The St. Louis Cardinals have sole possession of second place in a very tough National League Central Division. Although they sit nine games back of the best team in baseball –the Chicago Cubs — St. Louis has the fourth-best record in the NL at 35-28. This success is attributed to a great offense paired with a good pitching staff.
A hidden gem within this pitching staff is the “Final Boss,” Seung-hwan Oh. Prior to 2016, Oh had pitched a combined eleven seasons between the Korean Baseball Organization and the Japanese Central League, totaling 357 career saves. The nickname “Final Boss” was acquired due to his dominance in late inning situations in Japan and Korea.
While it’s true that sometimes numbers in foreign baseball leagues don’t translate to Major League Baseball, the Cardinals thought it was worth a chance. If his 357 saves in Asia weren’t enough to convince them, his 1.81 ERA, 10.7 K/9 and .854 WHIP probably helped persuade the Redbirds into signing him.
With no posting fee attached to him, the free agent Oh signed a one-year, $5 million contract, which could cost up to $11 million if the right-hander reaches all of his incentives and John Mozeliak decides to pick up his option for the 2017 season.
“The Stone Buddah,” as he is called for his even temper and stone-like demeanor on the mound, is living up to that contract and then some. So far in 2016, the 33-year-old has proven to be one of the best in the game at his job.
Among relievers with at least thirty innings pitched, Oh ranks first in K/9 with a 12.67 mark, second in ERA (1.65), and first in FIP (1.44), while inducing the fourth-best ground ball rate among all bullpen arms.
So why all of this success? Well, according to Brooksbaseball.net, Oh’s slider is one of the best in the game. Almost unhittable. Since Oh made it to the big leagues, opponents are hitting a mere .053 off his slider. He has thrown it 19 times so far in June, inducing nine swings and misses. He has given up two hits on his slider all season.
If that doesn’t convince you how good his slider really is, let me put it in a different perspective. The New York Yankees’ set-up man Andrew Miller is one of the best in the game. Opponents this season are hitting his slider at a .179 clip. Sure, Oh doesn’t have an upper 90’s fastball like Miller, but Oh’s slider induces a higher swing percentage along with a higher whiff percentage than what could be the best reliever in the game’s put-away pitch, and that should not be taken lightly.
I’m not saying send Oh to San Diego this second, but the results have been there from the start and continue to get better. He is having a dominant season, and for some reason it appears that his skills are getting overlooked. Should he find himself in San Diego this summer for the All-Star Game, he is well deserving.