Dodgers pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin has moved into a tie for the most wins by a rookie pitcher in the National League and into contention for Rookie of the Year honors.
Ryu notched his 14th win of the season in seven innings at AT&T Park by holding the San Francisco Giants to a single run while Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp contributed solo homers. The win improves Ryu’s record to 14-7, tying him with the Cardinals’ rookie Shelby Miller. It also brings his ERA back down to 2.97 from 3.03, to help meet his pre-season goal of keeping it in the 2s while compiling a winning season.
That was Ryu’s 29th and penultimate start of the regular season. He was able to turn 22 of those into quality starts in which he gave up three or less runs in at least six innings of work. His final regular-season outing will be Sunday against the the Rockies in Colorado.
After some early season struggles Ryu has improved dramatically in the second half of the season, leading the Dodgers to 11 wins in his last 15 starts to help secure the National League West crown. He has also been a real workhorse, having pitched 188 innings so far. If he pitches just two more innings in his final start Sunday against the Rockies, Ryu will earn a third $25,000 bonus. He had already earned one for hitting 170 innings, and a second for hitting 180.
Of course the bonuses are more symbolic than a significant financial incentive given the 6-year $36-million deal Ryu signed with the Dodgers early last December. Ryu is also the first Korean player ever to be signed through the posting system under which the Dodgers had paid $25.7 million to Ryu’s KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) team, the Hanhwa Eagles, for the exclusive right to negotiate a contract during a 30-day period. That posting fee went to the Eagles, but brings the Dodgers’ total investment in Ryu to $61.7 million.
During his rookie season Ryu, 26, has earned the nickname “Korean Monster” in recognition of his outsize talent as well as his 255-pound, 6-2 frame. In addition to shredding the pre-season and even early-season scouting reports, Ryu’s strong performance has turned him into one of the Dogers’ stars as well as a genuine celebrity among Koreans in both the US and back home in S. Korea. He has responded well to the adulation, compiling a 1.78 ERA when pitching at Dodger Stadium.
Baseball pundits began tossing around Ryu’s name along with those of teammate Yasiel Puig and the Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez back in August after the Dodgers won 10 straight games during the first half of August behind Ryu’s 4-1 record.
Ryu was born in Incheon on March 25, 1987. He is a left-hander whose fastball has been clocked at up to 95 mph but his changeup is considered his best asset. In the off season Ryu is pursuing a master’s degree in community physical education at Daejeon University. He played seven seasons with the Hanhwa Eagles before entering the majors.