Seung-hwan Oh

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Oh Seung-hwan
Oh Seung-Hwan in St.Louis Cardinals.jpg
Oh in 2016
St. Louis Cardinals – No. 26
Relief pitcher
Born: (1982-07-15) July 15, 1982 (age 34)
Jeongeup, South Korea
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Professional debut
KBO: April 3, 2005, for the Samsung Lions
NPB: March 29, 2014, for the Hanshin Tigers
MLB: April 3, 2016, for the St. Louis Cardinals
KBO League statistics
Win–loss record 28–13
Saves 277
Earned run average 1.69
WHIP 0.84
Strikeouts 625
NPB statistics
Win–loss record 4–7
Saves 80
Earned run average 2.25
WHIP 0.99
Strikeouts 147
MLB statistics
(through May 13, 2017)
Win–loss record 7–4
Saves 29
Earned run average 2.11
WHIP 1.01
Strikeouts 116
Teams
Career highlights and awards

KBO

NPB

Professional records

  • KBO League all-time saves leader (277)
  • KBO League fewest games to reach 100 saves
  • NBP most saves by Korean pitcher in a single season (41)
Seung-hwan Oh
Medal record
Men's baseball
Representing  South Korea
Asian Games
Bronze medal – third place 2006 Doha Team
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 2008 Beijing Team
World Baseball Classic
Silver medal – second place 2009 Los Angeles Team
Bronze medal – third place 2006 San Diego Team
Seung-hwan Oh
Hangul 오승환
Hanja 吳昇桓
Revised Romanization O Seung-hwan
McCune–Reischauer O Sŭng-hwan

Oh Seung-hwan (Hangul: 오승환; Korean pronunciation: [o.sɯŋ.ɦwan]; born July 15, 1982) is a Korean professional baseball relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Samsung Lions of the KBO League in South Korea and the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan. He is known as "Dol-bucheo" (Stone Buddha) for being unshaken and maintaining an emotionless face in every situation. He is considered to be one of the greatest closers in the history of Korean baseball. His prowess as a relief pitcher also earned him the nickname, "Kkeut-pan Wang" (Final Boss), in South Korea and among Cardinal fans.[1]

Amateur career[edit]

Oh attended Kyunggi High School in Seoul, South Korea. He had been a pitcher since he began baseball, but he switched to the outfield after getting serious arm injuries in 1999. He joined the 2001 KBO draft at the end of his last high school season, but, despite intriguing some MLB scouts, went undrafted, and Oh elected to attend college instead.

Upon graduation from high school, Oh started his collegiate career at Dankook University, but missed the entire 2001 and 2002 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2001.

In 2003, he came back to the mound, pitching limited innings as a relief pitcher.

In 2004, his senior year at Dankook University, Oh came back – stronger, dominant, in total command and as consistent as ever, sweeping most of the Korean college pitching awards. In June, Oh made his first appearance for the South Korea national baseball team at the 2004 World University Baseball Championship held in Tainan, Taiwan. He led his team to the bronze medal, playing most of the games in closer duty.

Notable international championships[edit]

Year Venue Competition Team Individual Note
2004  Chinese Taipei World University Baseball Championship Bronze medal icon.svg

Professional career[edit]

Samsung Lions (2005–2013)[edit]

The Samsung Lions selected Oh in the second round (5th pick, 12th overall) of the 2005 KBO First Year Players draft. After signing with the club, he contributed a strong rookie season as a setup man and closer in 2005, going 10–1 with a 1.18 ERA, 16 saves (sixth in the league) and 115 strikeouts (fifth in the league) in 99 innings pitched over 61 games. In the 2005 Korean Series, he pitched seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, appearing in three games as a closer to lead his team to the championship. He was named the Korean Series MVP. After the season, Oh was also named KBO Rookie of the Year.[2]

Prior to his second season, Oh was selected to the roster of the South Korea national baseball team for the inaugural World Baseball Classic. That year, he achieved the first of two consecutive seasons with 40-plus saves, 2006 and 2007. His 47 saves in 2006 set a KBO League record for one season, a total he repeated in 2011.[3]

Recording his 100th save in fewer games than anyone in KBO League history, Oh became the KBO League's all-time saves leader with 277.[2] He collected his 200th save in his 333rd career appearance, making him the fastest player in all of the world's top professional leagues to achieve that total, surpassing the mark of 359 forged by Jonathan Papelbon of Major League Baseball.[3]

A shoulder injury began interfering with Oh's performance in 2009 and continued into 2010. He had his second elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in 2010 and returned to the playoffs in the same year.[3]

While Oh was still playing for the Lions, they became KBO League champions four more times. The Lions defeated the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, the Nippon Professional Baseball champions, to earn the Asia Series championship in 2011, and become the first non-Japanese team to win. Oh earned his second Korean Series MVP Award in 2011.[2]

He also posted a stellar 1.69 ERA in 444 games over the nine seasons that he played for Samsung Lions.[4] Every season with the Lions, Oh turned in an ERA under 2.00, except 2009–10, which were shortened by injuries.

