Ryu to the Blue Jays: They did it! They really did it!

 

The Toronto Blue Jays surprised even their most devout fans by signing Hyun-Jin Ryu to a 4 year deal

 

 

 

 

Today, the Jays from the Couch audience was going to read all about how David Price would make a solid Plan B in case the Blue Jays missed out on Hyun-Jin Ryu. However, there is no need for a Plan B if Plan A works out: the Toronto Blue Jays have signed Hyun-Jin Ryu.

 

Heading into the off-season, Jays fans were hopeful that the team would land one of Jake Odorizzi, Zack Wheeler or Ryu. Odorizzi took his qualifying offer from the Twins, so his time on the open market was effectively over before it started. A few weeks into the off-season, Wheeler signed with the Phillies. Then went Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole, the two members of the highest tier of free agent starting pitchers, guys Jays fans coveted but never expected to sign with Toronto. After them went Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel, leaving Ryu as the only high-level free agent starting pitcher left. Until last night.

 

Ryu has spent seven seasons in the majors, all with the Dodgers. They tell the tale of a guy who has delivered when healthy, but who has experienced some difficulty staying in the rotation. He’s made at least 25 starts three times, posting at least 3.8 fWAR each of those seasons. Unfortunately, he also missed all of the 2015 season and made only one appearance in 2016.

 

His performance over the last two seasons is fundamental to this signing as he showed that he was still the same pitcher who produced 7.8 fWAR (17th-best among SP) over his first two MLB seasons. Ryu stood out for me among this year’s free agent class for his ability to generate strikeouts relative to walks, while also limiting dangerous contact. Over the last two seasons, he posted a 20.3% K-BB% (which ranked 21st among 107 SP with at least 200 IP), thanks to a solid strikeout rate (24.1%, 43rd-best) and an unmatched walk rate (3.7%). Moreover, he limited home runs well (0.88 HR/9, 12th-best), in addition to any kind of effective contact (.350 xwOBACON, 18th-best).

 

This balanced approach helped him produce strong numbers in terms of all of the overall metrics—his 2.21 ERA was second-best, his 3.07 FIP ranked ninth, his 3.25 xFIP ranked 12th, his 3.60 SIERA ranked 17th and his .278 xwOBA ranked tenth.

 

Regarding Ryu’s pitch mix, I noted back in November that:

[In 2019,] Ryu threw five different pitches at least 10% of the time: his four-seamer (26.4%), which averaged a modest 90.9 mph, his changeup (27.3%), his cutter (19.4%), his sinker (14.2%) and his curveball (12.1%). Ryu’s changeup is his marquee pitch and was one of the most effective pitches in baseball last season. It generated 24.1 weighted runs above average, behind only the four-seamers of Cole (34.4) and Lance Lynn (25.7), Luis Castillo‘s changeup (27.7), Justin Verlander‘s slider (31.4) and Charlie Morton‘s curveball (24.8).

Eno Sarris wrote a great post detailing how Ryu uses his array of pitches to be the most unpredictable pitcher in the majors.

 

This signing is a big deal beyond the fact that Ryu brings a lot of quality to the Blue Jays. It is also the long-awaited major signing that has been implied by the front office for years. Jays fans were told that once the rebuild is far enough along, once the team was good enough to take the next step, the money would be there. It’s the sort of statement one can only hope is true and missing out on the aforementioned free agents started to wear on Jays fans. Well, it was true and this signing should give fans genuine hope that, in the coming off-seasons, further additions will be made and more money will be spent.

 

 

 


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Jeff Quattrociocchi

I'm an economics professor in the GTA whose lifelong love for the Jays was reignited by that magical August of 2015 and the amazing moments since.