Wins his first game back from injury in 444 days with two unearned runs in five innings vs. Cubs on Nov. 14

On May 27, 2022, the Toronto Blue Jays hosted the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Toronto’s “Korean Monster” Ryu Hyun-jin threw 65 pitches over five innings, allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and one strikeout. It was the second win in a row for Ryu, who picked up his first win of the season on May 21 with a six-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds. Up until that point, few baseball fans thought it would be a long 444 days before Ryu’s next win.

After pitching four innings and three runs against the Chicago White Sox on June 2, Ryu left the game early with elbow pain and was placed on the disabled list for the second time this season the next day. After a medical examination revealed a damaged medial collateral ligament in his left arm, Ryu underwent elbow ligament reconstruction surgery on June 18, ending his season. The surgery required at least a year of rehabilitation, and if the return was delayed due to recurrence of pain, his contract with Toronto could have been terminated.

However, Ryu returned to the big league mound 13 months after his surgery and completed his rehabilitation process. In his third game back in the big leagues, he pitched five innings of two-run relief against the Chicago Cubs on April 14, earning his first win in 444 days. It was a spectacular resurgence for the “Korean Monster,” who scoffed at the pessimistic predictions of some baseball fans that he might no longer be competitive as a starting pitcher given his age, now in his mid-30s.

How starting pitchers are still competitive at age 36

On June 18 of last year, when Hyun-jin Ryu underwent elbow ligament reconstruction surgery, he was 35 years old. That’s not a young age to undergo a surgery that requires at least a year of rehabilitation before returning to the mound. In fact, there are only a handful of starting pitchers in the major leagues who are over the age of 35, including Justin Verlander (Houston Astros), Max Scherzer (Texas Rangers), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals), and Zack Greinke (Kansas City Royals).

After pitching 18 innings of four-run ball in four rehab starts against minor league clubs, Hyun-jin Ryu took the loss in his big league debut against the Baltimore Orioles on April 2, allowing four runs (one earned) on nine hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He induced two double plays and showed excellent command, but stranding 10 runners in the fifth inning was a tough pill to swallow as a starter. This is why he was criticized for not being able to fully regain his effectiveness as a starter after returning from injury.

However, Ryu pitched a completely different game in his next two starts. After throwing a no-hitter against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Aug. 8, allowing just one hit and a walk before leaving the game in the fourth inning, Ryu pitched a five-hitter against the Cubs on Aug. 14, allowing two hits, two walks, three strikeouts, and two unearned runs. He gave up two runs in the first inning against the Cubs, but would have gotten out of the inning unscathed if not for an error by first baseman Brandon Belt.

Of course, it’s too early to tell whether or not Ryu is going to bounce back after just three games. But the Cubs, who Ryu faced on Thursday, were leading all of baseball in runs scored in the second half of the season (187) before that game. But the 36-year-old veteran held the red-hot Cubs lineup to just two hits over five innings. Ryu’s ERA, which started at 7.20 after the Baltimore game, dropped to 2.57 after the Cubs game.

Pitcher’s life is about direction, not velocity

When Ryu returned to the mound in 2017 after a two-year hiatus following shoulder surgery in 2015, baseball fans who watched him pitch were always concerned about his velocity. In fact, when his fastball was over 150 kilometers per hour, he rarely allowed his opponents to hit him hard, and when it was under 150 kilometers per hour, he was easily hit by long balls. This continued even after he moved to Toronto, and 150 kilometers per hour became the standard for checking his physical condition.

However, after returning from his elbow surgery, Ryu’s fastball wasn’t as good as it was before the surgery. Against the Cubs on April 14, Ryu’s fastball only touched 146 km/h and his average velocity was 142.3 km/h (88.4 mph), well below the major league average of 151.3 km/h (94 mph). But against the Cubs, Ryu proved once again that the most important factor for a pitcher is not the velocity or power of the ball, but its direction.

On the day, Ryu threw 86 pitches, few of which were up the middle and most of which were near the edge of the strike zone. The only long ball he allowed was a two-run double to Dansby Swanson in the first inning, and while he did give up two walks, he rarely gave up a hard hit except for a single in the first inning. One could argue that Ryu’s performance on the mound was an example of his “slower aesthetic” against the Cubs.

While Ryu is not categorized as a “power pitcher” in the big leagues, he does strike out a relatively high number of batters per nine innings in his big league career, 8.0. This season, however, he has only struck out eight batters in 14 innings pitched (5.1 per nine innings). Even though his strikeout rate has been declining, baseball is not a sport where a strikeout is worth two outs. This means that if Ryu can learn to get hitters to hit slower pitches with ease, we can expect to see him pitch more efficiently in the future.

Beating the odds against a former All-Star

Toronto has a solid and stable starting rotation this season, with Chris Bassett leading the way with 11 wins and Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, and Yusei Kikuchi combining for nine wins. It’s a dramatic turnaround for a team that struggled to find even a second starter to back up ace Hyun-jin Ryu, who went 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting in 2020.

However, there is one major name missing from Toronto’s lineup. Alex Manoa, the young Toronto ace who went 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA last year while Hyun-jin Ryu was rehabbing from surgery, was an All-Star and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting. After his best season last year, Manoa has slumped to a 3-9, 5.87 record in 19 games this year and was demoted to the minors on Aug. 12 after giving up seven runs on 10 hits and 10 walks in 10.2 innings (1-1, 5.91) in two games.

For a Toronto club in the thick of the wild-card race, Manoa, a 16-win pitcher last year, is the only reason they can afford to send him down to the minors. After taking the loss in his first game back, Ryu bounced back with a four-inning no-hitter in his second. After being hit in the knee by a hard-hit ball and having to be removed from the game, Ryu made Toronto manager John Schneider and fans giddy, but he was diagnosed with a minor bruise and pitched a complete game against the Cubs on Thursday.

At the end of the season, Ryu’s four-year, $80 million contract with Toronto will expire before the 2020 season. In order for Ryu to get another good deal in free agency this winter, it will be crucial for him to pitch as many games as possible over the remainder of the season to prove his worth. In that situation, Hyun-Jin Ryu was able to beat out competition from Manoa, last year’s All-Star pitcher and Toronto’s next ace with 16 wins, to remain in the starting lineup and get a chance to prove his worth for the rest of the season. 토토사이트