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Hyun Jin Ryu

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Hyun-Jin Ryu

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Biographical Information[edit]

Ryu in 2013.

Fresh out of high school, Hyun-Jin Ryu exploded onto the scene of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2006. He was the winning pitcher in the Gold Medal game at the 2008 Olympics.

Ryu had Tommy John surgery while in high school. Making 20 million won ($21,520), Ryu dominated the KBO for the 2006 Hanwha Eagles. He went 18-6 with one save and a 2.23 ERA while striking out 204 in 201 2/3 innings. He became the first player in the 25-year history of the KBO to be named Rookie of the Year and win the Korea Baseball Organization MVP award in the same season. Seung-hwan Oh had just missed the feat a year earlier, finishing second in the MVP race. Ryu also became the first pitcher in 15 years to win the pitching Triple Crown; Dong-Yol Sun had been the last hurler to do so. For the MVP award, he beat out a batter who had won the Triple Crown as well - Dae-ho Lee. He also won a Gold Glove Award. In the playoffs, though, he went 4 games without a win. His salary increased fourfold in his second year. He won a Bronze with South Korea in the 2006 Asian Games.

Ryu was 17-7 with a 2.94 ERA in his sophomore season. He struck out 178 batters in 211 innings to again led the KBO, robbing Danny Rios of a pitching Triple Crown; Rios was second in Ks and led in ERA and wins. Ryu tied Kenny Rayborn for second in wins and finished fourth in ERA.

Ryu was with South Korea for the 2007 Asian Championship. He started game one and allowed two runs in five innings in a win over the host Taiwan national team. Ryu was 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament, allowing 10 hits in six innings. He took South Korea's only loss with a rough outing against Team Canada, giving up a 3-run first-inning homer to Matt Rogelstad in a 4-3 defeat.

Ryu began 2008 strong, going 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA in April. In May, he was 0-2 with a 5.72 ERA. He was then sidelined with inflammation in his pitching elbow. He starred for South Korea in the 2008 Olympics, going 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA. In 17 1/3 IP, he allowed 10 hits and struck out 13 batters. He went the distance in a shutout of Team Canada in a 1-0 win. In the Gold Medal game, he went 8 1/3 IP in a 3-2 win over the Cuban national team, allowing solo homers to Michel Enríquez and Alexei Bell. He allowed Cuba to load the bases in the bottom of the 9th on a single to Héctor Olivera Jr. and walks to Frederich Cepeda and Bell. Tae-hyun Chong relieved Ryu and closed out the win as South Korea won Gold in its brightest moment on the international stage. He tied Suk-min Yoon, Norge Vera, Hideaki Wakui and Jonder Martínez for the most wins in Beijing. Overall in the 2008 KBO, Ryu was 14-7 with a 3.31 ERA, a significant drop-off from his strong start. He tied Suk-min Yoon for second in the league in wins, behind Kwang-hyun Kim. He was second to Kim in strikeouts and was 8th in ERA.

Ryu was 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic; his five appearances tied Hyun-wook Jong and Chang-yong Lim for the lead on the second-place Korean squad. In the Gold Medal game, Ryu relieved Jong in the 8th with a 2-1 deficit, one on and one out. He allowed a double to Atsunori Inaba and a sacrifice fly to Akinori Iwamura. Chang-yong Lim would replace him; Korea went on to lose 5-3.

In 2009, Ryu was 13-12 with a 3.57 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 189 1/3 innings. He finished 8th in ERA, tied four others for 4th in wins, was second to Aquilino Lopez in innings and led in strikeouts (13 ahead of runner-up Jeong-hoon Cho).

Starting 2010 strong (5-2, 2.18, 61 K in 62 IP), he set the nine-inning game record for strikeouts in the KBO by whiffing 17 LG Twins on May 11. That broke the record shared by Dae-jin Lee, Dong-won Choi and Dong-yol Sun for over a decade. He fell one shy of Sun's record for a game, regardless of length. Also that year, he set a KBO record with 23 consecutive quality starts (tabbed by the Korean media as a world record).

