Coming off a 2020 season in which he was a finalist for the Cy Young award, expectations were high for Hyun Jin Ryu entering 2021 as the Blue Jays’ clear ace. Entering the home stretch of the season, Ryu may not have been in his Cy Young finalist form he was the two years prior, but he still had some very solid numbers, posting a 3.22 ERA in 123 innings pitched through his first 21 starts.
His final 10 starts are where the wheels really fell off though, as he posted a 7.43 ERA over his final 46 innings. His performance continued to slide at the start of the 2022 campaign, as he let up 11 runs in just 7.1 innings over two starts to begin the season before being put on the IL. Since his return, Ryu has looked just like the pitcher the Blue Jays paid 80 million dollars just two offseasons ago.
Ryu returned to the Blue Jays rotation on May 14th for a start at the Trop against the Tampa Bay Rays. Yandy Diaz homered in the very first at-bat for the Rays, but after that, he tossed 4.2 scoreless only allowing three more hits in a 5-1 Blue Jays win. His next start, at home against the Reds, went even better, as he threw six scoreless innings, allowing six hits and striking out three without issuing a walk, and he once again collected the win. His most recent start in Anaheim against a dangerous Angels lineup didn’t go quite as well, but he still only allowed two runs over six innings before being taken out due to elbow tightness.
In total, Ryu is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 1.72 innings with seven strikeouts and only two walks since his return from the IL. So what’s led to this drastic change?
After a very rough start to the season, since returning from the IL Hyun-Jin Ryu has looked much more like the pitcher the Blue Jays were expecting.
Overall, I think it just comes down to him getting back to what works.
When he was struggling his main issues were undoubtedly control of all his pitches and the ability to control games with his changeup. His command has obviously improved, considering he’s only walked two batters, and he’s also done a good job of not giving up too much hard contact, with the only home run he’s allowed being that previously mentioned Yandy Diaz solo shot, that would have only left 3/30 MLB ballparks.
Obviously, the sample size is small, by since his return, Ryu has been outstanding, and has helped solidify their already strong rotation. While it may be unreasonable to continue to expect this type of performance over a full season, I think we might start to see more of the Hyun Jin Ryu we thought we were getting when the Blue Jays first signed him.