The vision may soon be a reality.
As we all know, Ryu has a propensity for learning new pitches quickly. As part of his comeback in 2017, he introduced his cutter to the league mainstream, which led him to his most a fantastic campaign in 2018 in terms of ERA and FIP, despite missing a good portion of the year due to a nasty groin strain. More importantly, the emergence of the cutter allowed him to use his four-seam as a setup pitch rather than his out pitch.
And, believe it or not, the 31-year-old lefty introduced a sinker last year, although he used it sparingly. When he did throw the sinker, it often lacked solid command; however, it’s yet another weapon he can pull out of his bag of tricks when he needs to.
Consequently, we all know how deadly his change and curve ball can be. These are the pitches that allow Ryu to bring home a decent MLB paycheck.
Ryu’s curveball now has more vertical drop than it’s ever had in his career—almost four inches more drop than it had during his limited action in 2017 and about four-and-a-half more inches of drop than the typical MLB curveball. So, not only is he controlling it better, it’s also breaking more than ever.
What’s more, Ryu’s changeup has been his most effective strikeout pitch, generating a 23% whiff rate and 55% chase rate in 2018. If he can find decent command with his sinker and slider while continuing to use his 91 MPH four-seam as a key setup offering, his ceiling will be amazingly high—if he’s able to stay healthy.
Last November, he accepted the club’s $17.9 million qualifying offer, which may turn out to be one of the offseason’s biggest bargains—again, if he remains durable.
During the 2018 regular season, Ryu made 15 starts and posted a 9-7 record, leading the entire club with a 1.97 ERA. He was instrumental in holding the staff together for the first few weeks of the season after the rotation suffered numerous injuries. Consequently, he made a brilliant comeback after the groin injury in late April. In the 2018 postseason, Ryu made four starts and threw an even 19 innings. His best start of the playoffs came in the NLDS against the Braves when he tossed seven shutout innings, striking out eight while surrendering just four hits and no walks.
After recording double-digit wins in each of his first two seasons, Ryu had shoulder surgery and missed his entire 2015 campaign, returning late in 2016 only to re-aggravate his shoulder problems. He made 24 starts in 2017, tallying a not-so-impressive 5-9 record with a 3.77 ERA. However, if he performs close to the peripheral numbers he put up in 2018, he could be one of the leaders of an already very talented staff.