Hanshin Tigers (2014–2015)[edit]

On November 22, 2013, Oh signed a two-year, 990 million yen contract with the Hanshin Tigers, the biggest contract for a Korean baseball player in Japan.[4] Tigers' manager Wada Yutaka suggested offering some Korean-language classes for his players to better communicate with their new teammate, especially the catchers and pitching coaches.[5]

All throughout the 2014 season, he played the role as the Tiger's top closer. He became the second Korean player to break the 300-save mark after Lim Chang-yong in a 3–0 defeat Yomiuri Giants on July 22, 2014.[6] On the September 24 match with the BayStars, he picked up his 36th save of the season and broke the NPB record for saves by a foreign pitcher in his first year in the NPB.[7] Eddie Gaillard (2000) and Dennis Sarfate (2011) each saved thirty-five games in a season.[8] He also now holds the record for the most saves by a Korean pitcher in their first year in Japan, beating the previous record set by Lim, who had 33 saves in 2008 when he started playing for the Swallows.[9] Oh notched a total of 39 saves for the season, breaking the NPB record for saves by a Korean pitcher in a single season set by Sun Dong-yeol (38 saves) with Chunichi in 1997.[10]

Oh played an instrumental role in Hanshin's advance to the Japan Series in October. After pitching four innings in two games against Hiroshima during the Climax Series (first stage), he took the mound in all four games against the Yomiuri Giants and successfully secured consecutive victories for his team. Including the last five regular-season games, he pitched in 11 consecutive games and recorded the save in all of them. When the Tigers finally won the series in October 18, Oh received the Climax Series MVP award, becoming the first Korean pitcher to do so in his first year in NPB. His fast and heavy balls, together with his calm and unwavering expression even in crisis situations, earned him a new nickname "Stone Guardian" from Japanese baseball fans.[11]

With Hanshin in 2015, Oh appeared in 54 games, logging 69 13 innings and striking out 66, walking 16 and allowing a 2.75 ERA.[12] He saved another 41 games that year, breaking his own NPB single-season record for most saves by a Korean pitcher.[2] In two seasons while playing in Japan, he had a 2.25 ERA with 80 saves. Through eleven total professional seasons in South Korea and Japan, he recorded 357 saves, a 1.81 ERA, and 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 646 13 IP.[13]

St. Louis Cardinals (2016–present)[edit]

On January 11, 2016, Oh signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball (MLB),[14] with a club option for a second season. The Cardinals had scouted him for seven years while he pitched in Asia. During contract negotiations with St. Louis, Oh indicated that his goal was to become the first player to appear in the Korean Series, the Japan Series, and the World Series.[15] He was initially assigned to help set up for incumbent closer Trevor Rosenthal.[13] Oh made his Major League debut on Opening Day 2016 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched one inning, walking two batters and striking out two batters, while throwing 27 pitches. He earned his first major league win against the Atlanta Braves on April 10, pitching a scoreless inning in a 12–6 outcome.[16]

In May, Oh began to receive attention as a top candidate for the National League (NL) Rookie of the Year Award.[17] In his first 31 games and 32 23 innings, he had struck out 46 batters – tied for first among NL relievers – while walking eight batters and permitting an ERA of 1.65.[12] On June 25, the Cardinals removed a struggling Rosenthal from the role as closer, and determined that Oh, lefty Kevin Siegrist, and righty Jonathan Broxton would instead serve in the role by committee.[18] Oh recorded his first MLB save on July 2 by pitching a perfect ninth with two strikeouts against the Milwaukee Brewers.[19] By saving both games of a doubleheader against the San Diego Padres on July 20, Oh was the first Cardinals pitcher to do so since Jason Isringhausen in 2004.[20] When Oh finished his 30th game on September 9, he triggered the 2017 option, worth $2.75 million.[21]

Notable international championships[edit]

Year Venue Competition Team Individual Note
2006  United States World Baseball Classic Bronze medal icon.svg 0-0, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA (4 G, 3.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 K)
2006  Qatar Asian Games Bronze medal icon.svg 0-1, 0 SV, 7.71 ERA (2 G, 2.1 IP, 2 ER, 3 K)
2007  Chinese Taipei Asian Baseball Championship Silver medal icon.svg
2008  China Olympic Games Gold medal icon.svg 0-0, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA (2 G, 1.2 IP, 0 ER, 1 K)
2009  United States World Baseball Classic Silver medal icon.svg 0-1, 0 SV, 18.00 ERA (2 G, 1.0 IP, 2 ER, 1 K)

Playing style[edit]

A sample of Oh's pitching motion in 2016

A right-handed pitcher, Oh stands 5' 10" (178 cm) and weighs 205 pounds (93 kg). His primary pitches include a four-seam fastball – averaging 92–93 miles per hour (148–150 km/h) and topping out at 96 miles per hour (154 km/h) – and a mid-80s slider[22] with a darting motion resembling a cutter.[13]

Oh's signature pitch is the four-seam fastball, which, due to its hard rising movement, earned the nickname "Dol-jikgu" (stone fastball) in Korea. By varying the speeds of each pitch, he alters the movement. He also alters the delivery of his pitches, creating another factor to change the batter's concentration.[23]

Personal life[edit]

