TORONTO – Ross Atkins, general manager of Toronto Blue Jays, was just about to list the characteristics he liked best in Hyun-Jin Ryu – command, a varied arsenal, athletics – when he turned to the South Korean left-hander , who was sitting right in front of his husband and spoke to him directly.
"It's really fun to watch you," Atkins said to Ryu on Friday during the press conference where he introduced Toronto's newest arm. "It is remarkable what you have already achieved and we look forward to the success you will bring to this organization."
Undoubtedly, Ryu is a very entertaining pitcher that you should look at. At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, it is an imposing appearance on the hill and still brings a calm serenity to the competition. And there is no denying that he has achieved a lot in his seven-year MLB career. He led baseball with a 2.32 ERA last season and finished second in the National League Cy Young poll. And his 2.71 ERA since the beginning of 2017 occupies fourth place among the 115 qualified MLB starters during this period.
But how much success can Atkins and Blue Jays fans look forward to on Ryu's $ 80 million deal over the next four years? This is the unanswered question in the wake of the largest free agent pitching contract the franchise has ever awarded: https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/investment-hyun-jin-ryu-sign-changing- times-blue-jays / and one that makes a decisive contribution to whether the current reconstruction of the club is ultimately successful or not.
“He was out for the Cy Young last year – it tells you everything. We have one of the best pitchers in baseball and we will have the chance to win every time he takes the hill, ”said Charlie Montoyo, manager of Blue Jays. "He'll be our ace."
That much is certain – but Ryu will not be a dominant, fastball-heavy ace like the Astros Justin Verlander or the Yankees Gerrit Cole. Ryu's switch is actually his best pitch and one of the best off-speed weapons in the game. It's also his only plus, which is why he's thrown it more than any other pitch in the past season.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Filthy 83mph Changeup … and pic.twitter.com/LI8GRyojPS
– Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 7, 2019
Meanwhile, the average speed (90.7 miles per hour) and spin speed (2,084 rpm) on Ryus Fastball were among the lowest in MLB. The same applies to his cutter. And although his curveball is more flexible than average and can cause a certain "swing and miss", he is not considered to be the dominant playing field. Ryu does not overwhelm or surpass anyone.
Rather, he uses sequencing, control and deception to bring the batting team out of balance and to create soft contact. Think first-pitch curve balls for strokes, changes in the number of fastball and fastballs with two strokes. He repeats his delivery and maintains his discharge point exceptionally well, giving little indication of what will go out of his hand.
Elite command and control of baseball allow him to manipulate his pitches to move the way he wants to the plate and land where he wants when they get there , Each of these parking spaces moves differently and at different speeds. This is where most of the soft contact he makes comes from staying away from the heart of the plate and keeping the ball away from the bats' barrels.
It is also the reason why with 1.3 BB / 9 in the last two seasons he hardly surpasses anyone who is by far the lowest of all MLB starters (at least 150 innings). Ryu just pounds around the edge of the zone while his catchers mix and match his offering well enough to prevent hitter from picking up his patterns.
“Speed is of course an important factor. But since I was little, I've focused on playing more than just fastball, ”said Ryu about the interpreter Tad Yo. "Because if you throw it in the middle, they'll hit it."
All of this makes it terribly difficult for him to measure himself. The average exit speed that Ryu allowed in 2019 was 15th among the 436 MLB pitchers against whom at least 100 balls were used. It took sixth place among the 198, which allowed at least 200. And you can push it further up if you continue to increase the sample size, as Ryu was one of only 43 pitchers to have had more than 500 balls in play in 2019.
As the clashes in baseball increased, Ryus K / 9 dropped from 9.7 in 2018 to 8.0 in 2019. He simply allows a lot of contact and it is not negotiable for a team to have a skilled, reliable defense bullets squeak through a leaky infield and line drives are not shut down.
Ryu's 48.4 percent career groundball rate at least shows that he gets the type of contact you want half the time because the spread of the infield shift has increased the rate at which groundballs in outs being transformed. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Ryu's old team, made 40 percent of a move last season behind them, which was well above the league average of 25.6 percent.
On the left, the Dodgers field players positioned behind Ryu when he met left-handed people, and on the right they approached right-handed people:
Did anyone mention that Toronto 2019 made you a top 10 team across the board because of your preferred advanced defensive stats? It seems to be relevant.
The Blue Jays now expect a better defensive position in the field in 2020, with a reduced Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who may offer more range on the third base, while Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio continue to improve on shortstop and second. But the outfield is still a big question mark, especially in the center, which was mainly covered by the irregular paths of Teoscar Hernandez in 2019.
Montoyo may need to adjust his lineup to Ryu's tendencies on the days he plays. He plays Randal Grichuk in the middle and recently signed Travis Shaw, who has collected 26 DRS since 2015 as third baseman to minimize third place possibility of a defensive disaster. It may not be the same defense caliber Ryu used to do with the Dodgers, but it will be necessary.
Of course Ryu has to be on the hill for that to matter, and since his MLB debut in 2013, staying healthy enough to keep up has been an eternal struggle. He missed time due to foot and back injuries this year before they were twice on the injuries list in 2014 with shoulder and buttock problems. Then, in 2015, Ryu announced that he had been pounding with a torn labrum in his left shoulder for years and had surgery to address the problem. A year later, when he finally tried to play again, shoulder pain and a groin problem kept him away.
In July 2016, Ryu returned to the MLB for the first time in 22 months. It was also his last time in some time when elbow tendonitis slowed his comeback and eventually needed surgery two months later. In 2017, it was adductor, hip, foot, and forearm problems that limited Ryu to 126.2 innings. In 2018, a groin load kept him at 82.1. From 2014 to 2018, Ryu threw 365.2 MLB innings – or 73.1 per year. Also last season, when he was healthiest since he was a beginner, Ryu made two short trips to the injured list due to groin and neck problems.
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Yes, that's a lot. For this reason, the Blue Jays expect Ryu to be a little less than 500 innings than 800 in the next four seasons. 125 innings of elite pitching per season are of course still worth something. And for the Blue Jays that put Ryu through a lot of physical exercise this week, it's obviously worth $ 20 million a year.
"There is no free agent signature that you do not share risk with, and we feel that we have added incredible talent to the organization and that he has developed and learned from the major league as a professional and baseball player "Atkins said." We are confident that he will continue to do what he has to do to stay in the field. "
If he does, it is difficult to expect Ryu to post the same numbers this season as in the past two years. He changes to a more difficult league in which a designated batsman plays all nine instead of one thrower to play in a more powerful stadium before a poorer defense. He is one year older (Ryu will be 33 on opening day) and has thrown almost as many innings (182.2) last season as in the previous four (213.2). There's a reason why Steamer projected it to 2.9 fWAR after it was 4.8 in 2019.
But the only Blue Jays thrower who has had three wins since 2017 is Marcus Stroman, who no longer plays for the team. Even though Ryu is baked back in time to its recent performance, it is a massive rotation upgrade for a team that desperately needs it. Simply put, if he is healthy and shows off his skills, Ryu is one of the most effective starters in baseball. And the price to get this rare upward trend is the price the Blue Jays paid.
“We just keep trying to improve the organization. And there will be more options like this. And there were opportunities we missed, "said Atkins." But we will continue to do so. We are here for one thing and it is up for grabs. We are approaching these days. "