Shaken but steadfast…the ‘stone pillar’ that never quit

“This is the beginning, and I will do my best for 10 or 15 years.”

That’s what Samsung closer Oh Seung-hwan (41), who was named the 2005 Korean Baseball Organization Rookie of the Year, said as a college graduate that year, when he went 10-1 with 11 holds and 16 saves as a middle reliever and closer. With double-digit wins, holds, and saves, Oh was so dominant that he pitched 99 innings in 61 games and struck out 115 batters, finishing second in the Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting behind Lotte’s Son Min-han (48).

In his second year, Oh Seung-hwan became Samsung’s backstop. Despite frequent struggles and controversy, he fulfilled his role as Samsung’s “closer” with his “stone fastball”. Since then, he has remained unflappable until he exceeded 15 years as promised, and finally became the first person in the Korean Baseball Organization to reach 400 career saves. 토토사이트

In the final home game of the season against SSG at Samsung Lions Park in Daegu on April 14, Oh came on in relief with the bases loaded in the eighth inning with his team leading 4-3. He struck out Choo Shin-soo in the eighth to end the inning and finished the game without allowing a run in the ninth. Oh earned his 30th save of the season and 400th career save in the KBO. Only eight players, including Mariano Rivera (652 saves), have reached the 400-save mark in Major League Baseball and Hitoki Iwase (407 saves) in Japan. Seung-hwan Oh’s 122 saves in the U.S. and Japan combine to give him a total of 522 career saves in Korea, the U.S. and Japan.

Seung-hwan Oh began collecting saves in earnest in 2006, his second year in the league. He set the record for most saves in a season (47) and followed it up with 40 and 39 saves in 2007 and 2008, respectively. In the 2011 season, he was impregnable, allowing just four runs in 57 innings of work, and once again collected 47 saves. After two years in Japan from 2014 and 122 saves in the United States in 2016, Oh returned to Korea in 2020 and remained unchanged, collecting 44 saves in 2021 and 31 saves last season.

He entered 2023 with 370 career saves in Korea, and the early part of his free agency season was so unsettling that retirement talk came before 400 saves. Seung-hwan Oh took the loss on April 8 against the LG and then recorded a blown save in his next appearance on April 13. Seung-hwan Oh, a specialty closer, saw his ERA spike to 6.35 at one point. In an effort to find his pitching balance, Oh took the mound as a starter for the first time in 19 years in May and threw five innings. At the time, he was 40 years, 9 months, and 18 days old, making him the oldest starting pitcher in the KBO. Still, Oh didn’t look like his old self, and his emotions broke down. On June 16, when he was pulled after facing three batters for two hits against KT, he threw his glove in the dugout and lost his composure. Amid talk of retirement, Oh was sent down to the second team to pitch. “He’s training harder than anyone else,” Samsung manager Park Jin-man said.

Seung-hwan Oh started to change in the second half. In 32 games, he went 2-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 20 saves, giving him 30 saves for the third straight year. This is the second time Oh has recorded 30 saves in three consecutive seasons (2021-2023) since 2006-2008.

Seung-hwan Oh’s 400-save milestone is unlikely to be broken anytime soon. Only Son Seung-rak (271), Lim Chang-yong (258), Kim Yong-soo (227), and Koo Dae-sung (214) have more than 200 saves, and they are all retired.

Oh Seung-hwan is a free agent. Still showing his competitiveness, it will be interesting to see where he chooses to live as the history of Korean professional baseball could be rewritten.

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