Someone Like Ryu

On top of sharing the present author’s nationality, Hyun-Jin Ryu is noteworthy for his strong rookie season. After posting seven spectacular seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, Ryu was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in early December of last year. As the first South Korean player to be posted, some wondered how much the difference in competitive talent would hurt Ryu. One season doesn’t make a career, however it seems as though Ryu is the real deal.

Even as a left-handed starter, Ryu’s 90-93 mph fastball is middle of the road, but his off-speed repertoire is where he shines. Armed with a change-up, slider, and a curve that ranges from the high 60’s to the mid 70’s, Ryu kept hitters off balance for the entirety of the 2013 season. He didn’t wear down as the season progressed either, despite matching his career high in starts and coming within 25 innings of a single season career high.

One of the things that was most impressive about Ryu’s first MLB season was his consistency. His shortest outing the year was his final start of the regular season where he went his scheduled four innings in preparation for his playoff debut. Outside of that planned start, he failed to pitch into the sixth inning just three times. His 22 quality starts tied for 16th most in baseball and his 0.83 quality start percentage rated as 20th best among qualified starters. Of course, QS — and ERA — aren’t the best indicators of a pitchers season. Ryu’s 3.46 xFIP and 3.67 SIERA are still indicative of a talented starting pitcher.

A quirk that appeared among his stats was his 78.2% LOB% despite a 50.6% and .296 BABIP. Given what we know about ground balls having a higher BABIP than fly balls, it was surprising to see Ryu manage to post the 13th best strand rate of any qualified starter. Come next season expect a few more grounders to find the holes and drive his LOB% down and his ERA up, even after the club re-signed third baseman and Wilson’s Dodger Defensive Player of the Year, Juan Uribe.

Ryu is slated to be the Dodger’s number three starter — behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke — and has the chops to be a strong mid-rotation starter. He may not reach 200 strikeouts or post another 3.00 ERA next year, however that shouldn’t stop anyone from drafting Ryu alongside other mid-rotation starters. Despite strong defenders at the corners like Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez, Ryu’s everyday middle defense may have questions. Looking back at Eno Sarris’ write up of potential second baseman Alexander Guerrero as well as Hanley Ramirez‘s own defensive shortcomings, Ryu’s 3.55 ERA Steamer projection sounds about right. Expect a fair amount of strikeouts and solid-if-not-spectacular rate stats from Ryu…

Never mind, I’ll draft someone like Ryu
I wish for nothing but a S.P. two-ooo,
Take this and heed, don’t forget this, I plead
Ryu’s curve makes for a beautiful strike three

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The Foils
The Foils

There’s also the off-chance that Ryu solves his first inning problem, which would help keep his ERA suppressed.

Last year, he had a 5.10 ERA and a .869 OPS against in the first inning, compared to 3.00 and .660 overall.