Heading into the 2019 season, it was clear that the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda would be among the best in baseball.
The season played out as expected as the Dodgers led the Majors with a 3.11 ERA from their starting pitchers. What no one could have predicted is that Ryu would be the best of the bunch.
After a strong 2018 season that was hampered a bit by a groin injury, Ryu returned to the Dodgers for one more season. He was extended a qualifying offer and wound up accepting it, foregoing free agency for another year.
Ryu rewarded the Dodgers for bringing him back by starting 29 games for the first time since his rookie season in 2013, and he was outstanding in many of those starts. The southpaw went 14-5 with an MLB-best 2.32 ERA to go along with a 3.10 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, 163 strikeouts and only 24 walks in 182.2 innings.
Ryu has dealt with a number of arm injuries throughout the course of his career with the Dodgers, which made his success this season all the more notable. While it led to an ERA title and potentially a Cy Young Award, Ryu said his main focus was on remaining healthy, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“Rather than the ERA title, coming into the season I was more concerned about my health. I wanted to make about 30 starts and despite only making 29 starts, I believe I got close to where I wanted. So the ERA title is more of a gift to me, like a surprise, because that wasn’t something that I was looking forward to coming into the season.”
While Ryu figures to be in the mix for a Cy Young, he himself admitted that he would probably vote for Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts worried a bias for East Coast players would lead to deGrom repeating.
Whether he receives the hardware or not, the 2019 season Ryu had was nonetheless a rousing success and will likely lead to a lucrative contract in free agency. Considering his injury history and his age (32), the Dodgers may be hesitant to enter a potentially robust market for the southpaw.