I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s devastating curveball and slider are as nasty and effective as ever.
The bad news is that his fastball is as easy for opposing batters to hit as a batting practice pitch.
Yet despite the fact that Ryu has now given up a team-high six home runs through his 15.1 innings pitched (which equates to one nearly every four innings), Dodgers manager Dave Roberts insists that the 30-year-old Incheon, South Korea native will still be given the ball every fifth day, this in spite of his MLB-worst 0-3 record (tied with five others) and his unsightly 5.87 ERA – tied for 92nd in the MLB from among all regular starting pitchers.
“We feel comfortable with him making a start every fifth day, and as he gets into the rhythm of a season, we know he’ll get better,” Roberts said, after Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. “For us, the barometer for Ryu is the delivery repeating, holding velocity, which he’s doing, and executing pitches. He’s made some mistakes that were hit out of the ballpark. If he minimizes damage, he’ll be fine.”
The painfully cold, hard fact is that Ryu hasn’t been able to minimize the damage, especially when half of the home runs he has allowed thus far this season occurred on Tuesday night, two of which were hit by Rockies perennial Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado.
What has Dodger fans scratching their heads is that good news-bad news thing. All six of the home runs that Ryu has allowed have come on fastballs – something that Roberts, the Dodgers brass, and the rest of the known world are very well aware of.
“He’s given up six homers, all on fastballs, just missed location. Today, Nolan is their best player, he tried to come in with the fastball, it leaked over the plate and down and that’s his nitro zone and he put a swing on it. Story is a good fastball hitter, he tried to elevate, missed down and the same thing. If we eliminate the slug, he pitched a heck of a ballgame and gave us the much-needed length we were looking for. Ryu will be fine, it’s just eliminating the long ball.”
Allow me to digress.
When Ryu was working his way back from shoulder surgery in May of 2015, his first two rehab starts were with the Dodgers Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, of which I personally witnessed both. During those two rehab starts, it was very apparent that his curveball and slider had not lost any of their effectiveness that had made the 6′-3′ / 250-pound left-hander so extremely successful during his first two seasons with the Dodgers – hence that good news thing. But during those two minor league rehab starts against Single-A hitters, they hit his fastball very hard, including two home runs in his three innings of work – hence the bad news. thing.
Although baseball fans are very aware that a major league pitcher can certainly get by with an 85-MPH fastball and even end up in the Hall of Fame with one (e.g. Greg Maddux), most major leaguers can hit a 97+ MPH fastball if it’s right down Broadway. And while it is unfair to even mention Hyun-Jin Ryu’s name in the same conversation with Mad Dog, Ryu’s 87 to 89-MPH fastballs live on Broadway.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to say anything negative about Dave Roberts – the guy is simply one of the nicest and most respected guys in the game. But it is very apparent that while the reigning 2016 NL Manager of the Year is saying what he is supposed to say about Ryu and the rest of his players, it is hard to ignore the fact that Ryu is still owed $7 million in 2017 and another $7 million in 2018 regardless of how good or bad he pitches. In other words, Roberts’ decision to keep handing the ball to Ryu every five days could be a decision that is coming from those above him.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old phenom left-hander Julio Urias is wasting his bullets at Triple-A Oklahoma City … if you get my drift.