Despite a dominant season at the forefront of the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation, Hyun-Jin Ryu placed third in voting for the 2019 Players Choice Awards National League Comeback Player of the Year, which went to Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray was the runner up.
Donaldson bounced back from appearing in just 52 games in 2018 to bat .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 94 RBI for the Braves this season. He also led NL third basemen with 15 Defensive Runs Saved.
Ryu would have been the second Dodgers player in as many seasons to take home the honor, as Matt Kemp was previously named the 2018 Players Choice Awards NL Comeback Player of the Year.
After closing out his 2018 campaign on a strong note, Ryu opted against testing free agency and returned to the Dodgers by signing the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer extended to him.
In 29 starts during the regular season, the left-hander compiled a 14-5 record, 2.32 ERA, 179 ERA+, 3.10 FIP and 1.01 WHIP with 163 strikeouts against 24 walks in 182.2 innings pitched. Ryu additionally accumulated a career-best 5.1 WAR (Baseball-Reference) for his efforts.
The 32-year-old led the Majors in several categories, including ERA, which he deemed a pleasant surprise after revealing his primary focus was staying healthy.
Ryu jumped out to an excellent start after going 10-1 with a 1.93 ERA in the first half. He was named the NL’s starter in the All-Star Game, becoming the first Dodgers’ pitcher to get the nod since Zack Greinke in 2015.
Ryu joined Hideo Nomo (1995) and Fernando Valenzuela (1981) as international pitchers who have held the distinction for the franchise, and was the first Korean born pitcher overall to receive the honor.
The Dodgers’ stunning loss to the Washington Nationals in the NL Division Series limited Ryu to just one appearance during the month of October. He started Game 3 of the matchup, allowing two runs on four hits over five innings pitched in what amounted to a 10-4 victory.
Though Ryu came up short in the Players Awards, he remains a candidate for NL Cy Young. Though, Ryu previously revealed New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom would get his vote for the honor, citing the right-hander’s superior strikeout numbers and advantage in innings pitched.