The game is his art, he has just taken the scenic route to paint his picture. Injury after injury, Hyun-Jin Ryu’s career gets questioned. But, it seems, time and time again, that when he returns to the mound he is well worth what the Dodgers are paying him.
That price is no joke. This year, Ryu is set to make $17.9 million dollars on a one-year pact due to the qualifying offer he chose to accept. The now 31-year old southpaw will spend his fifth season with the Dodgers, five seasons in which he has made just 96 total starts. And that number five does not tell the whole story as in 2015 Ryu did not make a single appearance.
This is the story of Ryu. He has gotten hurt countless times but he does bounce back.
His rookie season, 2013, was amazing. It was pure dominance from the 26-year old Korean it was a season so strong, he finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting behind the late Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller and his teammate, Yasiel Puig.
2014- much of the same. Not as good as his rookie year but his sophomore season was still impressive. Ryu worked hard in games, pitching deep into them working through batters with finesse, not velocity. He was a talented young player, a force to be reckoned with. In 2014 it looked like the Dodgers made a worthwhile investment for a player from overseas.
But, that year was the last he would play in for a long time, and it was here that his journey to the majors began, when his dreams appeared to crumble, his future in jeopardy.
The career-jeopardizing injury was a shoulder problem. The 28-year old’s throwing arm was shredded and he would not play again for a long time. He missed all of 2015, a normal timetable, and the team fully expected their crucial rotation piece to return in 2016. He hardly did that.
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In 2016 Ryu made one lack-luster start and it was here that hope was starting to dwindle.
But the strongest pitchers in baseball, the ones worth every penny are not necessarily the guys that throw the hardest or pitch the most innings. The guys worth the cash are the ones who fight back for your team. The ones willing to put in the work in their darkest hours to one day contribute to a franchise that has done so much since you last played for them.
Ryu did just that. In 2017 he pitched really well for having missed practically two years of baseball. In 126.2 innings and 24 starts he had a 3.77 ERA and a 110 ERA+. Ryu was bringing value to the rotation yet again.
In 2018, despite yet another serious injury, this one a severe groin tear, Ryu proved his worth again. In just 15 starts and 82.1 innings, he pitched his way to a 1.97 ERA and a 198 ERA+, numbers that lead the team and astonished the viewers. Ryu was trusted so much in 2018 that he was the go-to in the playoffs. He took a big step this past season and it showed on the field and in the trust, Dave Roberts had in him.
This, all of this, is the reason Ryu was worth the money. He is a fighter and he wants what is best for the franchise. Ryu could easily have gone and made more money with more years of job security with any other team but instead, he came back. He wanted to play in LA and it could very well be to prove himself and his worth for the following offseason.
If Ryu is here to prove himself, to set himself up for a 2019 payday then that is great for the Dodgers. He is back to pitch well. He is back to prove he can go through the season and pitch valuable innings without getting hurt but his reputation is very very injury prone.
A healthy Ryu is dominant. The Dodgers got dominance for just $17.9 million and are bound to him for just one year. This move puts a fighter, a veteran and a quality arm on the mound for the Dodgers and it was for less money than they would have to pay for just about anyone else. Ryu is a Dodger for one more year and it is well worth that cost.