All Star Game Snub: Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu has handled a cultural shift with grace. His infectious personality, friendly smile, and positive attitude in the dugout and the clubhouse have gained him a place on the team. His 7-3 record, 2.82 ERA, 90 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings pitched and 1.23 WHIP should have gotten him serious All Star consideration. (Image source: Yahoo Sports at http://l.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/HKBOIyST5w6l4wHPXmZR.A–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NQ–/http://media.zenfs.com/en/blogs/sptusmlbexperts/ryudebut040313.jpg)

Lost in PuigMania, hidden behind one of the game’s true gems in Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers had an All Star candidate worth talking about.

While both Yasiel Puig and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez may find themselves on the outside looking in next week when the festivities begin at Citi Field next week, they at least have a chance to get in on the final fan ballot.  Ryu is the odd man out on the roster, and it’s a shame when you look at his numbers and consider the cultural shift he’s undergone this year in adapting to the Major Leagues.

All Hyun-Jin Ryu has done over the first half of the season is put up a 7-3 record.  His ERA, at 2.82, ranks 12th in the National League, but has also gradually improved over the course of the season.  He’s struck out 90 batters in 111 2/3 innings.  And while Zack Greinke leads team pitchers in hitting with an astounding .370 batting average, the 6’2″, 255 lb. South Korean lefty has put together a pretty impressive hitting resume himself.  His .235 batting average comes with two doubles, a triple and 4 RBIs.  He’s amassed eight hits in 34 at bats and even managed to walk once.  He does have 17 strikeouts, but tends to go down swinging and is not an easy out, as evidenced by an at-bat against Matt Cain last Friday when he fouled off several pitches hard down the right field line before striking out.  Ryu then managed a sharp single to right field his next at-bat that he hit so hard, Hunter Pence made an attempt to throw Ryu out at first (he was safe.)

Not bad for a guy in his first year in the big leagues who had very limited experience swinging the bat prior to coming to the U.S.

Hyun-Jin Ryu has taken Los Angeles by such a storm with his pitching efforts that Pop Star Psy made a trip to Dodger Stadium to meet the young pitcher and exchange autographed pieces with him. (Image source: http://images.kpopstarz.com/data/images/full/2013/05/01/67522-psy-ryu-exchange-souvenirs-after-dodgers-game.jpg)

We should also mention that Ryu has risen to such national prominence and celebrity both in his native South Korea and amongst the Korean population here in the United States that Pop Star Psy actually made the effort to meet him.

Oppum Gangham Style! Ryu leads teammates Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw in a “Gangham Style” dance in the Dodger clubhouse. (Image source: USA Today at http://images.ftw.usatoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/HyunJinRyuMattKempClaytonKershawGangnamStyle.gif)

Ryu, as you can see, had already used Psy’s music to build clubhouse chemistry and have a little fun with teammates Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.

The All Star Game is supposed to pit the league’s best talent as well as its most fan-friendly figures.  While no one will deny what Yasiel Puig has done in his first month and a fraction in the Major Leagues, Ryu’s considerable efforts are now being largely overlooked.  Despite this fact, the left-hander has continued to dazzle while helping to fuel the positive dugout and clubhouse attitude that has the Dodgers back in the race in the National League West.

A continued strong effort from Hyun-Jin Ryu might be one of the keys to the second half of the Dodgers’ season.  Tucked safely behind the solid arms of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and now somewhat shielded from the hype generated by Yasiel Puig, Ryu might just be the best #3 starter in baseball.  He’s now flying mostly under the radar, though his popularity amongst the Korean fans in Los Angeles and his celebrity amongst the Korean media means that the buzz around him remains, at minimum, a dull roar.  But if these efforts continue, Ryu might find himself center stage with the bright lights shining on him in Game 3 of a playoff series come October.

Dodger fans would certainly love to see that.

Hyun-Jin Ryu might have been snubbed by the All Star Game, but the Korean lefty could find himself on baseball’s biggest stage come this October if the Dodgers are able to capitalize on their recent hot streak that finds them back within 3 1/2 games of the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. (Image source: ESPN at http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2013/0430/mlb_a_ryu_gb1_400.jpg)
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