(Here’s another great guest article from our friend Michael Pina. This time Michael weighs in on the consistency from Hyun-jin Ryu, who has truly been a workhorse this season for the Dodgers. Thanks Michael!)
Heading into a 2013 season that was overloaded with towering expectations induced by a massive payroll, the Los Angeles Dodgers have finally begun to turn the corner.
After opening the season with a 13-13 April, struggling to a 10-17 record in May, and allowing an obscene 118 runs in June, the Dodgers have played like the best team in baseball in July, going 15-4 and scoring 116 runs while giving up only 60. On Thursday they pushed their first place lead in the National League West—with a 53-47 record—to a game and a half in front of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
There are many reasons for the team’s turnaround, most notably Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier absolutely destroying every other pitch they see, and Clayton Kershaw notching 15 strikes outs for every walk in the month of July.
But oft-overlooked rookie starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu has been one of the biggest reasons why this team has been able to steer through those murky May waters. Through the first 19 starts of his career, the 26-year-old South Korean has been rock solid, going 8-3 with a 3.25 ERA. Ryu’s flummoxed hitters in his first season with a changeup that glides over the plate under 80 miles per hour, on average. That’s pretty slow.
He keeps exactly half of all balls put in play on the ground, with a 50% ground ball percentage and allows just .74 home runs per nine innings, which is good for 25th in the league among all pitchers who qualify.
Far from a strikeout machine—he has a 2.41 K/BB ratio and his 7.08 K/9 inning barely cracks the top 50—Ryu simply manages to get hitters out. Opponents are hitting just .249 against him, which equals James Shields and Tim Lincecum. He has a tendency to put men on but has been effective getting out of what would otherwise be troublesome situations, leaving 77.3% of all base-runners on. (With runners on base Ryu’s batting average against drops to .230, and when those runners are in scoring position it falls even further, down to .198.)
As great as his ability to win games (a statistic that only tells us so much about any pitcher) and prevent runs has been, Ryu has blemishes. And by blemishes, I should say he’s regularly owned by left-handed hitters.
For the year, lefties are hitting .294 (as opposed to .233 for right-handers), with an on-base percentage of .359 with .454 slugging. Those numbers obviously aren’t the best, but Ryu’s able to dance around them thanks to the relative dominance in which he treats righties.
Whenever he pitches away from Dodger Stadium, Ryu walks batters more and strikes out batters less. His WHIP goes from 1.17 to 1.41 and he leaves nearly 20% less batters on base. And that’s before talking about his ERA, which is a scintillating 1.90 at home and 4.62 on the road.
If Ryu can continue on with his consistent effort, balancing his elite performances at home with some modest outings on the road, the Dodgers could find themselves with an imposing starting rotation once the playoffs start.