For Ryu and Choo It’s All About “Right or Wrong”

September 7, 2013

Both Korean players continue to struggle against left-handers
making the possible playoff showdown all the more intriguing


Ryu Hyun-jin (No. 99) and Choo Shin-soo are supposed to be weak against each other.

By Lee Kyutae

For Hyun-Jin Ryu and Shin-Soo Choo, it’s simply “Right or Wrong.” BOTH Korean major leaguers have no problem solving right-handed competition, but seemingly have no answers for lefties.

In baseball, left-handed pitchers are supposed to have an upper hand over left-handed batters, but that conventional wisdom does not seem to apply to Ryu, and too much to Choo. To say Choo struggles against left-handed pitching is an understatement.

Ryu, a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, entered the last month of regular season with 13-5 record and earned run average(ERA) of 3.02. Good enough to be considered as a strong candidate for National League’s Rookie of the Year honors.

But, you can’t help but to scratch your head if you look at his record against lefties. As of end of August, lefties are hitting 0.268(45 for 168), and over 32% of the time they are getting on base against him, in comparison to 0.246(113 for 460)  and 29.6% on against right-handed batters.

The difference used to be much more drastic, but Ryu started to throw his second best rated in the National League change-up against lefties also to narrow the gap. However, since the main reason left-handed pitchers have advantage against left hitters is that the hitters cannot locate the release point as quickly, to continue to throw slow stuff at lefties would be counterproductive. Which means changeup could only be a temporary solution for Ryu, and once the element of surprise wears off, he may have to find another solution.

Choo, the leadoff hitter for the Cincinnati Reds, having a bang up season leading up to free agency, said as much after going 0-3 against Ryu back on July 27th at the Dodger Stadium. Lefties just don’t throw changeups against lefties, and he didn’t expect Ryu to throw one. But, he’ll know better next time.

Nonetheless, if you look at Ryu’s stats in Korea, this is NOT a new trend. He had same problems in Korea. During his 7-year stint at his Korean club Hanhwa Eagles, right-handed batters struggled to hit 0.227, yet left-handed batters managed to hit 0.257.

Had he known that, Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel might not have pulled struggling left-handed power hitter Ryan Howard from the lineup back on June 29th game against Ryu. Of the 7 hits Ryu gave up that day, 6 were to left-handed batters, and facing Ryu might have been just the doctor ordered for Howard to break out of his slump.

As for Choo, he has hit 20 home runs as of 9th, and NONE of them against left-handers. Enough said.

Just in case you are curious about batting average difference – he hits almost 120 points higher against righties(0.209 to 0.326).

So, what gives when a left-handed pitcher with weakness against left-handed batter meets left-handed batter who can’t hit left-handed pitcher collide in the playoffs? Well, Ryu prevailed in their lone regular season meeting, but the rematch just might be the best chance Choo has to hit a home run against a left-hander this year.