When Ryu Hyun-jin lowered his ERA to 1.45 a month ago, U.S. media mentioned several legendary Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers. One of them was Greg Maddux. He had an ERA of 1.56 while playing for the Atlanta Braves in 1994.
Ryu used to be often likened to Greg Maddux for his command and deep arsenal of pitches. As Ryu’s ERA has ballooned to 2.35 these days, U.S. media shifted their focus to Ryu’s physical strength but Ryu’s partner still had faith in him. “He’s always great. He had his tough times but now he’s back on track,” said Russell Martin, whom Maddux pitched to between 2006 and 2008.
Ryu pitched seven scoreless innings against the New York Mets on Sunday, bouncing back from recent struggles. A great teamwork with his pitcher, Martin, played a significant role in the Korean pitcher’s rebound, according to an analysis. Ryu had a 1.60 ERA in 19 matches with Martin this season while having a 5.81 ERA in five games with rookie catcher Will Smith.
Martin’s framing skills are one of the best in MLB. According to statistics by Baseball Savant, Martin converted 52.9 percent of non-swing pitches into called strikes in the Shadow Zone, having the fifth highest percentage in MLB. In particular, he turned 70.4 percent and 75 percent pitches, tilting to left and right sides, respectively, into called strikes. These points are where Ryu throws his fast balls and change-ups. It explains why Ryu has a great teamwork with Martin since he often throws pitches that nick the border of the strike zone.
The Dodgers did not have great expectations for Martin when they re-acquired Martin before the start of the season. Martin had spectacular defense and offense skills, winning the Silver Slugger Award and the Gold Globe Award in 2007. But his batting power has weakened as he entered his mid-30s. He has had a batting average of 0.217 and hit only six homers this season but his ability to lead the Dodgers pitchers has been recognized. Martin is contributing to the team in many ways this season, pitching scoreless innings as a relief pitcher in three games.