It was announced in April 2015 that Oh was in a relationship with Girls' Generation's Yuri.[24] The couple were confirmed to have broken up in October 2015 after six months of dating due to the long distance in their relationship.[25]

The subject of a Korean investigation related to gambling, authorities interrogated Oh about his activities in Macau in November 2014 with fellow Korean baseball player Lim Chang-yong. Korean law is unusually strict in that it does not ban gambling per se, but it does ban going to casinos based outside of the country,[26] even in places where gambling is legal.[27] The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office fined Oh and Lim in January 2016,[28] and the KBO League suspended Oh for six months.[26] With Japanese law toward gambling among athletes similarly restrictive, the Hanshin Tigers terminated his contract amid reports he was linked to a Korean crime organization.[29]

Due to references from fans and media as "The Final Boss" and "Stone Buddha," Oh's nickname has frequently drawn comparisons to other notable nicknames of MLB players.[30][31][32]

Beginning in 2016, Eugene Koo has served as Oh's interpreter and de facto personal assistant in assimilating him to American culture.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "St. Louis Cardinals on Twitter". Retrieved 2016-09-07. 
  2. ^ a b c d MLB Press Release (January 11, 2016). "Cardinals sign KBO saves leader Seung Hwan Oh: Korean right-hander has posted 357 career saves between Korea & Japan". MLB.com. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c "Player Profile: RHP, Seung-Hwan Oh (Samsung Lions, KBO)". Global Sporting Integration. October 30, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Oh Seung-hwan sworn in as Hanshin Tigers player". The Chosun Ilbo. December 5, 2013. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Hanshin players told to learn Korean to help Oh Seung-hwan assimilate". The Chosun Ilbo. December 2, 2013. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Oh Seung-hwan makes 300th save". The Chosun Ilbo. July 22, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  7. ^ "September 24 baseball news". Sanspo.com. September 24, 2014. Retrieved September 25, 2014. 
  8. ^ "阪神 終盤に勝ち越す!8回一挙4得点!岩崎5勝目!". Sponichi. September 15, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Oh Seung-hwan sets rookie save record for Korean Pitcher in Japan". The Chosun Ilbo. September 5, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  10. ^ "September 28 baseball news". Sankei Sports (Sanspo.com). September 28, 2014. Retrieved October 2, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Korean relief pitcher heats up Japanese pro baseball". The Dong-A Ilbo. October 21, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Hummel, Rick (June 11, 2016). "Oh's numbers even better in big leagues". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c Goold, Derrick (January 11, 2016). "Cardinals acquire Korean reliever Oh". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved January 11, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Cardinals sign Korean pitcher Seung-Hwan Oh to bolster bullpen". ESPN.com. Associated Press. January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2016. 
  15. ^ Goold, Derrick (July 25, 2016). "One throw in Korea started Oh on long journey to Cardinals". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  16. ^ Hummel, Rick (April 10, 2016). "Young guns spark Cardinals' sweep". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Oh Seung-hwan, Park Byung-ho cited as Rookie of the Year contenders". The Chosun Ilbo. May 23, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  18. ^ ESPN.com News Services (June 27, 2016). "Cardinals' Mike Matheny pulls Trevor Rosenthal from closer's role". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 3, 2016. 
  19. ^ RotoWire Staff (July 2, 2016). "Cardinals' Seung Hwan Oh: Records first save versus Brewers Saturday". CBSSports.com. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  20. ^ Cassavell, A. J.; Krueger, Nick (July 20, 2016). "Gyorko Show: Ex-Padre carries Cardinals". MLB.com. Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
  21. ^ Byrne, Connor (September 10, 2016). "Seung-hwan Oh's 2017 option vests". MLB Trade Rumors. Retrieved September 13, 2016. 
  22. ^ "FanGraphs PITCHf/x". Fangraphs. Retrieved Jun 24, 2016. 
  23. ^ Bailey, J. J. (February 24, 2016). "Meet The Boss: Oh impresses in his full-squad debut". KMOV.com. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Yuri confirmed dating baseball player". KpopHerald. April 20, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  25. ^ "Girls' Generation's Yuri and Oh Seung hwan break up after six months of dating". KpopHerald. October 15, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  26. ^ a b Brown, Dave (January 11, 2016). "New Cards pitcher Seung-Hwan Oh brings with him a great nickname". CBSSports.com. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Oh Seung-hwan grilled over illegal gambling". The Chosun Ilbo. December 10, 2015. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Baseball players slapped with maximum fine for gambling". The Chosun Ilbo. January 15, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Oh Seung-hwan could lose contract over gambling scandal". The Chosun Ilbo. December 11, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  30. ^ Feldman, Kate (January 12, 2016). "With The Final Boss making his way to St. Louis, a look at the best nicknames in baseball". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  31. ^ Park, Moo-jong (May 19, 2016). "Major League 'Ho Trio'". The Korea Times. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  32. ^ Cwik, Chris (November 11, 2015). "Korean reliever Seung-hwan Oh has the best nickname for a closer". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Seung Hwan Oh interpreter talks pitcher's adjustment to US, perks of the job". CBSSports.com Radio (insidestl.com). March 25, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 

External links[edit]