After enjoying a successful 2018 campaign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted the qualifying offer extended to him this past winter and returned to the organization for a seventh consecutive season.
With another chance to become a free agent this offseason, Ryu has continued pitching at an elite level through the first two months of the 2019 regular season. More importantly, he has done so while maintaining his health.
A brief stint on the 10-day injured list aside, Ryu has already logged 10 starts and is well on-pace to surpass last season’s total of 15. Moreover, he has been one of the most difficult pitchers for teams to produce runs against.
Ryu nearly tossed a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals earlier this month and was named National League Player of the Week for May 6-12. Additionally, the left-hander at one point logged 31 consecutive scoreless innings over a span of four starts.
Ryu has reached that level of success despite an unorthodox between-starts routine that bypasses a bullpen session in favor of other workouts, he explained to Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“I don’t really see it as a problem if I don’t throw a bullpen,” Ryu said. “I spend more time recovering.”
This preference renders Ryu an outlier in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. He spends the first day after an outing strengthening his left shoulder and engaging in low-impact cardio to protect the groin muscle he tore last season. The next day involves running and the third day focuses on his upper body. He spends the day before a start studying his opponent.
Most pitchers typically rely on bullpen sessions in between starts to stay sharp. But for Ryu, who prioritizes recovery, he has proven that starters can thrive in their own unique ways.
In 10 starts this season, Ryu leads the Majors with seven wins and a minuscule 1.65 ERA. He has allowed just 50 hits and four walks in 65.1 innings pitched while accumulating 62 strikeouts.
Ryu’s fast start to the 2019 season has put him in the conversation for potentially earning a spot in the MLB All-Star Game. He hasn’t pondered the prospect of that yet, but would be appreciative of the honor.
Ryu has particularly been superb at Dodger Stadium, compiling a perfect 5-0 record, 1.22 ERA and 0.65 WHIP with 38 strikeouts against one walk in 37 innings pitched (five starts).
In the month of May, Ryu posted a 4-0 record, 0.71 ERA and 0.68 WHIP over 38 innings with 29 strikeouts compared to two walks. He allowed a mere three runs in five starts.