This is already the second time. This is a question that Toronto reporters sneakily ask.
You must listen carefully. It’s not ‘Do you think you’ll stay in the Major League?’, it’s ‘Do you think you’ll stay in Toronto?’
If I had asked this question the other way around two months ago, they would have looked at this reporter like I was crazy.
This means that Ryu Hyun-jin’s status has changed. It is a result created by oneself through repeated good pitching.
Ryu Hyun-jin has joined the starting rotation since August and has pitched 40 innings in 8 games, recording an ERA of 2.93. He has a WHIP of 1.050, 1.4 home runs per 9 innings, 2.0 walks, and 7.4 strikeouts.
The home runs and walks per 9 innings are lower than the peak in 2019 (0.8/1.2), but are similar to Toronto’s four-year record (1.2/2.0). The adjusted ERA is 147, which is the second best performance after 164 in 2020.
The average speed of batted balls was 86.7 mph, close to the career record (87.8). The correct hit rate (5.8%) is the best since 3.2% in 2020. The percentage of strong batted balls also improved to 32.5% compared to the past two seasons when it exceeded 40%. Expected hitting percentage (XBA) of 0.234 and expected slugging percentage (XSLG) of 0.361 are both better than his career record (0.251/0.400).
This is a pitch from a pitcher in his mid-thirties who returned from his second Tommy John surgery. Typically, pitchers who return from Tommy John surgery have difficulty controlling their pitches due to lack of game sense during their return season.
Ryu Hyun-jin lost control instead of control. His four-seam fastball averages 88.5 mph, which is slower than last season (89.3 mph) just before his surgery. Bottom 2% of the league. Nevertheless, he is able to overcome this through his unique pitch and combination with other pitches.
The opponent was never easy either. Of the seven teams they have faced so far, four were teams aiming to advance to the postseason with a winning percentage of .500 or higher. Even at Coors Field, which is considered a difficult place for pitchers, he survived by allowing two runs in five innings.
In an interview with this reporter last July, Ryu Hyun-jin chose showing that he ‘can still compete’ as a criterion for choosing to remain in the big league in 2024. Looking at his current appearance, he looks like he can compete.
The explanation has become longer. Now let’s answer the question. Will Ryu Hyun-jin stay in Toronto?
Let’s ask the question again. Does Toronto want Ryu Hyun-jin to stay?
To put it bluntly, Toronto is not in a desperate need of selection. Other starting pitchers, including Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassett, and Yusei Kikuchi, all return in 2024. Alec Manoa, who has become a problem child, will remain on the team anyway.
Below, left-hander Ricky Tiderman, ranked No. 1 in MLB.com’s club prospect rankings, is waiting. Although he was limited to 40 innings in 14 games this season due to injury, he has advanced to Double A and is scheduled to move up to Triple A at the end of the season.
Although he has 5 losses and an ERA of 5.06 in 11 Double A games, it is encouraging that he has allowed only one home run in 32 innings. In his minor league career, he allowed 0.3 home runs, 3.8 walks, and 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
It is impossible for Titheman to join the 2024 opening rotation right away. He will likely begin the season in Triple-A and join the major league rotation during the season.
Toronto will need a veteran to buy time until Titheman is ready.
Should we leave that role to Ryu Hyun-jin? When Ryu Hyun-jin just returned, expectations for him may have been at that level.
However, what Ryu Hyun-jin is showing now is more than just a ‘veteran trying to buy time’. One of the two reporters who asked this reporter a question said, “I think you can get a two-year contract.”
The market situation is not too bad.
Left-handers such as Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, Jordan Montgomery, James Paxton, Martin Perez, and Alex Wood are scheduled to appear in this free agent market. Among them, the only players who are consistently active as starters are Snell and Montgomery. Andrew Heaney, Sean Manea, Wade Miley, and Eduardo Rodriguez could also become free agents depending on whether their options are exercised. Julio Urias, who was in the spotlight as a big-time free agent, will virtually never be seen pitching again in the major leagues due to a domestic violence issue.
The more players coming out, the more empty seats there are. If Ryu Hyun-jin maintains his current form until the end, he will be able to fully recognize his value in the market.
A payoff pitch is a ball thrown by a pitcher with 3 balls, 2 strikes, and a full count. If I were to translate it, it would be something like ‘crystal ball.’ This ball can be a heavy fastball, sometimes a sharp breaking ball, and sometimes a misfire. Just as the ball that leaves the pitcher’s hand no longer belongs to the pitcher, the writing that leaves the reporter’s hand no longer belongs to the reporter. It is up to the reader to decide.