S. Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin nominated for National League Cy Young Award

November 5, 2019

South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin has been nominated for the 2019 National League (NL) Cy Young Award.

Ryu, who led all of baseball with a 2.32 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers this year, was announced as one of three finalists for the NL’s top pitching prize by the Baseball Writers’ Association of American (BBWAA) on Monday (U.S. Eastern Time).

Ryu, who’s now a free agent, is the first South Korean pitcher to be shortlisted for the Cy Young in either league.

In this file photo from Oct. 6, 2019, Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals in the bottom of the third inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington. (Yonhap)

BBWAA members already cast their ballots at the end of the regular season, meaning the three finalists for the Cy Young were the top-three finishers in the voting. That makes Ryu, who was 14-5 this year, the first South Korean hurler to even earn a Cy Young vote.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. (EST), or on Nov. 14 at 8 a.m. in Seoul.

Ryu tossed 182 2/3 innings, his highest total since throwing 192 innings as a rookie in 2013. It was an impressive bounce back season in a career derailed by shoulder and elbow surgeries that wiped out 2015 and limited him to one start in 2016.

Ryu is up against two pitchers who combined to win the last three NL Cy Youngs: Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, who earned his first Cy Young in 2018, and Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals, who won it in 2016 and 2017 and finished runner-up to deGrom in 2018.

DeGrom went 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA, finishing second in the NL behind Ryu in that category. DeGrom led the NL with 255 strikeouts and tossed 204 innings most among the three finalists.

Scherzer was 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA — his fifth consecutive season of a sub-3.00 ERA — and led the majors with a 2.45 in fielding independent pitching (FIP), an ERA-like metric that accounts for only the outcomes that pitchers have control over, such as strikeouts, home runs and walks.

Ryu had an excellent start to the 2019 season before faltering through late August and early September. That second-half swoon coincided with deGrom’s surge.

Ryu was the NL Pitcher of the Month for May, after going 5-0 with a microscopic 0.59 ERA in six starts. He enjoyed a 32-inning scoreless streak during that month. At the end of May, Ryu’s ERA was for the season was 1.48.

He got it all the way down to 1.27 after beating the Colorado Rockies on June 22. Six days later, the same Rockies roughed him up for seven earned runs in four innings — more earned runs than he’d allowed in 10 previous starts combined — and his ERA climbed to 1.83.

But the left-hander lowered it in each of his next six starts to get it to 1.45. And then began the rocky, four-game stretch that likely cost Ryu a real shot at winning the Cy Young.

Facing the Atlanta Braves, the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Rockies in succession, Ryu was touched for 21 earned runs in 19 innings. When the dust cleared, his ERA had ballooned a full run to 2.45.

Ryu crossed the finish line with a bit more juice, holding the opponents to three earned runs in his final 21 innings across three starts. He struck out 21 and walked none in that span.

But deGrom was even better down the stretch, going 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA in August and September. He finished the season with 21 shutout innings.

Whether Ryu wins the award or not, he’ll look to parlay his best season to date into a lucrative, multiyear contract in the open market this offseason.