3.00 ERA / 3.24 FIP 192.0 IP 7.22 K/9 3.14 BB/9 3.1 fWAR (A+)
2013 in brief: Fantastic debut season, and might have been the Rookie of the Year if he’d signed in the American League.
2014 status: Firmly entrenched as a member of the Dodgers rotation.
Everyone give a hearty welcome to “TellMyWifeISaidHello”, who was a huge help by contributing a much-needed — and thorough! — Ryu review.
By the start of last off-season, we were all well aware of the Dodgers’ new-found financial power, already having seen them lay down 42 million for a yet to be fully understood Cuban outfielder and one of the biggest financial trades in sports history in the Great Nick Punto deal. All of that, plus an extension for Andre Ethier, and the signing of Brandon “listen I am actually really a nice guy it is not my fault Kasten and Co gave me three years” League. We also knew that the Dodgers were definitely looking for at least one starting pitcher, which led Mike to write in his first article about Ryu that:
“Honestly, if the Dodgers didn’t submit a figure, I’ll be shocked, so this is something we need to be paying attention to since he could be LA property by the end of the weekend.”
Oh boy, was Mike right on this one. The very next day it wasreported the Dodgers won the right to negotiate with Ryu for a bid of $25,737,737, or a little more than what we will bid for Tanaka. Also, apparently the number 7 and 3 are lucky in Korean culture so good on the Dodgers for being respectful and knowledgeable of other cultures. Anyway, at that point we fully expected Ryu to be signed, but were unsure where he would fit in seeing as he would be the seventh starter under contract and we still fully expected a pursuit of Zack Greinke as the number one starting pitcher on the market.
One month later, the Dodgers certainly had themselves a busy day, adding Greinke on December 8, and then barely beating the deadline to sign Ryu the very next day. That seems like a winner for best two days of last offseason to me.
As first reported by Mike, the contract was — when you take into account bonus opportunities — for 6 years and 42 million dollars, making the total outlay for Ryu 62 million without incentives. Which, if you thought Ryu was a reliever seemed high, but not if you believed Scott Boras, who thought of Ryu as a number three mid-rotation starter. That now seems totally reasonable, especially in an offseason where Anibal Sanchez gets 90 million and Edwin Jackson 52 million. All in all, at the time for team willing to spend money like the Dodgers it seemed very reasonable.
I am 100% positive Guggenheim has a vault like this and they let free agents they really want to sign carry out as much as they can in a bag and that is their contract.
It was not really until January, when Ryu came over for his press conference, that we truly began to appreciate how big a star Ryu was in South Korea. “The Monster” came to LA and made sure to visit one of the finest delicatessens LA and America has to offer in In-n-Out. This, along with his robust physique, and comments from him saying he will work himself into shape starting at the beginning of camp like he normally does, caused some concern among the Dodger faithful that maybe the Dodgers had bought someone who did not know when to put the fork down. You hardly could blame people with the Andruw Jones disaster still lingering on the payroll for the last few years.
In February, Spring Training finally started and Dodger fans got their first real exposure to the awesome person that is Ryu. Camp was barely three days old when Ryu laid a gem on us that I feel gave us a pretty good indication of the type of personality we had in Ryu and still makes me laugh. When asked about his first workout running alongside guys such as Clayton Kershaw, Ryu had this to say:
“Other players don’t listen to the trainer. The trainer says 35 seconds, why do they run in 26 seconds? I run in 35 seconds. Other people say I’m not in shape. There are two different shapes, one for fitness, one for throwing the ball.”
The above quote, along with ones from A.J. Ellis and Rick Honeycutt, that Ryu had excellent command and “a plus-plus” change up led us to be cautiously very excited about the Dodgers’ new Korean star.
As camp went by, Ryu went out there just like every other healthy pitcher that time of year, and it was not long before he got passed up as far as hot topics go by a certain Cuban. The two big stories of the spring for Ryu were the below gif of him making Rickie Weeks look silly and when Keith Law watched Ryu pitch March 6 against the Indians. Law was not very impressed by what he saw, saying that from what he saw he looked like a “fringy fourth starter.”
Ryu would go on to look better throughout spring training, and ended up starting the second game of the season against the Giants. He pitched well rather well for a 25 year old making his Major League debut, though he would later admit that he did have some nerves. His stat line for the night: 6.1 IP / 1BB / 5K / 10 hits. The ten hits were a little concerning, but in retrospect it was exactly what we grew to expect from Ryu. Solid work — while not Kershaw or Grienke spectacular — but hardly disappointing.
Ryu would start the season with a bang. In his first 18 starts before the All-Star break, he went at least 6 innings in all but two games, including what was probably his best start of the year (non-playoff edition) on May 28 against the Angels. His line that day was 9IP / 0BB / 7K / 2H. That was a game started against old friend Joe Blanton and Luis Cruz hit a go ahead HR. Crazy, I know. In those 18 starts Ryu posted a ERA of 3.09 and FIP of 3.58.
