Sporting News has announced their variation of the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award and the winner is not Hyun-Jin Ryu. Instead, the 2019 winner from the National League is Atlanta Braves third baseman and impending free agent Josh Donaldson.
Josh Donaldson has been named Sporting News’ 2019 NL Comeback Player of the Year.
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) October 23, 2019
Hyun-Jin Ryu was in the running for this award, but Donaldson has claimed it. In 2018, Donaldson played in just 52 games — approximately one third of the MLB season — and slashed .246/.352/.449 with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians. Signed by the Braves to a one-year, $23 million deal in the off-season, Donaldson put up some pretty good numbers in 2019: .259/.379/.521 and 4.9 WAR in 155 games played. It was certainly a good comeback, but was it better than that of Hyun-Jin Ryu’s with his fair share of 2018 injuries?
Ryu, 32, had the best season of his career in 2019, posting a 2.32 ERA across 182 2/3 innings of work over 29 starts. By himself, he was worth 4.8 WAR, a point less than Josh Donaldson. In 2018, Ryu was also phenomenal, but his season was cut short by a gruesome injury to his groin that featured his muscle tearing completely off of the bone. Not only was this Ryu’s best season, in context, it was an even victory for Ryu considering he had never thrown more than 152 innings in a season since his rookie year in 2013. He overcame injuries just as severe as Donaldson and had a better season. It sounds to me like Babe Ryuth got snubbed.
While I might seem somewhat bitter about Donaldson’s selection over Ryu, I’m not. Donaldson is a very deserving candidate, but it definitely seems like Ryu got the cold shoulder. At the end of the day, it is understandable considering that Ryu actually had a great season in 2018, albeit a half-season. When we look at what the Comeback Player of the Year should epitomize, it is Ryu. However, it is also Donaldson, too. Sporting News just seemed to believe that the Bringer of Rain deserved it more than Hyun-Jin Ryu. They can’t be blamed as both players are excellent in their own right.