Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Season Preview: LHP Hyun Jin Ryu

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

Next up in our Toronto Blue Jays 2023 season preview series is left-handed pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu.


Addison BargerAnthony BassChris BassittBrandon BeltJosé BerríosBo Bichette, Cavan BiggioMatt ChapmanAdam CimberHagen DannerSantiago EspinalMatt GageYimi GarcíaKevin GausmanChad GreenVladimir Guerrero Jr.Thomas HatchSpencer HorwitzDanny JansenLeo JimenezKevin KiermaierYusei KikuchiAlejandro KirkOtto LopezNathan LukesAlek ManoahOrelvis MartinezTim MayzaWhit MerrifieldNate PearsonZach PopTrevor Richards, Jordan Romano

Before we get started, here's a quick refresher on the projection models we'll be looking at.

STEAMER14 G (2 starts), 1-1 record, 3.73 ERA, 18 SO, 4 BB in 21 innings pitched

ZiPS21 G (21 starts), 9-6 record, 3.93 ERA, 93 SO, 25 BB in 116.2 innings pitched

2022 stats: 6 G (6 starts), 2-0 record, 5.67 ERA, 16 SO, 4 BB in 27 innings pitched

After being a Cy Young finalist in both 2019 (with the Dodgers) and 2020 (with the Blue Jays), Hyun Jin Ryu fell off a cliff in the second half of 2021 and wasn't able to bounce back in 2022 as he required Tommy John surgery after just six starts. His outlook for 2023 is very uncertain, but there's still plenty to preview for his upcoming season.

STEAMER and ZiPS seem to have quite different ideas of what Ryu's 2023 will look like, with the former seeing him as a late-season reliever, and the latter acting as if he'll be in the rotation for much of the season. The reality of the situation is that neither of those will likely be the case. Recently, Blue Jays manager, John Schneider, stated that should Ryu return late in the season he would be put back into the rotation, which means he would likely be the team's fifth or sixth starter down the stretch. With that in mind, what can we expect from Ryu should he return?

Ryu's first season and a bit with the Blue Jays went great, as he posted a 2.66 ERA over 125.1 innings, but after that, the wheels fell off. Since June 2021, he has a 5.37 ERA in 137.1 innings. Seemingly out of nowhere, almost every aspect of Ryu's game fell off, and it's hard to understand why. Ryu went from a pitcher in 2019-20 who excelled at limiting hard contact and was a commanding presence on the mound, to a pitcher who seemed like everything he threw was hittable. If you look at his baseball savant, there's a huge drop in his statcast metric from 2019-20 to 2021-22, and it was reflected in almost every facet of his game. So what exactly happened to Ryu, and can it be fixed?

Throughout his time in the league, Ryu has always been a low-velocity pitcher which required two things. One, he needs to be precise, and two, his stuff needs to be good. He had made a living off of being able to mix up his seemingly below-average fastball, with a great changeup, a nice cutter, and a curveball. If you watched Ryu at his peak, he was able to locate these pitches and get enough movement from them to keep the hitter under control. But this all went away in the past two years. His command began to struggle, but not in the way many other pitchers may experience command issues. His walk number remained low, as they've been throughout most of his career, but his stuff got slightly worse and he began putting it in more hittable locations within the zone. This all led to a 2022 José Berríos
-esque situation, where when his stuff was working, he was fine, but if it wasn't, he was toast, with little in between. While age and batters evolving could be causes of this, it's possible that this could all be traced back to one thing.

Hyun Jin Ryu has not looked healthy for most of the past two seasons, and it's likely that this played a huge role in his regression. He's missed time in each of the past two years, but even when he was pitching, something appeared off. This may just sound like an easy excuse, but it's hard to imagine this didn't play a factor. Should Ryu return late in 2023, fully healthy and ready to play, then there's reason to expect he could be a huge addition to the Blue Jays rotation, but should he return still dealing with injuries, we might be in for more of the same problems that we've seen each of the last two seasons. Worst case, the Jays have to ride with the same rotation all year, best case, they've got a veteran lefty to help in October.

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