‘Final leader’ Oh Seung-hwan (41, Samsung Lions) has finally set a milestone that will remain in the history of the KBO League. This is a rare record even globally.
Seung-hwan Oh went on the mound in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League home game against SSG Landers held at Daegu Samsung Lions Park on the 14th with two outs and two bases on base in the top of the eighth inning when the team was ahead by one point, 4-3.
Oh Seung-hwan, who was hit by a sharp ball from Choo Shin-soo, a fellow of the same age who came on as a pinch hitter, was left in danger as first baseman Lee Seong-gyu made a good move and got an out. He then took the mound in the 9th inning and allowed leadoff hitter Oh Tae-gon to walk by throwing 4 balls in a row after the first pitch strike. He also induced Choi Ji-hoon to hit a fly ball to third base on a 3-ball-0 strike, and at the end of a 9-pitch match with Hanyu Island, he gave up another walk.
However, Oh Seung-hwan did not waver and continued pitching. He gave Guillermo Heredia a breather with a big fly to right field, and he also had a dizzying moment when he gave up No. 5 Park Seong-han a large foul home run that missed the right pole slightly. Seung-Hwan Oh ended the game by hitting Seong-Han Park with a fly ball to left field.
When the save was completed, catcher Kang Min-ho went up to the mound first and hugged Oh Seung-hwan. Then, all the players ran to the infield and appeared to celebrate achieving the record. This is because this one save was not just a record.
Oh Seung-hwan, who added a save on this day, achieved his 400th save in the KBO League. Oh Seung-hwan took his first step toward an unprecedented record that has never been reached since the league was launched in 1982. He joined Samsung in 2005 as the 5th pick in the first round of the second round, and made his first save in his debut against LG on April 27 of that year. After taking over the position of closer during the season and making 16 saves, he transitioned to a full-fledged closer as a closer in 2006 and recorded 47 saves, a new record for saves in the KBO league. He also ranked first in saves in 2007 (40 saves) and 2008 (39 saves).
Of course, my career wasn’t just a good one. In 2009, while struggling with an ERA of 4.83, he suffered a shoulder injury, and the following year, he underwent surgery to remove bone fragments from his elbow and appeared in only 16 games during the regular season. However, in 2011, Oh Seung-hwan announced a brilliant revival by recording 47 saves and an astonishing ERA of 0.63. In 2012, he broke Kim Yong-soo’s (former LG) record for first place in KBO league career saves (227 saves), putting his name on the highest list.
Seung-Hwan Oh, who stopped adding KBO save records while playing in Japan and the United States since 2014, returned to Korea in 2019. The following year, he announced a comeback with 18 saves, and in 2021, he added 44 saves and reached the 300-save milestone. And after two years, he added another milestone.
400 saves is a rare record even overseas, where there are more games. Since saves were incorporated into the Major League Baseball (MLB) official record in 1969, only eight players have reached the 400 save mark, and in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), there is only one player, Hitoki Iwase (407 saves). If you add the 122 saves that Oh Seung-hwan recorded overseas (42 saves in MLB + 80 saves in NPB), the total is 522 saves, which is second only to legendary players such as Mariano Rivera (652 saves) and Trevor Hoffman (601 saves) in the major league.
It is expected that no player will break Oh Seung-hwan’s record for the time being. From Son Seung-rak (271 saves), ranked 2nd in career saves, to Koo Dae-seong (214 saves), who ranked 5th, all retired, and the gap with active player Jung Woo-ram (Hanwha, 197 saves), ranked 2nd, is double. Fortunately, Go Woo-seok (LG), who is still 25 years old, is recording 139 saves, but there are variables such as advancing overseas.
What makes Oh Seung-hwan’s record achievement even more meaningful is that he eventually regained his ‘class’ despite going through many twists and turns this season. As of the 14th, Oh Seung-hwan appeared in 58 games this season and posted a record of 4 wins, 5 losses, 30 saves, 2 holds, and an ERA of 3.45. Oh Seung-hwan, who showed some shakiness at the beginning of the season, gave up his finishing position and moved to the middle relay. However, as he did not get a chance to pitch here, he appeared as a starting pitcher in the match against Daegu Kiwoom on May 3, 18 years after his professional debut and 621 games in the KBO league. At the time, he pitched unexpectedly well with 5 hits (1 home run), 6 strikeouts, and 3 runs in 5 innings, but it was a one-time appearance, and after a break in the second team, he returned to the bullpen again.
Oh Seung-hwan, who was in a save situation again in June, showed unusual anger, befitting his nickname ‘Stone Buddha’, such as throwing his glove after a steel cut in the Suwon KT game on June 16. In the end, after a meeting with Coach Park, Seung-Hwan Oh was sent back down to the second team. In 26 games in the first half, he recorded 2 wins, 3 losses, 10 saves, 2 holds, and an ERA of 4.80.안전놀이터
However, things changed after the All-Star break. In August, he recorded 10 saves per month, and in September, his pitching content significantly improved with an ERA of 1.04. In the double header against Lotte on the 2nd, he showed fighting spirit by saving in both games. He has not given up a single point in the last 10 games. He has 20 saves and a 2.20 ERA in the second half of the season.
Samsung coach Park Jin-man, who was Oh Seung-hwan’s teammate during his rookie days and is currently the head coach, said earlier this month, “It’s amazing that Oh Seung-hwan continues to pitch until now. As he gets older, he is making up for his shortcomings with other things and consistently doing so.” He continued, “I am a former fielder, so I am insensitive to such records, but 100 saves is also an award record, but 400 saves is truly amazing.”