With less than a week away from Opening Day, Dave Roberts cleared up the Dodgers starting pitching question marks by announcing that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the season as one of the five in the rotation.
Hyun-Jin Ryu has continued to look solid for the Dodgers this spring, posting a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings pitched, including 12 strikeouts. Perhaps more important than his production is Ryu’s health and determination to pitch every five days as he attempts to come back from an elbow tendonitis injury that had him miss all (except one) games last season.
In Ryu’s 14 innings of work this spring, he’s only allowed 1 walk, which shows that he has command of his pitches. Hyun-Jin Ryu’s velocity has been steadily around the upper 80’s floating between 88 and 91 MPH. Right on track with his speed when he first joined the Dodgers.
This news would mean it’s the first time Ryu has been in the Dodgers rotation since 2014. Dodger fans can expect big things from Ryu if he continues to show that he’s healthy. In his first two seasons, Ryu was a combined 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA, and a WHIP just over 1.19.
What a healthy Ryu brings to the Dodgers is a consistent arm that takes the ball every fifth game and keeps the club in the ballgame. Ryu pitched 344 innings over the course of the 2013 and 2014 season and was a key to their divisional dominance. Hyun-Jin Ryu has continued to talk about his health all spring long, saying he feels as good as he did in his early seasons.
I’m definitely healthier than I expected when I came into spring training,” Ryu said.
If Ryu is healthy this is a huge boost. The rotation was already shaping out to be one of the best in the National League, but with Ryu in the mix, it may be in the discussion for the best rotation in all of baseball. That discussion is still on a wait and see approach until the Dodgers announce their fifth starter.
The fifth spot is still up for discussion but Roberts did say that it would either be Brandon McCarthy or Alex Wood. The player who doesn’t make the rotation will have a bullpen role to begin the season.
There are a lot of early speculations that McCarthy may have the edge over Wood for that last rotation spot, but Wood has certainly outperformed him during spring. Wood to the bullpen isn’t the worst of news for him as this was a move the team considered last season when the Dodgers were looking to upgrade their rotation. But until that last spot is figured out, Ryu will be one of the three, possibly four lefties in the rotation.
Ryu is in the middle of his 6-year, 36 million dollar contract he signed with the Dodgers back in 2013. He’s still only 30-years-old and will ease the pressure off the other back-end starters as the club waits for Urias to go through extended spring training.
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Ryu joins Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda as the Dodgers first four starters. This rotation could now compete with the likes of the New York Mets, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, and even the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians from the American League. Each of these rotations are headlined by an ace and the Dodgers undoubtedly have an edge in that area over every team with Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw had a league-high 7.6 WAR among all qualifying pitchers last season and this year will look to build off a season that was limited by his health.
The Dodgers’ rotation may not have the star-studded rotation like the Red Sox or have a flame throwing 1-2 punch like the Mets. But, the Dodgers have Kershaw who has more Cy Young Awards than all of those team’s rotations combined.
Outside of Kershaw and Hill, the rotation could pile up some sneaky strikeout numbers. Last season Maeda had a 9.16 K/9 ratio and Ryu has a career 7.71 K/9 ratio. What the rotation provides are quality starts. Kenta Maeda had 14 quality starts in his first season and Ryu had 41 in his first two. When you add that to their 177 innings pitched average, you have two quality starters to consistently rely on during the season.
Dave Roberts’ rotation certainly has a few question marks in the health column. Kershaw recovering from back injury, Hill being 37-years-old, Ryu recovering from an elbow injury, Urias’ youth, and all the inconsistencies of McCarthy and Kazmir. There’s certainly a reason to temper expectations. But if the stars align for the Dodgers the concerns could quickly shift to the other teams in MLB.
Roberts used 14 different starting pitchers last season so the injury concerns don’t phase him. If this is the rotation we see throughout the year I’d be shocked. But if it is, the MLB better look out.