Toronto Blue Jays: A true ace is worth every penny
Hyun-Jin Ryu was fantastic again on Monday night, and over his last few starts he’s reminded the Blue Jays about the value of having a true ace.
With all due respect to the starting pitchers that the Blue Jays have employed over the last decade, I don’t know that they’d had a real, true ace since Roy Halladay. I think that’s finally changed with the presence of Hyun-Jin Ryu.
That’s not meant as an insult to Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, R.A. Dickey, or any other starter from the last ten years. To me, it’s just the difference between “good” and “great”, and we’re seeing it with Ryu already. It’s obviously very early into his four-year, 80 million dollar contract, but so far he looks like the Blue Jays may be getting a bargain.
The concept of an “ace” starting pitcher is a frequent debate among baseball fans. In my eyes, that type of performer brings a calming presence, and a legitimate chance for his team to win on every fifth day. Back when Halladay was in a Blue Jays’ uniform, it felt like like they were going to win every start he made. He might be just 2-1 so far, but Ryu is giving me that same belief when he takes the ball.
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The other part of being an ace (again, according to my definition) is having sustained success, and that’s something that Ryu definitely has on his resume. He led the National League with a 2.32 ERA in 2019, finishing 2nd in Cy Young voting in the process and even earning MVP consideration. He was arguably even better in 2018 when he had a 1.97 ERA, but injuries limited him to just 15 starts, and he fell short of the qualifying numbers to appear on league leaderboards. In all he entered Monday’s start with a career ERA of 3.01 and a WHIP of 1.167 over his 130 starts in North America, and he was a successful professional in Korea prior to that.
Ryu entered last night’s start with a 4.04 ERA for this season, but given the circumstances of this strange 2020 campaign, there was really nothing to be alarmed about. After throwing six innings of one-run, three-hit baseball on Monday, his ERA dropped to 3.46, and his WHIP now sits at 1.12, and you can expect those numbers to continue to drop as the season wears on. In fact, he’s been excellent over his last three starts, and if you took away the rough outing he had against the Nationals, his numbers would be even more impressive.
Because his arsenal does not rely on an overpowering fastball, he’s the type of pitcher who should age well over the course of his contract. He’s arguably still at the end of his prime at 33 years old, and even if the Blue Jays end up overpaying a bit at the end of the deal, it’ll still be well worth the investment. That’s especially the case because the Jays have a ton of talented starters that are going to pitch in the big leagues over the next few seasons, and Ryu provides an excellent veteran example of how to get things done at the highest level.
It’s not always the correct path to spend in free agency to improve your team, but when you can acquire a certifiable ace, especially when you’re badly in need of one, it’s an opportunity that’s hard to pass up. So far, Ryu is reminding us just what it feels like to have an ace in the rotation, and I’m optimistic and look forward to every time he takes the ball.