When Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers last November, most considered it a win-win for both parties. Ryu was coming off an encouraging 2018 campaign but still faced some injury concerns, while the Dodgers could stand to benefit from his experience in their rotation.
Even with two brief stints spent on the 10-day injured list this season — in April because of a groin strain, and this month due to neck stiffness — Ryu has far and away exceeded even the loftiest of expectations.
He returned Sunday to throw seven shutout innings, allowing just five hits and collecting four strikeouts. Ryu improved to 12-2 and lowered his MLB-best ERA to 1.45. That is on pace to set the franchise record for lowest ERA by a Dodgers starter in a single season (minimum 20 starts).
The mark belongs to Rube Marquard, who had a 1.58 ERA in 1916. Second on the list is Clayton Kerhaw (1.69 ERA in 2016) and Sandy Koufax (1.73 in 1966); Koufax additionally posted a 1.74 ERA during the 1964 season.
“It’s definitely unbelievable,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “Like I’ve said many times, I don’t think it is all because of myself. There are many people around me, especially my teammates, who have helped me reach that. My goal is to finish the season strong.”
That Ryu put together another masterpiece at Dodger Stadium was hardly a surprise. He’s 9-0 with a 0.81 ERA in 11 home starts this season. He has pitched at least six innings and not allowed more than two runs in each of those games.
Just as remarkable as Ryu’s ERA is his success is coming during a time when velocity reigns supreme. “Changing speeds, pitching to all four quadrants, keeping guys off balance. He’s like Houdini, man,” Justin Turner said.
“He gets in trouble and he seems to always find a way out of it. I think he’s a prime example of if you locate pitches, change speeds and keep guys off balance, you can get a lot of outs and be very efficient in this game.”
Although most consider Kershaw the de facto leader of the starting rotation, Roberts recently explained he views the Dodgers as essentially having three aces in Kershaw, Ryu and Walker Buehler.
He noted each has a different personality that makes them unique, but also a highlighted similarities in their focus and competitive spirit.