Ryu is a 6 ft 2 in, 215 lb left-handed pitcher. He throws a fastball around 90 mph (tops out at 95 mph),a decent curveball,a slider, and a deceptive changeup. Scouts say that the changeup is his best pitch and is a legitimate out-pitch at the big league level. As the team's ace he'd had a heavy workload since his rookie season in teen-age.

In 2012, he had only 9 wins for the last-place Eagles, although with a solid ERA under 3.00. After the season, he asked that his name be placed on the posting system. On November 10th, the Los Angeles Dodgers secured the exclusive right to negotiate with him by bidding $25,737,737.33, the third-highest amount ever, after the sums which secured rights for Japanese pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish. The figure was based off the numbers 7 and 3 being considered lucky numbers in South Korea. Ryu was represented by agent Scott Boras for those negotiations. On December 9th, he signed a six-year contract with the Dodgers, worth $36 million. He made his major league debut for the Dodgers on April 2, 2013, starting against the San Francisco Giants in the second game of the season. He gave up 10 hits and 3 runs (only one earned, though) in 6 1/3 innings and was charged with his team's 3-0 loss as his opponent, Madison Bumgarner combined with reliever Sergio Romo on a two-hit shutout. He picked up his first major league win in his next start, on April 7th, a 6-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. After giving up a two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen in the 1st inning, he pitched a total of 6 1/3 innings, giving up just those two runs on three hits and striking out 6. He had another great performance on April 13th, striking out 9 in 6 innings and collected his first three big league hits in defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks. On May 28th, he recorded his first career shutout, a two-hitter in a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He finished the year 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA and even hit .207/.233/.293 after not batting the KBO. He tied Stephen Strasburg for 8th in the 2013 NL in ERA and tied 7 others for 10th in wins. He struggled (6 H, 4 R in 3 IP) in a no-decision in game 3 of the NLDS but excelled (3 H, 0 R in 7 IP) in the NLCS to beat the Cardinals; he outdueled Adam Wainwright but LA still fell in six games. He finished 4th in voting for the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Award behind Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig and Shelby Miller. He was named the lefty pitcher on the 2013 Topps All-Star Rookie Team while Fernandez was picked as the righty.

Ryu started and won the second of two games played by the Dodgers against the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 23, 2014. He pitched 5 scoreless innings that day, then was the team's starter in its next game, Major League Baseball's formal stateside Opening Day against the San Diego Padres on March 30th. He received that assignment because ace Clayton Kershaw had been placed on the disabled list in the meantime. He had another excellent game, keeping the Padres off the scoreboard for seven innings before his bullpen blew his 1-0 lead. On May 26th, he followed the no-hitter thrown by teammate Josh Beckett with seven perfect innings against the Cincinnati Reds before allowing a lead-off double to Todd Frazier in the 8th. Although he failed in his attempt to throw the first back-to-back no-hitters by teammates, his performance did allow the Dodgers to tie the record of 17 consecutive hitless innings, once the hitless 9th inning hurled by Paul Maholm two days earlier was added to the total. The 2012 Los Angeles Angels had set the mark around a Jered Weaver no-hitter. Ryu left the game against the Reds in the 8th but was credited with the 4-3 win to improve to 5-2 on the year. For the season, he went 14-7, 3.38 in 26 starts, to establish himself as a solid number three starter behind Kershaw and Zack Greinke. He missed a month of the season, from April 21-May 21 because of inflammation in his shoulder, and rested the shoulder again from mid-September to the postseason. He still managed to pitch 152 innings during which he struck out 139 batters. He started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals and gave up only 1 runs in 6 innings but was still charged with a 3-1 loss.

