The Los Angeles Dodgers are getting Hyun-jin Ryu back from his labrum injury possibly this week. Is this going to enable them to weather the storm of losing ace Clayton Kershaw for one to two months?
When you are the Los Angeles Dodgers the pressure is built in. Aside from the status as second biggest media market in the country, the team currently has the highest payroll in the Major League Baseball at $257 million. The pressure to win there is enormous. The team’s chances took a big hit when ace Clayton Kershaw suffered a herniated disk in his back which could keep him out until Labor Day.
After Kershaw’s injury, the team quickly traded for journeyman starter Bud Norris (career 60-75 record, 4.40 ERA), who was actually released by the Baltimore Orioles last August. While he is a decent stopgap, he isn’t a front of the rotation guy. The Dodgers have one of those type guys coming off the disabled list in Hyun-jin Ryu who is set to come off the disabled list possibly this week to shore up their injury plagued rotation.
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Ryu has been out with a torn labrum since undergoing surgery to repair the injury in May of 2015. He has not pitched in the majors since the end of the 2014 season. The Korean right hander has put up an ERA of 3.17 in 56 starts over his first two big league seasons (ERA+ of 111). His FIP (fielding independent pitching which measures hits, walks and homers as a measure of effectiveness) of 2.97 shows he is even a little better than that, though his 28-15 record is a good indication of his value to the team.
Ryu has also excelled in his two postseasons with the Dodgers, posting a 1-0 record in three starts with a 2.81 ERA, which gives the team confidence to trust him again with the postseason. This is assuming that he transitions back from his surgery well.
In addition to effectiveness, Ryu’s return will also help with managing the innings of 19 year old Julio Urias who has pitched 74 innings already this year. Urias has not pitched more than 87.1 innings in a season. One common theory is to not allow a pitcher to increase his innings by more than 20 percent per year, which would put Urias at about a 105 inning limit for this season.
The Dodgers also hope to get another journeyman producing from the mound. Brandon McCarthy is coming off his own major surgery, Tommy John. Like Norris, his first start of the year was a good one, five scoreless innings with just two hits allowed. He had a solid run with the New York Yankees at the end of 2014 (2.89 ERA over 90.1 innings), but also has to be considered a question mark. TJ surgery can result in relapses, though shoulder issues as Ryu has are no picnic either.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Dodgers would be hosting the Wild Card game. They stand five games behind the San Francisco Giants who are possibly the most battle-tested playoff team in the majors at the moment with all their recent postseason successes. The return of Ryu could go a long way toward stabilizing the rotation, taking the pressure off the offense to feel like they have to produce a big number every single day, which could result in a National League West title.
What do you think? Is Ryu’s return going to enable them to withstand Kershaw’s absence and make a strong postseason run?