Oh Seung-hwan of Team South Korea pitches in the ninth inning during the round one of baseball team competition match between Team Dominican Republic and Team South Korea on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on August 01, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images)
By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
Samsung Lions closer Oh Seung-hwan, 41, notched his 390th save in the KBO on August 20 against the Kia Tigers in a 6-4 win.
He pitched a scoreless ninth and didn’t allow a base runner. His 390 saves in the KBO give him the record by a wide margin over Son Seung-lak, who retired with the Lotte Giants in 2019 with 271 saves.
It has been a historic season for Oh, who recorded his 500th professional save against the NC Dinos on June 6 in a 9-6 win. He picked up his 20th save of the season against Kia to get to 390 and currently ranks sixth in saves this season. The KBO saves leader this season is SSG Landers closer Seo Jin-yong with 32.
Oh has also played in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and in Major League Baseball. He’s the only player in baseball history to have a save in the USA, Canada, Korea, and Japan.
Oh Seung-hwan has had a storied career and he’s not letting his age slow him down. He spoke with Yonhap a reporter for The Korean Herald after he got his 500th professional save on June 6.
“I am not thinking about my age. When I am on the mound, I put myself on equal terms with guys that are 20 years younger,” Oh Seung-hwan said.
Four hundred saves in the KBO is another milestone in play for the veteran. Oh said he would like to reach that number, but he also talked about the importance of the team.
“The most important thing for me is to protect wins for my team,” Oh said. “If I keep grinding out for saves without blowing opportunities, then the team record will naturally follow, said Oh Seung-hwan.
Oh Seung-hwan features a rising fastball that was nicknamed “Dol-jikgu” (stone fastball) in Korea. This ranged from 92-93 mph and topped out at 96. He also features a slider.
Oh Seung-hwan has also played internationally for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic, Olympics, and Asian Games. In 2006, South Korea took third place in the WBC and at the Asian Games. In 2008, his team won a gold medal in the Olympics. In 2009, he played in the WBC again, and South Korea was the runner-up to Japan, losing 6-2 in the championship game.
In 2005, he began his career in the KBO with the Samsung Lions. He won Rookie of the Year with 16 saves in 99 innings pitched and 115 strikeouts. His ERA was 1.18 and his WHIP was 0.67.
Oh pitched with the Samsung Lions until 2013 and was a seven-time All-Star in his first nine seasons with the Lions. During this span, he led the KBO in saves five times and won the Asian Series in 2011.
Oh Seung-hwan left the KBO for the NBP and signed with the Hanshin Tigers in 2014. He broke the records for the most saves for a foreign pitcher and for a Korean pitcher with 39 saves. In 2015, he topped that mark with 41 saves. In two seasons in the NPB, he saved 80 games in 136 innings with an ERA of 2.25 and 147 strikeouts.
After 2015, Oh’s contract was terminated by the Tigers due to a Korean investigation regarding gambling in 2014. he decided to go to MLB and he signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals with a club option for a second year on January 11, 2016. He made his MLB debut when he was 33 years old.
Oh Seung-hwan pitched 79.2 innings with 16 saves and 103 strikeouts in his rookie season in MLB. His ERA was 1.92 and his WHIP was 0.91, and he saved 20 games with an ERA of 4.10 in his second season.
In 2018, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and appeared in 48 games, pitching 47 innings with 59 strikeouts. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies on July 26, 2018. He pitched 21.1 innings and struck out 25 batters through the stretch run of 2018 with Colorado.
In 2019, Oh Seung-hwan pitched 18 innings with an ERA of 9.33 before undergoing surgery that ended his season. The Rockies released him, and he went back to the Samsung Lions in 2020.
He pitched 225.2 innings in his MLB career with 42 saves, 252 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.31.
He has now been back with the Lions for four seasons, and he led the KBO in saves in 2021. He was named to his eighth All-Star game in 2022. His career stats in the KBO include 722.1 innings pitched, 390 saves, and 801 strikeouts with an ERA of 2.08.
The Samsung Lions play their next game on Tuesday against the Hanwha Eagles at 5:30 a.m. EST.