Ryu experienced more shoulder pain during spring training in 2015 and as a result had to be placed on the disabled list to start the season. He never made it to a major league game that year, as on May 20th, the Dodgers announced that he would need to undergo season-ending surgery on the injured shoulder. His absence was keenly felt, as the Dodgers struggled to find a number three starter behind their ace tandem of Kershaw and Greinke, a situation that contributed to another early exit from the postseason. His troubles continued in 2016, when he was limited to 1 start, which he lost with an 11.57 ERA. He was back in 2017 and made 25 appearances, but with poor results - especially considering that he was pitching for a team that won over 100 games. He went 5-9, 3.77, pitching 126 2/3 innings and did not appear at all in the postseason when the Dodgers made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.

Ryu was off to an excellent start in 2018, going 3-0, 2.12 in April. Unfortunately, he suffered a badly pulled hamstring in his next start on May 2nd, putting him out of action until the second half. He was only activated on August 15th, but when he reintegrated the starting rotation, he got back to where he was when he had left off. His ERA was an excellent 2.38 in 4 August starts, and was even stingier in his first 4 September starts, with a 1.50 ERA. That included a great game on September 23rd when he pitched 6 scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres and also had 3 hits in a 14-0 win. He finished at 7-3, 1.97 in 15 starts with 82 1/3 innings pitched. He was selected as one of the Dodgers' four starters in the postseason and won his first start against the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, pitching 7 scoreless innings. However, he was winless in his other three starts, two in the NLCS and one in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.

On November 12th, he accepted a qualifying offer to return to the Dodgers on a one-year contract worth $17.9 million in 2019. On May 12th, he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Washington Nationals before allowing a double to Gerardo Parra with one out. He completed the inning and received credit for a 6-0 win. Had he successfully completed the no-hitter, it would have come with an interesting side note, as in the 6th inning, his mound opponent Stephen Strasburg hit what appeared to be a single to shallow right field, but Cody Bellinger pounced on the ball and threw a rocket to Max Muncy at first base to beat Strasburg by a half a step and keep the no-hit bid alive. His next start, on May 19th against the Cincinnati Reds, was another strong one, as he pitched 7 scoreless innings in an 8-3 win. That extended his scoreless streak to 31 innings, as he had pitched a complete game shutout against the Braves in the start that had preceded his no-hit bid. His record was a sparkling 6-1, 1.52 at that point. The shutout streak ended on May 25th when he gave up a run to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2nd inning, but he still won the game, 7-2. He was named the National League Pitcher of the Month for May after going 5-0, 0.59 during the month. He was then not only named an All-Star for the first time but was also selected to start the game for the NL. He finished the year at 14-5, 2.32 in 29 starts. He won the ERA title in the National League (in fact, he led the majors in ERA) and also struck out 163 batters in 182 2/3 innings. he started Game 3 of the Division Series against the Washington Nationals on October 6th and gave up 2 runs in 5 innings to be credited with a 10-4 win. However, Los Angeles was eliminated in five games.

Ryu became a free agent after the 2019 season and was courted by a number of teams. It was a dark horse candidate that signed him however, as the Toronto Blue Jays committed on December 23rd to a four-year deal worth $80 million. His agent was Scott Boras, for whom it was already the sixth very large deal he had negotiated that off-season. He was the starting pitcher in the long-delayed opening game played at Tropicana Field on July 24th. He held the Tampa Bay Rays to a single run through 4 innings before tiring with two outs in the 5th when he gave up a walk, a homer to Yoshi Tsutsugo and a double to Jose Martinez before being lifted in favor of Jordan Romano, one out shy of qualifying for the win. The Jays did win the game, 6-4. After a poor performance in his second start, he finally gave the Jays the kind of effort they had been expecting on August 5th, when he held the Atlanta Braves scoreless for five innings, allowing just one hit, to receive credit for a 2-1 win. He finished the season at 5-2, 2.69 in 12 starts and was clearly the Blue Jays' ace as they returned to the postseason for the first time since 2016. On September 30th, he started Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Rays, but it did not go well as he gave up 7 runs (3 earned) in 1 2/3 innings to be charged with the 8-2 loss that ended the Jays' season. Following the season, he was named the winner of the 2020 Warren Spahn Award as the best left-handed pitcher in the major leagues that season.

He was again the Jays' opening day starter in 2021, facing the Yankees on April 1st. He pitched well in April, with an ERA of 2.60 in 5 starts, although he was just 1-2, then did just as well in May, but this time picked up his share of wins as he went 4-0, 2.64. However, he seemed to lose his way in June and early July, as his ERA shot up to 3.56. However, the extended rest around the All-Star Game seemed to do him a world of good, as he was back to his early-season self in his first game back, facing the Texas Rangers on July 18th. In the first game of a doubleheader, he pitched his first complete game shutout as a Blue Jay, and in fact the first complete game by a Jays pitcher since May 18, 2019, when emergency starter Ryan Feierabend had been credited with a four-inning complete game in a rain-shortened game. Before that, one had to go back to Marcus Stroman in 2018 for the most recent complete game, and all the way to 2015 for a starting pitcher receiving credit for a shutout! He finally made his long-awaited debut in home threads at the Rogers Centre on August 3rd, defeating the Cleveland Indians, 7-2, for his 11th win of the season. However, he ended the season on a down note, going 4-5, 6.79 in the last two months as the Blue Jays barely missed the postseason. He finished the season at 14-10, 4.37 in 31 starts with 143 strikeouts in 169 innings.

He started off 2022 poorly, giving up 6 and 5 runs in his first two starts, in 3 1/3 and 4 innings respectively. The Jays' strong offense saved him from losses in either start, but on April 17th he was placed on the injured list with forearm issues. He returned on May 14th and for a while looked like his old self, winning his next two starts in convincing fashion while allowing just 2 runs in 11 innings combined. However, he once again struggled in a 7-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on June 1st, leaving after 4 innings during which he had allowed a pair of homers leading to 3 runs, and he returned to the injured list immediately after the game. The issue was originally described as a forearm strain, but on June 14th, the Blue Jays announced that Ryu was likely done for the season due to a problem with his elbow. He was 2-0, 5.67 in his 6 starts. Indeed, a few days later, the team announced that Ryu would undergo Tommy John surgery, putting him out for the remainder of the season, and most or all of the following one. Heading into the 2023 season - the final one of his four-year contract with the Blue Jays - the plan was for him to be ready to pitch the second half of the season. he met that timetable, as the Jays announced that he would be making his first start of the 2023 season on August 1st against the Baltimore Orioles. After giving up a pair of 1st-inning runs, he settled down and after five innings, the score was tied, 3-3. However, manager John Schneider left him in the game for one batter too many as Gunnar Henderson led off the top of the 6th with a solo homer. Ryu was immediately removed from the game at that point, but the Jays' bullpen faltered, giving up seven more runs over the final three innings and he was charged with the 11-3 loss. In his second start on August 7th, he pitched 4 hitless and scoreless innings against the Cleveland Indians before taking a batted ball off his right knee, forcing him to leave the game.

Main Sources: 2007 Baseball Almanac, KBO player page, Defunct IBAF site, 2008 Olympics, Korea Times, Baseball Beyond Our Borders ed. by George Gmelch and Daniel Nathan

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Alexis Brudnicki: "'Hello, Canada! Bonjour!' Ryu makes fast friends: Majors' 2019 ERA leader hopes to fill void at front of Blue Jays' rotation",, December 27, 2019. [1]
  • John Chidley-Hill (The Canadian Press): "Hard work returns Hyun-Jin Ryu to Blue Jays rotation after Tommy John surgery", Yahoo! Sports, July 29, 2023. [2]
  • Ken Gurnick: "Ryu expects to be ready for Spring Training: Dodgers lefty reports no discomfort after shoulder surgery in May",, December 18, 2015. [3]
  • Ken Gurnick: "All-Star stage a new level for NL starter Ryu",, July 9, 2019. [4]
  • Keegan Matheson: "Ryu wins Warren Spahn Award as top lefty ",, December 22, 2020. [5]
  • Keegan Matheson: "As elbow rehab advances, Ryu wants to finish what he started",, March 20, 2023. [6]

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