Until he underwent elbow ligament reconstruction surgery (Tommy John surgery) in June of last year, Ryu Hyun-jin (36, Toronto) was doubtful whether he would be able to pitch properly from the mound in September 2023. Thinking about it now, he was worried for no reason, but up until then, there was a reason for all these worries.
The rehabilitation period for Tommy John surgery is usually 1 year to 1 year and 6 months. He was supposed to return in June or July 2023 at the earliest. In addition, Ryu Hyun-jin was in his mid-30s and had experience with this being his second surgery. It was natural for him to expect a full recovery period rather than a quick return. Given that his rehabilitation period was close to a year and six months, it was unclear whether he would be able to return to normal until the end of the 2023 season. It is not for nothing that pessimistic stories like “Ryu Hyun-jin’s career is over in Toronto” emerged.
However, Ryu Hyun-jin advanced the clock for his return through thorough rehabilitation and hard work. And he stuck to the rehabilitation clock he had set. He was close to returning at the end of July as predicted, and made an emotional comeback against Baltimore on August 2 (Korean time). Since then, on September 19th, he has participated in a total of 9 games, including the game against Boston, pitching 44⅔ innings, and has achieved excellent results with 3 wins, 3 losses, and an average ERA of 2.62. This is even more impressive considering that he is a player who is still experiencing the aftereffects of elbow surgery.
This isn’t just a result of luck. All indicators prove this. The hitting percentage is only 0.229. This is lower than Ryu Hyun-jin’s major league career average (.249). The number of players on base allowed per inning (WHIP) is also stable at 1.12. His velocity isn’t perfect, but he makes up for it with his variety of pitches and perfect command. He is dazzling opposing hitters with a 90 mph fastball, a mid-80 mph cutter, a 70 mph changeup, and a 60 mph curveball with a lower velocity. It is impossible to go in targeting just one type of pitch.
Ryu Hyun-jin’s four-seam fastball average speed is 88.4 miles per hour, which is in the bottom 2% of the league, but his average exit speed is 87 miles per hour, which is excellent. This is the same average exit velocity in 2020, when he ranked third in American League Cy Young Award voting. That means Ryu Hyun-jin’s pitching is stable. Since he has a slow velocity, he can pitch better by reducing the number of home runs he may have to endure. Again, this is all coming from a pitcher right after rehab from elbow surgery.
Ryu Hyun-jin’s skillful pitching also shone in the game against Boston held at Rogers Center, his home stadium, on the 18th. On this day, Ryu Hyun-jin threw 83 pitches in 4⅔ innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks. It wasn’t a day when he completely lined up the opponent’s batting lineup. He was caught in second and third base situations twice. But he didn’t concede a single point. There were quite a few runners, but the season ERA fell further from 2.93 to 2.62. This was possible because he had outstanding crisis management skills.
Thanks to Ryu Hyun-jin’s skillful pitching and the defenders’ performance, Toronto was able to maintain an early one-point lead. The sense of stability in the presence of runners was overwhelming. Ryu Hyun-jin allowed an infield hit to leadoff Devers in the second inning when the score was 0-0. Then, Duvall, who was exceptionally strong with two home runs against him in his career, was hit by a double that landed next to the left fielder, and he was pushed to second and third base with no outs. If he allowed just one run, it wasn’t a bad situation for the pitcher.먹튀검증
However, it was important that shortstop Bisset caught Devers on third base with a bold throw home when Reyes grounded out. In a situation where it was difficult to catch the ball with a runner on second base, it was effective to boldly avoid the runner and throw accurately toward home. Ryu Hyun-jin, who received defensive support, handled Story with a fly ball to center field and Dalbec with a fly ball to right field, ending the second inning with no runs. On this day, it was the beginning of Boston’s nightmare of targeting Ryu Hyun-jin.
In the third inning, he was hit by leadoff Maguire and allowed Raffaella to hit a double to left field. Third baseman Chapman put his glove on it, but it hit and bounced. Also, there were no outs on second and third base. However, Ryu Hyun-jin did not waver at all. He caught Refsnyder with a fly ball to left field and his old teammate Turner with a ground ball to third base. He walked Devers and had the bases loaded, but he caught Duvall with a fly ball to right field and cleared the mountain.
In the 4th inning, with one out, Story’s batted ball was dropped by Chapman, allowing him to get on base due to an error. Then, Dalbec also hit a hit, putting the runners on first and second base with one out. However, Maguire was treated as a double play toward the shortstop and the lights were turned off again. The play of second baseman Schneider, who skillfully avoided Dalbec’s sliding move to first base and threw well to first base, also stood out.
Local media praised Ryu Hyun-jin’s ability to overcome numerous crises in the early stages. ‘TSN’ said, ‘Ryu Hyun-jin showed off the crisis management skills of a master.’ Buck Martinez, a veteran commentator for ‘Sportsnet’, a Canadian sports network and broadcaster in Toronto, expressed his admiration, saying, “Look at what Ryu Hyun-jin did. It’s beautiful. The veteran pitcher escaped a difficult crisis.” On this day, Toronto suffered the humiliation of having no hits in 7 at-bats against Ryu Hyun-jin.
Although it was a tough decision with one out remaining as a victory condition, Ryu Hyun-jin finished the day with no runs as Garcia erased the successor runner in the 5th inning. The average ERA fell further. And through this day’s game, they achieved a meaningful first place. Over the past 42 days, there is only one American League pitcher with a better ERA than Ryu Hyun-jin.
Ryu Hyun-jin has appeared in a total of 8 games since August 8 and pitched 39⅔ innings. During this period, he recorded 3 wins, 2 losses, and an ERA of 2.04. During this period, there are only four major league pitchers with a better ERA than Ryu Hyun-jin. Kim Ha-seong’s teammates and strong candidates for this year’s National League Cy Young Award are Blake Snell (San Diego, 1.88), Freddie Perala (Milwaukee, 1.94), Brandon Woodruff (Milwaukee, 1.97), and Sonny Gray (Minnesota, 1.99). Among them, Gray is the only American League pitcher.
Senga Kodai (New York Mets), who is showing peak performance in the second half of the season, also recorded an ERA of 2.22 in 7 starts during this period, but ranked 7th overall, lower than Ryu Hyun-jin. In the case of Ryu Hyun-jin, having sufficient physical strength was also an advantage in being able to rise to a high rank. During this period, there were 21 major league players with an ERA below 3.00.
Now, there is interest in whether he can maintain this ERA and achieve good season results and lead Toronto to the postseason. Ryu Hyun-jin’s regular season appearances are almost over. According to the rotation, he will appear in the away game against Tampa Bay starting at 5:10 a.m. on the 24th. Tampa Bay is a strong team that has virtually confirmed first place in the American League wild card. Ryu Hyun-jin also owes Tampa Bay a debt in the 2020 postseason.
The next and final appearance of the season will be the first game of the final home series against Tampa Bay, which will be held at 8:07 a.m. on the 30th. Unless the rotation is adjusted, Ryu Hyun-jin will have to fight against Tampa Bay in both of his remaining two appearances in the regular season.
Toronto, which swept over the mountain called Boston, now only has games remaining against the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay. The schedule is to first visit the away sites of the two teams and play a six-game series, then return to the home team and play a six-game series. Toronto is ahead of Texas (71.2%) and Seattle (52.6%) with a 78.9% probability of advancing to the postseason according to statistics website ‘FanGraphs’. If Ryu Hyun-jin wants to pitch even one more game in a Toronto uniform, the team must go to fall baseball.