Ryu Hyun-jin’s ‘three-step transformation’ to become stronger after surgery

Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, opened in 2003 and is considered one of the most “hitter-friendly” stadiums in Major League Baseball due to its size and the way the wind blows from home to the outfield. In fact, the Great American Ballpark is the third most hitter-friendly ballpark in baseball after Coors Field, which is known as the “graveyard of pitchers,” and Fenway Park, which is more than 100 years old.메이저사이트

In the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds on May 21, both teams combined for six home runs and 13 long balls. However, Toronto starter Hyun-jin Ryu, in his first start since May 20, 2019, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and his first start in four years and three months on the mound at Great American Ball Park, held the Cincinnati bats to just four hits, one walk, seven strikeouts and two unearned runs. The Cincinnati bats failed to hit a single long ball against Ryu, let alone a home run.

In his last three starts, Ryu has thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.89 from 7.20 when he completed his big league comeback. In just four games since returning, he has regained his form as Toronto’s ace. Ryu, who has undergone two major surgeries since reaching the big leagues, has made changes to his pitching style each time he has returned from surgery, transforming himself into a more elusive pitcher who is harder for hitters to target.

Ryu’s changeup was one of the best in the big leagues

Ryu Hyun-jin was the best power pitcher in the KBO, winning the strikeout title five times in his seven years in the league. But when he joined the Dodgers for the 2013 season, he became a pitcher with a slower-than-major league average fastball. In addition, the Dodgers had a stacked starting rotation that included the Cy Young Award-winning one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, as well as Chris Capuano, Josh Beckett, and Ted Lilly.

However, after starting the season as the fifth starter, Hyun-jin Ryu stabilized his pitching and won 14 games in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014 to become the Dodgers’ No. 3 starter behind Kershaw and Greinke. Most importantly, the Dodgers benefited from his steady rotation, as he pitched 152 innings in 2014 after 192 in 2013. Ryu has proven that he doesn’t need to change his pitching style much from his KBO days to be effective in the majors.

Early on in his major league career, Hyun-Jin Ryu relied heavily on his fastball and changeup with a few curveballs and sliders thrown in for good measure. His changeup, which can hang in the corners of the strike zone and drop in and out of the strike zone, has been compared to the changeup of four-time National League All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. The powerful changeup was the key to Ryu’s success against the big league’s top right-handed hitters.

His fastball, which averaged between 145 and 148 mph and topped out between 150 and 153 mph, was also competitive. Of course, it doesn’t compare to a fastball pitcher like Aroldis Chapman (Texas Rangers), who throws a fastball in excess of 160 kilometers per hour, but Ryu’s fastball, mixed with his changeup, is fast enough for major league hitters. The combination of his fastball and changeup made him an elite starter in the big leagues for two years.

A shoulder surgery and a cutter later in his career

However, after seven years and 1,269 innings in the KBO and two years and 344 innings in the major leagues, something was wrong with his shoulder, and in May of that year, he underwent arthroscopic surgery. Of the 67 players who underwent the procedure in the decade since 2002, 58.2 percent (39 players) retired after throwing less than 50 innings. In fact, Ryu threw just 4.2 innings per game in the two seasons after his surgery.

Ryu returned to the big league mound in 2017, but posted a mediocre 5-9 record with a 3.77 ERA in 25 games. To make matters worse, he got off to a strong start in 2018, going 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA, before leaving a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 3 with a left groin injury in the second inning. After what seemed like a string of bad luck, Ryu returned in August of that year with a new weapon, a “cutter,” that opened the door to his second prime.

On August 16, 2018, Ryu made a perfect comeback with a six-hit, six-strikeout performance against the San Francisco Giants, and in the second half of 2018 alone, he went 4-3 with a 1.88 ERA in nine games. In 2019, he went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA, leading the majors in ERA, being named a National League All-Star, and finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting. Ryu continued to be one of the best pitchers in the league in 2020, when he moved to Toronto and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting.

The key to Ryu’s return to form after shoulder surgery was the power of his new cutter. By increasing the percentage of his fastballs that have a similar velocity to his changeup, Ryu confused hitters by giving them four different options. More importantly, Ryu was able to fool hitters by varying the velocity and location of his pitches, making him one of the rare players to perform better after shoulder surgery.

Ryu throws more curveballs, and it pays off

Reconstructing the medial ligament of the elbow, known as “Tommy John surgery” after the first pitcher to undergo it, used to be a life-or-death proposition. Nowadays, thanks to medical advances, it’s a procedure that has a pretty good chance of success if the rehabilitation process goes well. In fact, there are many pitchers who have enjoyed increased velocity after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Ryu Hyun-jin, who underwent the procedure as a sophomore at Dongsan High School, is one of the most famous pitchers to have improved his delivery after returning from surgery.

However, after undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career last year, Ryu didn’t see a dramatic increase in velocity this time around. Instead, his velocity dropped, making his pitches easier for opposing hitters to hit. In his comeback against the Baltimore Orioles, Ryu took the loss in five innings and four runs, so he changed his pitching pattern from his second start. He started throwing less fastballs and more “slower pitches” to take away the hitters’ timing.

With less fastballs and more curveballs, Ryu’s performance has improved dramatically as he’s been able to outsmart hitters. In fact, after giving up 10 hard hits (well-hit balls over 95 mph) in five innings against the Baltimore Orioles on April 2, Ryu has allowed just six hard hits in 14 innings over his last three games. That means opposing hitters haven’t been able to time his slower pitches at all.

We don’t know if Ryu is no longer able to throw his fastball after his elbow surgery, or if he’s “sealing” his off-speed stuff for the sake of his future performance. What is clear, however, is that Ryu has become one of the slowest pitchers in the major leagues, and he is still very competitive this year. Baseball fans will continue to enjoy watching the “10,000-lap pitcher” give pitching lessons to opposing hitters every game.

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