Hyun-Jin Ryu will definitely help the Blue Jays on the mound in 2020, but could he also help with the bat in his hands during interleague play?
If you’re getting sick of hearing about Hyun-Jin Ryu, well, we’re still looking at just under two more months until Spring Training gets underway, so the excitement about the Blue Jays’ newest starting pitcher likely isn’t going away any time soon.
The 32-year-old is coming off an excellent year with the Dodgers, and one that saw him finish second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. He posted a record of 14-5 with an NL leading 2.32 ERA, and a 1.007 WHIP across 182.2 innings. His effort was good enough to earn him an All-Star birth, the aforementioned 2nd place finish in Cy Young voting, and even had him finish 19th in MVP voting.
He’ll bring his talent and experience with him to the Rogers Centre next season, and there’s no doubt he’ll provide the Blue Jays with tremendous value on a number of levels.
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And could one of them be while he’s holding a bat and standing in the box?
Because Ryu has spent his entire MLB career in the National League, he’s had a chance to hit on a fairly regular basis. He’s not exactly Shohei Ohtani at the plate, but he’s not a terrible hitter for a pitcher, and could actually make a difference for the Blue Jays in that department next season, however small it may be.
Ryu ended up slashing .157/.218/.235 over 67 plate appearances in 2019, and is a lifetime .178/.226/.239 hitter. Again, that’s nothing to write home about, but it is an improvement over the production the Blue Jays had from their pitchers who tried to hit last season. They only had 16 at-bats as a group, but Trent Thornton‘s two hits were the only times a pitcher reached base.
Again, we’re talking about a very small difference here, especially if Ryu only makes one or two starts in a NL ballpark. What could actually make an impact is his ability to bunt, something that no Blue Jay pitcher was able to successfully execute last season. Ryu picked up 12 sacrifice bunts during his 67 at-bats last season, becoming fairly well versed at the skill. It was easily the best season for the Korean in that regard, as he has 32 in total throughout the rest of his career.
I’m talking about the smallest of bonuses here, but Ryu’s ability to lay down a bunt could come in handy. In fact, the Blue Jay leader in the category last season was just three sacrifice bunts, which came from both Eric Sogard and Richard Urena. Who knows, maybe Ryu even gets a pinch hitting opportunity in an obvious bunting situation, although using your top starting pitcher in that role probably isn’t going to happen.
The overall point of all of this? Signing Ryu makes the Blue Jays better, on the mound, in the clubhouse, and maybe even in the batter’s box.