Oh attended Kyunggi High School in Seoul, South Korea. He had been a pitcher since he began baseball, but he switched to the outfield after getting serious arm injuries in 1999. He joined the 2001 KBO draft at the end of his last high school season, but, despite intriguing some MLB scouts, went undrafted, and Oh elected to attend college instead.
Upon graduation from high school, Seung-Hwan started his collegiate career at Dankook University, but missed the entire 2001 and 2002 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2001.
In 2003, he came back to the mound, pitching limited innings as a relief pitcher.
In 2004, his senior year at Dankook University, Oh came back stronger, dominant, in total command, and as consistent as ever, sweeping most of the Korean college pitching awards. In June, Oh made his first appearance for the South Korea national baseball team at the 2004 World University Baseball Championship held in Tainan, Taiwan. He led his team to the bronze medal, playing most of the games in closer duty.
In 2005, Seung-Hwan was selected by the Samsung Lions in the second round (5th pick, 12th overall) of the KBO draft. Signed by the Samsung Lions, Oh had a strong rookie season as the Lions setup man and closer.
In the 2005 Korean Series, Oh pitched 7 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, appearing in 3 games as a closer to lead his team to the championship, and he was named the Korean Series MVP. After the season, Oh was also named KBO Rookie of the Year.
Oh was selected to the roster of the South Korea national baseball team for the inaugural World Baseball Classic prior to the 2006 season. He pitched three hitless, walkless innings in four games, marred only by a hit batsmen. He saved one game and struck out three and tied Francisco Rodríguez for the most innings without a hit or walk in the tourney.
In 2007, Seung-Hwan broke the Asian baseball saves record held by Hitoki Iwase (Nippon Pro Baseball with 46); the old KBO record had been 42. In 2011, Oh broke his own KBO and Asian saves record by saving 47 games.
Oh had a win and a save in the 2008 Olympics despite only facing four batters in helping South Korea win Gold. He got a double play fly out from the only batter he faced in a win over China and retired all three hitters he faced in a save against Cuba.
In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Oh allowed 3 hits and 2 runs in one inning of work. All the trouble came in one game against Japan (which beat South Korea for the title); Oh entered with a 2-2 tie in the 8th and gave up hits to Norichika Aoki and Atsunori Inaba. Kwang-hyun Kim relieved and let both inherited runners score, handing Oh the loss.
After his great 2011 season, Seung-Hwan was named as one of four finalists for the KBO MVP, along with teammate Hyung-woo Choi (the home run, RBI and slugging leader), fellow pitcher Seok-min Yoon (the pitching Triple Crown winner) and defending MVP Dae-ho Lee (the batting average and OBP leader).
Oh originally said he wanted to be the first full-time closer to be named MVP (Dae-sung Koo won while splitting time between closer and starter 15 years prior), but then withdrew his name from candidacy, throwing his support behind teammate Hyung-woo Choi. Oh became the first player ever to withdraw from the list of KBO MVP finalists. Despite his withdrawal, he still finished second with 19 of 91 votes, well back of Yoon (62), but ahead of both Choi (8) and Lee (2).
November 2012: Seung-Hwan showed some interest in moving to the NPB in Japan. The Orix Buffaloes, who have a history of signing Korean stars such as Park Chan-ho, Lee Seung-yeop, and Lee Dae-ho, is making moves to sign the Samsung closer for next season. Oh coul become a free agent, if the team gives him permission, but sources say the odds of Samsung giving up the closer are slim. And by mid-November, Oh had decided to stay with the Samsung Lions for the 2013 season before testing the free agent market.
Oh does a great job of working hard to stay in top physical condition."I want to become a long-running pitcher who can play as long as I want, my team wants and my fans want,” he said in 2012.
Oh's nickname is "The Final Boss."
February 10, 2016: Oh, the South Korean reliever signed by the Cardinals, received his work visa and is expected to report on Jupiter, Florida on time for the start of Cardinals 2016 Spring Training.
