St. Louis Cardinals: Oh turning things around
Right-hander Seung-hwan Oh is turning things around quickly at the right time for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Over the course of the season, any time the St. Louis Cardinals turned to the bullpen, it felt as if the game was already lost. The early season struggles of Seung-hwan Oh felt out of nowhere compared to the brilliant season he had in 2016. In 2016, he went from set-up man to the full-time closer.
However, his struggles in 2017 caught up to him, and it was Trevor Rosenthal reclaiming the closer’s role from Oh last month. Prior to his “demotion” from the closer’s role, Oh posted a 4.17 ERA with three blown saves and four losses. While three blown saves and four losses doesn’t seem beyond any closer, they all came within the time frame where the Cardinals needed wins.
Mike Matheny’s decision to lift Oh from the closer’s role was met with applause, but also some questions. What would happen with Oh? Would close again for the Cardinals? There were even trade rumors going around about Oh. If anything that is a testament to how good he can be when right.
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Fortunately, things have turned around quickly for the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen, and it all started with Oh.
Since his “demotion” on July 19th, Seung-hwan Oh has pitched in nine games covering nine innings. He gave up an unearned run, but has zero earned runs in those nine innings, striking out eleven batters.
In the nine innings he’s pitched, Oh has not walked a batter.
He has held his opponent to a .206 average in his nine games, and is throwing seventy-five percent of his pitches for strikes. His swinging strike rate is up four percent (17% from 13%), which is a result of his slider.
The best part is his ERA is down from 4.17 to a manageable 3.42. While it’s still a long ways from his 1.92 ERA in 2016, Oh seems to have conquered any demons he had through July.
His turnaround comes at a no better time for a St. Louis Cardinals team chasing the Chicago Cubs. After his scoreless effort last night in Kansas City, coupled with a Redbird win, the team finds themselves just 2.5 games back of the division-leading Cubs.
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If Oh can get back to being “The Final Boss,” the Cardinals will once again be a dominating bullpen in the NL-Central. Since the Cardinals tend to find themselves in close games this year, Oh will help stabilize the bullpen in the seventh or eighth inning.
Will he go back to closing? I highly doubt it. With the way Rosenthal has pitched in the ninth inning lately, there is probably no chance Oh closes for the team this season, and probably beyond.
However, that’s why it is so important for him to get back to his former self. The last three World Series winners have had a lights-out bullpen. With Brett Cecil and Rosenthal, Oh anchors what can be a very exciting bullpen at the end of games for the St. Louis Cardinals.
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The St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen has done much better since moving Oh and Rosenthal back into their original roles. With the success he is having now, Oh should remain Matheny’s seven or eighth inning option for most of the games from here on out. If he is