Ryu being excellent was especially important for the Dodgers, because along with Clayton Kershaw, he was one of the few consistent players on the Dodgers in one of the most tumultuous first halves in Dodger history. (As I’m sure you haven’t forgotten, this team was on pace for the worst record in LA Dodger history as late as June 22.) So like Mike did in his post at the All-Star break noting Ryu was an “Unsung Hero” what I am trying to say is without Ryu it could have been a lot worse.
From the All-Star break on, Ryu would only pitch in 12 game,s mostly because of the break being so late in the season and the Dodgers being able to skip him in September once when he had a sore back. For my money, the best start of the second half for Ryu was July 27 against the Reds, when he pitched seven innings and struck out nine allowing only one run and only walked one. Although he would not make it out of the 5th inning four times (though one was a meaningless warm up game at the end of the season) in the second half compared to only two in the first he actually pitched better with an ERA of 2.87 and FIP of 2.73.
Before we get into the whole season pitching numbers for Ryu, another thing we learned during the first year in the big leagues is that despite his physique, Ryu is definitely a world class athlete and competitor. Which is easy to see when you look at the fact that despite supposedly not having hit in a game-time situation since high school, he was still able to manage to get 12 big league hits this year, including three doubles and a triple, which led to him being given the nickname “Babe Ryuth.”
Ryu also was rated by Fangraphs as having saved 6.2 runs with his defense, which when combined with his only slightly below average base running and his bad (although good for a pitcher) hitting, he was able to provide a whole .3 fWAR before we even account for his pitching. Not bad for a guy who got more than his fair share of chubby jokes.
Okay so what of the end of season numbers. An ERA of 3.00 was 14th best among qualified pitchers. His FIP of 3.24 was 17th among qualified pitchers. He had an over 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio which included the 29th best walk per nine innings ratio in baseball. By ERA- Ryu was the 24th best starter in baseball with an 84. So while the strike out numbers are not exactly outstanding, with “only” 7.22 per nine innings, the whole package is one of a very solid number three if not number two starter even going by WAR he was 38th best pitcher in baseball above names like Gio Gonzalez, Ervin Santana and Jeff Samardzija.
When Mike took a look at Ryu at the midseason point one of the concerns for Ryu was that as the season was going on to that his velocity was decreasing and so were his strikeouts. Ryu had thrown 182.2 the year before for Hanwha, but he had done that with five days off in between starts unlike in the US where there are only four off days between starts. However, as you can see in the chart below after dipping to its lowest monthly average in May of 90.62 miles per hour his fastball ticked right back up in June to above 91 MPH where it stayed the rest of the season.
While Ryu never did increase the strikeout numbers significantly over his first half numbers, the key to Ryu getting even better in the second half was the reduced number of walks. Ryu allowed only 1.19 walks per nine innings in the second half compared to 3.01 in the first half. If Ryu can be anywhere near that second half number going forward he won’t need to strikeout more than 7 per nine to produce terrific numbers.
Going into the postseason there was some concern about Ryu and how he would handle his first post season in the big leagues. There was even some debate in September about whether Nolasco should start ahead of Ryu. That pretty much ended when Nolasco ended his hot streak and got lit up a few times in September. The uneasiness of having to start a rookie in the postseason was not helped by the news of Ryu throwing bullpen session in front of Neal ElAttrache someone whose name you never want connected to a pitcher.
Ryu, in his first postseason game, was while not a disaster certainly his worst effort of the year as he only went three innings and allowed four earned runs. Although Ryu did bring home one run on sacrifice fly. The Dodgers went on to win the game so the poor night was generally forgotten until Ryu was sent to the mound in game three of the NLCS with the Dodgers behind 2-0 and desperately looking for some life after two very close heartbreaking losses in St. Louis.
Ryu was not only down 2-0 and facing the cardinals one of the best lineups in baseball in 2013 he was also going head to head with Adam Wainwright a top 5 pitcher in the NL. Ryu responded with one of his finest games of the year seven shutout innings three hits one walk and four strikeouts in a game the Dodgers had to have. What a way to end the season for a rookie.
The TLDR: Ryu was excellent in his first year as a Dodger. 192 innings with a 3 ERA is awesome for any pitcher, especially one in a new country and a new league. While Dodger fans were cautiously optimistic about the southpaw Korean being a valuable member of the rotation in 2013 I do not think anyone besides maybe Ryu himself could say they expected him to come over and be as effective as he was in this year. Ryu was legitimately one of the best 35 starters in baseball and even better by many metrics. He would have a good argument as the number one starter on about half the teams in baseball. On the Dodgers he was just the third best, what a wonderful blessed time this is to be a Dodger fan.
Next! Edinson Volquez. Sigh.