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Ryu Hyun-jin rediscovers the curveball that saved him in a crisis

Toronto Blue Jays’ Hyun-jin Ryu, 35, made his first major league start in 426 days. He started Game 2 of the series against the Baltimore Orioles, and the result was a five-inning, four-run loss.

It wasn’t the best result anyone could have hoped for, but it was his first quality start in a long time. It was unfortunate that he gave up a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning, but it was also instructive. With the game tied at 3-3, it’s a tough decision to make with a pitcher coming off an injury. Moreover, Toronto needed to catch Baltimore today.

Ryu needed a solid outing. It’s part of a starter’s job to go long innings in relief, but he needed to take control of the game early, so he could get the upper hand against Baltimore’s young lineup. The first three runs were the result of Baltimore’s top of the order, which was “tailor-made for Ryu.토토사이트

Ryu was the only pitcher to make it to the sixth inning despite giving up an early run. If any other pitcher’s comeback had gone like this, they would have been pulled early. This shows why Ryu led the league in ERA in 2019. While he wasn’t an offensive pitcher who went power-for-power, he was a defensive pitcher who minimized the impact.

In the top of the third inning, he struck out Gunner Henderson with a 91 mph four-seam fastball. This was the highlight of his outing. It gave him hope that when he pitches with power, he can shut hitters down.

Forsythe’s velocity will increase. However, the four-seam doesn’t look like a pitch that can dominate hitters with an extra mile or two of velocity. Unless he has a perfect pitch, he’s going to be an easy target for hitters.

Ryu Hyun-jin

Instead of looking at how fast Ryu throws, we should look at how fast he allows balls to be hit. The 19 balls he allowed today had an average velocity of 88.8 mph, which is manageable. But the pitches he allowed were dangerous. There were a lot of foul balls (8) and the average velocity of those 4 balls was 99.8 mph. Forsythe is definitely a necessary pitch, but he needs to think about how to utilize it.

Today’s start was a rediscovery of the curveball. It was his curveball that showed his flexibility after his initial strategy of a four-seam, cutter, and changeup went awry. While some batters were hitting the curveball, it was definitely a pitch that was in the back of their minds.

Pitchers need to have a quick Plan B when Plan A doesn’t work. Today, Hyun-jin Ryu was able to do just that, staying on the mound until the middle of the game after an early run, and he’s a pitcher who has a Plan B if his Plan C isn’t working.

On the other hand, his changeup is a concern. Hitters are no longer finding his changeup as difficult as they used to. Even today, there were nine swings and misses on the changeup. Three of his nine pitches were changeups (three four-seamers, two curves, and one cutter).

Ryu’s changeup had a combined BABIP of 0.184 from 2018-2020. It was the fifth-best among starting pitchers during that time. It was the reason Ryu was able to reach his prime in the majors, but over the last two years, the changeup has declined. In 2021, he posted a .256 BABIP, and in 2022, he posted a .268 BABIP. The changeup’s decline was evident today as well. Because it’s such an inseparable part of Ryu’s arsenal, changeup struggles could be even more devastating in the future.

Ryu is clearly not the same pitcher he was in his prime. Now, it’s all about how he pitches with the bases loaded or in scoring position. He had plenty of pitches today, and he had runners on base in every inning, but it was Baltimore who didn’t fare as well. Crisis management is an abstract concept, but Ryu is a pitcher who can demonstrate it.

It’s hard to read too much into one game and one start after a 14-month absence. At the end of the day, today’s outing was significant just for the fact that Ryu returned safely. There are accomplishments and challenges, but none of them can take away from his return.

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