Blue Jays: Impact of the 2020 season may be catching up to Hyun Jin Ryu

Sep 17, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu (99) examines a new ball as Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco (11) rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu (99) examines a new ball as Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco (11) rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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One of the most popular questions in Blue Jays social media circles last night was wondering just what might be wrong with Hyun Jin Ryu.

It’s been a very difficult stretch for the 34 year old of late, and last night didn’t help to change his recent fortunes. Ryu lasted just 2.0 innings against the Twins, allowing five earned runs on five hits and a walk and leaving manager Charlie Montoyo with no choice but to remove him in the third inning.

If this had been an isolated tough outing for the Korean southpaw then maybe Montoyo would have given him a longer leash to figure things out. Unfortunately that’s not the case, as Ryu has allowed 22 earned runs over his last five starts, only covering 19.2 innings. That’s not an acceptable output from a fifth starter, let alone a guy who is being paid to be one of the aces of this staff.

While some folks on social media will tell you that he’s finished, or even go as far as accusing him of being an abuser of the “sticky stuff”, which has been cracked down on in 2021, I think the problem is a lot more simple than that. I’m speculating here, but my guess is that the effects of the 2020 season have caught up to Ryu now that we’re late into the 2021 campaign.

What I mean by that is that Ryu threw just 67.0 innings last year, and after last night’s tough outing he’s up to 159.2 in 2021. That kind of year to year increase isn’t easy on the body, and many baseball experts predicted that this season would bring a lot of injuries to pitchers, just as it has. Ryu has managed to stay healthy for the most part, but I think he’s suffering from an old fashioned case of fatigue as far as the dip in his performance goes.

The eight-year MLB veteran has never been known for his stamina, and the Blue Jays made some concessions last season by skipping or pushing back some of his starts in order to keep him fresh. That worked last year during a 60-game schedule, but now that we’re just 15 games away from the conclusion of the 2021 schedule, many big leaguers are really starting to wear out.

If I’m correct, what do the Blue Jays do about it? That’s a tough question to answer, as there really isn’t much room for error in the Wild Card race. The Jays will enter Saturday’s schedule 0.5 back of the Yankees for the 2nd Wild Card spot, and 1.0 back of the Red Sox. They’re going to need the best from their entire roster over their last 15 games, and that may be especially the case in the starting rotation.

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I don’t believe we’re at the point where the Blue Jays will stop starting Ryu, but it would certainly be wise to have a capable long-man ready to take over in case he stumbles early again.

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