After some injury-plagued seasons, Hyun-Jin Ryu will be entering 2018 considerably healthier and more confident than in past seasons. We saw him as a pitcher that was having to re-establish himself last year and ended up doing quite well. Even with an ERA under 4.00, 2018 will be a much bigger test for Ryu as he battles to crack the Los Angeles starting rotation.
There seems to always be questions about the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting rotation going into Spring Training – and eventually, a new season. One of, if not the biggest one this year being, where will Hyun-Jin Ryu be slotted in the Los Angeles rotation?
Time and time again, the ‘issue’ of a surplus in pitching depth is brought up, and, entering every season, it seems that the Dodgers continue to do heavy evaluation throughout their entire pitching staff, as necessary. Having this ‘problem’ of a strong pitching staff is never a bad thing, but it is usually most difficult to figure out the formula that will eventually play best for the team. Among Kershaw, Hill, Wood, and Maeda, Ryu could also see himself competing among Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, in locking down that potential fifth spot.
Ryu will turn 31-years-old before the regular season gets underway, and the Dodgers would like nothing more than a solid spring of building arm strength, stamina, and ultimately, confidence. If Hyun-Jin Ryu can once again show his ability to execute his top pitches against big league bats, there will almost certainly be a spot for him in the starting rotation. However, there are a few things that will need tweaking, and that should likely come in Spring Training, and maybe some adjustments early in the season as well.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, among many other pitchers in the Majors last season (yes, even Clayton Kershaw), gave up an astronomical number of long-balls. In comparison to his first full season with the Dodgers in 2013, where he pitched 192.0 innings, while allowing only 15 HR; Ryu gave up a scary amount of 22 HR through only 126.2 innings pitched in the 2017 campaign.
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Clearly there was rust that needed to be shook off after his earlier seasons that dealt heavily with injuries. There simply was not enough execution in his pitches with an already below MLB average velocity. Whether it was hanging a breaking-ball to be pounded, or missing a location with his fastball, Ryu needs to be sharper and command a more thorough game plan. Hyun-Jin will have to make the necessary adjustments if he wants to enjoy a successful 2018.
Since Hyun-Jin Ryu has never been known to be overpowering by any stretch, he will lean heavily on his ability to pitch with finesse. With good command of the strike-zone, he aims to see his home run numbers remain low and maintain a solid ERA as well.
The Dodgers may end up with a six-man rotation as a way of providing extra relief and rest to the other starters. This could further increase Ryu’s chances of success. Barring any injury or complete lack of performance, it is most likely that the Dodgers will ride Ryu into a spot.
While he will be watched carefully in terms of resting and fatigue, there will be a lot of emphasis left on Ryu’s focus and grind to make 25 or more starts in 2018. Hopefully he’ll earn his way to a quality bounce back season. Ultimately, the stars appear to be lined up well enough for Hyun-Jin Ryu to take the ball as the fifth starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018.