Professional athletes are creatures of habit, but arguably the most devout routine-followers are MLB starting pitchers. Unlike relief pitchers, games are regimented for starting pitchers. Every five days, they take the hill, and they use the four days in-between to prepare.
One of the more interesting Blue Jays-related routines to watch over the last few years has been their uniform selection, especially pertaining to their ace Hyun-Jin Ryu.
It’s an open secret that some teams let the starting pitcher gets to decide the colour of uniform on game day, and with three different options for home games and two options for away games, Ryu found an ensemble he likes most.
Since joining the Blue Jays, Ryu has made 22 starts for the Blue Jays (including his playoff appearance against the Tampa Bay Rays last year). Of those 22 games, he’s worn the powder blue uniforms 13 times (59 per cent of his starts), the alternate blue uniforms five times (28 per cent), and the road grey uniform four times (18 per cent).
It should be noted that Ryu has yet to wear the traditional home white Blue Jays uniform set. He hasn’t sported that combination yet, and he seems to prefer the retro-inspired powder blue uniform with the dark blue cap.
Last year, Korean reporters asked Ryu about this trend when they noticed he wore the powder blue uniforms in three consecutive starts. Ryu told MLB reporter Jo Miye: “It’s the uniform of my choice because I keep getting good results in them.” (Via Korean to English translation, with help from Jason Lee.)
In looking for a pattern, there isn’t a clear indicator when Ryu changes things up, but on a few occasions, he made the switch from the powder blue uniform to the road grey or alternate blue after a rough start.
On September 7 last year, he gave up five earned runs in a game against the Yankees while wearing the powder blue uniform, and for his next game, he switched over to the alternate blue uniform.
On April 20 earlier this season, Ryu lasted five innings while giving up four earned runs against the Red Sox (also in the powder blues). For his next start versus the Tampa Bay Rays, he changed over to the road grey uniform.
The unofficial pattern seems to be that the Blue Jays left-hander wears the powder blues for a string of starts, so long as games are going well. He’s on a three start powder blue streak, and earlier this season had a five start powder blue uniform streak going.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory when the Blue Jays had an affinity for a particular uniform. In the second half of the 2015 season, the team all but abandoned their away greys and wore their alternate blue uniforms for most of their road games.
In 2017, the Blue Jays ditched their red and white “Canadiana” uniforms worn during Sunday home games. “We should probably just shred ’em, burn ’em, give ’em away to charity, something. But they need to go,” said Blue Jays infielder Ryan Goins.
Maybe it’s a habit, maybe it’s just an oddity, but if Blue Jays fans are tuning in for a Ryu start, chances are he’ll take the mound in those powder blue uniforms the Blue Jays re-released to much fanfare last year.