For ace Ryu, it’s all about the numbersHanwha Eagles ace pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin is setting a scary pace this season.
He set a single-game strikeout record with 17 against the LG Twins on May 11. He pitched a complete game shutout in his latest outing against the Nexen Heroes on May 25. He holds an ERA of 1.85.
Although Korean baseball is only a third of the way into its season, Ryu is on pace to become the first pitcher since Jung Myeong-won of the 1998 Hyundai Unicorns with an ERA below 2.00.
His chances of finishing the season with the lowest ERA in 12 years are strong. He’s pitched seven innings or more in his 10 starts this season, and gave up more than three runs in only one game, the April 16 match in which Nexen scored four runs. Ryu has also adapted quickly to the new expanded strike zone.
The big difference for the fifth-year southpaw was the offseason. Since entering the league in 2006, Ryu had spent every offseason hurling in international competitions for the national team. This year, in contrast, he got plenty of time to rest and recuperate, and the velocity of his fastball improved to an average 147 kilometers (91 miles) per hour. He is also using more sliders, in addition to his signature changeup, to get out of jams.
“Having a low ERA is more important than wins. I’m setting my goal for an ERA in the low twos,” said Ryu.
Ryu’s teammates have been providing solid defense, too. With the departure of first baseman Kim Tae-kyun and third baseman Lee Bum-ho to the Nippon Professional Baseball league, Hanwha’s defense was expected to take a big hit. Instead, it currently boasts the league’s lowest 23 errors.
In the history of the Korea Baseball Organization, 25 pitchers have chalked up an ERA lower than 2.00, but most of them were relief pitchers. Only nine starting pitchers have achieved the feat.
By Kim Hyo-kyung [email@example.com]