COMMENTARY | Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu wasn't a trendy pick to win Rookie of the Year in his first year in the major leagues after starring in South Korea.
But his performance against the hot-hitting Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night at Dodgers Stadium could change that.
Yes, it is early -- way too early to make any determinations on the season. But it is worth thinking about, as Ryu has already started six times. Ryu is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 10 walks in 37.2 innings.
Tuesday night, Ryu dazzled, going 6 innings and allowing just two runs on three hits -- while striking out 12 and walking only two. Before he ran into trouble in the 6th inning, it looked like a solo home run by Carlos Gonzales would be the only damage to the rookie's line.
Even more impressive, it came off a Rockies team that had been putting up big numbers (even away from Coors Field), including pasting the Dodgers for four runs in the first inning before cruising to a 12-2 victory just the night before.
It wasn't Ryu's first impressive start, either.
Ryu has gone at least six innings in each of his five starts. In Arizona, he struck out nine Arizona Diamondbacks in six innings and allowed just three runs en route to his second career victory.
Preseason Favorites Unimpressive or Still on the Farm
Many of the preseason favorites for Rookie of the Year, according to the experts at ESPN, have either yet to make the leap to the major leagues or have yet to make an impact.
While 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout began the 2012 season in the minor leagues, he was called up by the end of May. Gerritt Cole, Oscar Taveras, Travis D'Arnaud and Adam Eaton have yet to play an inning of major league ball so far this year.
Julio Teheran of the Atlanta Braves has struggled, going 1-0 but with a 5.08 ERA in five games, striking out 20 but allowing five home runs. Jedd Gyorko of the San Diego Padres has yet to find his power stroke, batting .247/.317/.323 in his first taste of major league action. Adam Eaton has hit .259/.382/.412 for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The front-runner so far has to be Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals. Shelby is 3-2 with a 2.05 ERA, with 33 strikeouts to 10 walks in 30.2 innings of work.
Before you ask, no, Matt Harvey is not eligible for the award this year.
A Blue History of Rookies of the Year
If Ryu were to win, he would add his name to a long list of Rookies of the Year to don Dodgers blue. And he would break the franchise's 17 year drought of winners -- the longest in the franchise's history.
The winning began in the first year. Not only did Jackie Robinson win the first Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, it was renamed after Robinson in 1987. Three more Dodgers won the award while the team was in Brooklyn.
Since the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles, 12 Dodgers have taken home Rookie of the Year honors, from Frank Howard in 1960 to Todd Hollandsworth in 1996. Three of these were pitchers: Steve Howe in 1980, Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 and Hideo Nomo in 1995.
Still Extremely Early
It is still just six starts into the season for Ryu. May has barely even begun -- the season is barely starting.
Any number of things could happen; the injury bug that has hit seemingly every other Dodger could hit Ryu.
Ryu could have more outings like the one in Baltimore where he gave up five earned runs in six innings while giving up two home runs.
The second time through the league, Ryu could be exposed. Ryu could hit the rookie wall sometime in late summer and fade towards the finish.
Or another rookie could get extremely hot and run away with the award.
Yes, it is early. But watching Ryu mow down Rockies on the last night of April makes one at least wonder if he's the next to put his name next to Don Newcombe, Mike Piazza, Hideo Nomo and the rest.
Matthew Reichbach is a freelance writer and lifelong follower of the Dodgers from their minor league affiliates to the major league club.
You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @3_2count.
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