended up missing the rest of May due to a groin strain that ultimately put him on the 60-day disabled list in early-June. At that point, it was questionable as to whether Ryu would rejoin the rotation and be an effective pitcher at all.
He surprised everyone by throwing six shutout innings against the Giants on August 15th. In the return outing, Ryu struck out six batters, walked zero, and scattered only three hits. Including that start, Ryu has been excellent in his return, throwing 52 2⁄3 innings, allowing only 11 earned runs, and posting a strong 53 to 5 strikeout to walk rate.
His post-injury performance earned him a coveted spot in LA’s playoff rotation, despite some stiff competition from Alex Wood (27 regular season starts), Ross Stripling (21), and Kenta Maeda (20), none of whom earned a call to start a playoff game.
Interestingly, Ryu’s fourseam fastball and sinker both have been the fastest this October:
His performance against Atlanta in the NLDS was nothing short of marvelous. Ryu went seven strong shut-out innings, scattering four hits, no walks, and eight strikeouts.
With the Dodgers strong relief corps at his disposal, Dave Roberts did not allow Ryu to get into too much trouble in an abbreviated start against Milwaukee. Over 4 1⁄3 innings, Ryu again did not walk a batter, but after a solo home run by Orlando Arcia, Roberts called on the Ryan Madson to finish the inning, and have the rest of the bullpen takeover from that point.
Ryu is in the last year of his contract and will be an interesting mid-rotation candidate. At 31 years old, Ryu’s biggest question will be his health, since his performance has been significantly above league-average. He’s nearly 15 years removed from Tommy John surgery, so the prospect of a second TJS is presents.
For the right team, Ryu could add decent depth to a rotation that can withstand him missing significant time, but may pay dividends later in the season, well into the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how Ryu performs for the rest of the NLCS and potentially into the World Series; the most he shows he can rise up to big games, the more suitors he may have come free agency.
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano