|photo by Christine Cotter/Associated Press|
Friday, March 29, 2013
What to Expect from Ryu
Hyun-Jin Ryu had his best outing of the Spring in Anaheim last night. Throwing four innings of perfect baseball, setting down 12 batters in a row, including Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton. Ryu kept the the Angels off balance and actually motored up his velocity to 92 MPH. That speed of his fastball was a what scouting reports from Korea advertised tthat he had.
With all the attention that Puig got this spring, perhaps we missed out on the Dodger that will make the team and could win the Rookie of the Year Award, Hyun-Jin Ryu.
He reported into spring training camp out of shape and struggling to keep up with the pitchers during wind sprints. He let it be known that the pitchers were running “too fast” for his pace. Teammates joked with him and Ryu laughed it off too. Some diehard fans though weren’t amused, labeling him as “lazy,” and "unconcerned."
I protested on a popular Dodger message board and stated that the guy hadn’t yet thrown one inning of regular season ball and he was already being crucified. There were those that criticized him for not catching on to the deep seated curveball grip that Sandy Koufax suggested that he try. It was definitely different for Ryu. He tried it in bullpen sessions. He worked on it. He didn’t master it, but who was he to second guess the greatest left handed pitcher in history. He then tried it in a game. Twice. Results: a triple and a home run off of him.
Some knowledgeable fans I know of started to panic. They read a Keith Law piece at ESPN in which he questioned Ryu’s ability to pitch in the big leagues effectively due to low velocity. They were critical of Ryu’s demeanor, body language and what they perceived to be a careless attitude. They questioned his pitch selection, as it was known that he shook off his catcher in order to throw those pitches he was working on that were belted for run scoring hits.
I saw things a bit differently. I saw a pitcher that wasn’t afraid to experiment with pitches he was learning in real game situations. If there ever was a time to do that, it was early in the exhibition season. Ryu threw an experimental 3-2 pitch to Josh Hamilton a few weeks ago that was tattooed into the Tempe sky for a long home run. Last night, facing the same hitter and under circumstances more intense in the first Southern California action of the year, Ryu retired Hamilton with a crafty assortment of pitches that kept him off balance.
He retired Albert Pujols with an array of breaking stuff, change ups and fastballs. Striking out the Angels slugger and getting him to meekly ground out. After putting up unfavorable numbers early in Spring, Ryu finishes it with a 3.29 ERA and two consecutive outings in which he has held the opposition scoreless over his last 11 innings on the mound.
Ryu has high expectations of what he’ll achieve this season. His lofty goals include keeping an ERA in the 2’s and in winning the Rookie of the Year award. If he simply has a record a little over break-even and has an ERA in the high 3’s, that’s good enough for most of us. This is our back of the end starter and those numbers would be fantastic from a number 5 guy.
The Korean Baseball Organization has been compared to AA minors in the USA, so it’ll be quite a chore for the new lefty to mow down the National League in his debut season in America. But there is one thing that I have noted from Ryu in his few Spring Training outings: the man knows how to pitch. He knows his stuff and he is confident in mixing his repertoire to keep opposing hitters off balance. He also has the advantage of facing guys that don’t know him yet, which usually favors a pitcher the first time around the league. It wouldn’t surprise me his Ryu is an all star caliber starter during the first half of the season.
As the opening bell gets nearer and nearer, Ryu has gotten better. The game number 2 ball will be handed to Ryu against the defending champion Giants on April 2nd, and they won’t know what hit them. A little bit of David Wells, Al Leiter and Jerry Reuss all mixed up in one. Pin point control, confidence and savvy. That’s the Ryu that I’m seeing. Oh, yeah...and he still can’t run very fast too.