The “Sophomore Slump” has plagued standout rookies in all sports while general managers must resist the urge to offer hasty contracts based off of one stellar year. The Los Angeles Dodgers got a fantastic first season out of their Rookie of the Year candidate, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and should not fret over the dreaded second year slump in his case.
Ryu, a 26-year-old international pitcher from South Korea, got inked to a six-year contract worth $36 million without any prior experience in MLB. While some doubted the soundness of this decision by the Dodgers’ general manager, Ned Colletti, the move certainly paid dividends in 2013 as Ryu delivered time and time again. On the season, the rookie recorded a 14-8 record with a 3.00 ERA, a 1.203 WHIP, a ratio of 3.14 strikeouts to every walk and 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Those numbers put the Korean in the top 10 among NL leaders in ERA and earned him fourth place in the RoY voting.
One of the main reasons I do not believe Ryu will struggle with the “Sophomore Slump” is the fact that he will not technically be a sophomore in 2014. Let us not forget that Ryu pitched seven seasons in the Korea Professional Baseball, the top tier of Korean baseball. During that span, the 6-2 lefty amassed 98 wins, only 52 losses and a career ERA of 2.80. Colletti does not even have to worry about rewarding the “sophomore “too soon because the organization already did the research and gave him the contract he deserved.
The Dodgers’ starting rotation is often argued as the best in baseball right now and Ryu’s left arm is a big part of that accolade. His strong 2013 rookie season is exactly what the Dodgers expected to get out of Ryu and to expect anything less than a repeat performance in 2014 would be silly. Expect the Korean, who came into Spring Training slimmed down and ready to go, to get handed the ball early and often from manager Don Mattingly and to perform at a high level again.