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The Season That Was: Hyun Jin Ryu

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A look at Hyun Jin Ryu’s 2021 season

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
How Head and Shoulders hasn’t done a commercial with the Jays players is beyond me.
Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Going into the second year of Hyun Jin Ryu’s four-year, $80 million contract, we thought pretty much knew what we had.

He was excellent in 2020, putting up a 2.69 ERA in 12 starts. He had a bad start in the Wild Card series, but bad games happen.

Ryu wasn’t an Ace in the Roy Halladay mode. We weren’t going to get 8 or 9 innings a start. And he wasn’t going to blow a 96 mph fastball past a batter, but he had 9.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. He was fun to watch. But, of course, we will like any pitcher who finishes top 3 in Cy Young voting.

And he was fun to watch. I enjoy watching pitchers who get by on movement and location.

Before the season, we asked if Ryu would have an ERA over or under the 3.58 ZiPS projected. 81% of us were wrong, unfortunately.

Standard Pitching
Age W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP ERA+ FIP
34 14 10 4.37 31 31 1 1 169.0 170 85 82 24 37 0 143 2 0 2 100 4.02
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2021.

Buck and Pat would point to the 14 wins and tell us he had a good season because he tied for the team lead.

Baseball Reference has him at a 1.7 WAR. FanGraphs liked him better, 2.5 WAR, making him worth $19.8 million to the Jays (that’s ok, Rogers made up the difference between that and the $20 million on his contract, on his cell phone bill).

Ryu had a .295 BABIP, down from .302 last year. 70.7% of the base runners he allowed were stranded, down from 80.5 last year.

His FIP was 4.37 and xFIP 3.94.

His line-drive rate was 20.1% (about the same as last year’s 20.9%), ground ball rate 46.8% (down from 51.1%) and fly-ball rate 33.1% (up from 28.0). 14.1% of his fly balls left the park ( up from 11.8).

Ryu’s strikeout rate was down (20.4%, from 26.2), and his walk rate was down too (5.3%, from 6.2).

His soft contact was down (13.7%, from 15.7), and his hard contact was up (29.9%, from 24.3).

I don’t think it will surprise you to hear that RHB (.259/.299/.447) hit him better than LHB (.255/.295/.390), or at least RHB hit him harder than LHB.

Ryu was better in road parks (3.78 ERA, batters hit .244/.278/.399) than in our various home parks (4.91 ERA, .271/.316/.467).

And, I’m sure you know, he was better in the first half (3.56 ERA, .245/.287/.419) than the second half (5.50 ERA, .276/.314/.456).

Ryu by month:

  • April: 1-2, 2.60 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit.241/.261/.398 in 27.2 innings.
  • May: 4-0, 2.64 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .235/.267/.357 in 30.2 innings.
  • June: 2-2, 4.88 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .233/.297/.457 in 31.1 innings.
  • July: 3-1, 2.73 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .265/.306/.392 in 26.1 innings
  • August 2-3, 6.21 in 6 starts. Batters hit .267/.309/.443 in 33.1 innings.
  • September: 2-2, in 5 starts. Batters hit .326/.363/.593 in 19.2 innings.

Things went well until the end of July, and then not so much.

The Jays were 19-11 in his starts. The team averaged 6.26 Runs in the games he started. They scored 3 or less 12 times. 7 or more 15 times. And scored double digits 8 times.

He started on:

  • Four days rest 13 times: 5.48 ERA.
  • Five days rest 11 times: 3.23 ERA.
  • Six or more 7 times: 4.35 ERA.

Opponent batting average by time through the order:

  • First: .257/.288/.430
  • Second: .264/.302/.467
  • Third: .252/.313/.393

Buck and Pat talk about Ray staying strong into the later innings, but Ryu deserves that credit.

Ryu’s best game by GameScore was a 76, May 18th in Dunedin against the Red Sox. He went 7 innings allowing 4 hits, 0 walks, with 7 strikeouts.

The worst start by GameScore was a 13, August 8th, in Toronto against the Red Sox. He went 3.2, allowed 10 hits, 7 earned, 1 walk with 1 k.

The most pitches he threw in a game were 107. Fewest 48. He averaged 86.7 pitches per start.

Ryu averaged 5.45 innings per start.


The end of the season slump is worrying. I’d imagine some combination of fatigue and the neck issue caused the troubles, but he turns 35 next March, so it is something to be concerned about.

The friendship between Ryu and Alek Monaoh has been fun to watch. There is a story on the MLB webpage about it. I like this:

At least, that’s what we see on the field. Behind the scenes, Ryu the person is different than Ryu the pitcher. He cracks jokes just like everyone else, Manoah says, and ensures that young pitchers are included. Ryu has taken Manoah under his wing, quietly and effectively.

“He’s a huge role model. He’s definitely like a big brother to me, somebody that I can look up to,” Manoah said. “He’s been through a lot of the things that I’m going to be getting ready to go through. He’s been in my footsteps before. I just have a ton of respect for him and everything he’s done in the league.”

I wonder how much teaching of various languages goes on in that clubhouse. Learning the different cultures would be a great extra benefit of being with that group.

Ryu had 13 Quality Starts, tied for 14th in the AL (Robbie Ray was number one with 23), which isn’t bad.

I have no idea how we predict what he will do next year.

Poll

For his 2021 season, I would grade Hyun Jin Ryu an

  • 4%
    A
    (22 votes)
  • 4%
    B+
    (20 votes)
  • 23%
    B
    (103 votes)
  • 30%
    B-
    (135 votes)
  • 19%
    C+
    (86 votes)
  • 10%
    C
    (46 votes)
  • 4%
    C-
    (18 votes)
  • 0%
    D+
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    D-
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (4 votes)
442 votes total Vote Now