Recent reports out of Oh's home country speculated that the 33-year-old may be delayed from traveling to the U.S. because of an extended visa application process. But he had his interview with South Korean officials, and he soon received the necessary paperwork to travel. (J Langosch - MLB.com - February 10, 2016)
The Cardinals began compiling a scouting report on Oh during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The team also invested more scouting time and resources in learning the professional leagues in Korea and Japan, while also developing a way, analytically, to predict how talent in Asia would translate to the Majors. A key part of that algorithm was comparing the success of players who had made the move, and unifying the statistical models with the evaluations from scouts.
In both the winters of 2014 and 2015, the Cardinals submitted bids for a Korean player and each time they came shy of being the highest bidder, finishing second to Pittsburgh for infielder Jung Ho Kang before the 2015 season and somewhere behind Minnesota for Byung-Ho Park this past winter. Oh was appealing to the Cardinals because he was a true free agent and not attached to a posting fee.
Oh arrives with two nicknames that he said fans gave him in Korea: “Stone Buddha” and “The Final Boss.” He prefers “The Final Boss.” (Derrick Goold - Baseball America - 1/29/2016)
April 15, 2016: Cardinals reliever Seung Hwan Oh has lived up to his nicknames since coming to the U.S. Batters have had a hard time adjusting to the movement on Oh's pitches.
"Those are sort of things that are pretty unique where a guy can adjust to every pitch and throw it a little bit differently," Matheny said. "That's hard for a hitter to make an adjustment to. It takes years of developing your craft to be able to do that and Seung Hwan has been able to do that."
There has been an adjustment period, such as learning after Oh's first appearance in Pittsburgh that it counts as an official mound visit if his interpreter comes out when just the catcher wants to talk to him. Yadier Molina and Oh have been working on communicating basic strategy without the need for an interpreter. Matheny said there are ways around the communication barrier.
"We have so few Korean-speaking people in this game we could probably have [the interpreter] stand up [in the dugout] and scream at the top of his lungs, so that's always an option for us," Matheny said. "We'll figure this stuff out as we go, but the communication will get clearer as we continue to get more opportunities." (J Harris - MLB.com - April 15, 2016)
Oh says his favorite player was Chan Ho Park. "He was a minor league star when I was growing up. I saw MLB for the first time through him," Seung Hwan said.
Hobbies? "I enjoy shopping and trying good restaurants. And I've been playing some Ping Pong with Eugene (Koo, his translator) in the clubhouse."
TV Show: Game of Thrones.
Meal: Fried rice, and also curry. "I cook a lot," he says.
Favorite US food? "Steaks and crab cakes."
Music: "In America, I like hip-hop a lot. I have been listening to Nelly for a long time and knew he was from St. Louis," Oh said. (May, 2016 - Cardinals Magazine)
2016 Q&A with Mark Saxon/ESPN -- 8/21/2016:
Q. Ichiro Suzuki already has surpassed Pete Rose's all-time hits record of 4,256 if you count the nearly 1,300 hits he came up with in Japan. Rose has made his opinion clear that the competition isn't as stiff in Japan and those hits shouldn't count in evaluating the greatness of the two players. Where do you stand on how difficult it is to get hits in Japan vs. in the major leagues?
A. It's difficult to say, especially from my perspective. I don't think I have enough expertise. I want to be careful about it, because my personal opinion is just that. It's a major accomplishment what Ichiro has done and I have a lot of respect for it.
Q. What are the challenges of facing hitters in the United States like compared with facing hitters in the Japanese leagues?
A. None of them are easy to face. They're all difficult in different ways. There are different kinds of players. The obvious difference is you see more power hitters here.
Q. I've heard scouts say there is more power in Korea than Japan. Would you agree?
Q. Off the field, which has been a bigger adjustment culturally, Japan or the United States?
A. When I was going over to Japan, the cultural part was more similar than here. It was a little bit easier making the adjustment in Japan, but I think that experience of playing abroad where you're not familiar with anything around you has helped me adjust to playing in the United States.
Q. Matt Carpenter purchased you a Buddha statue when the team was in Cincinnati. Your nicknames from abroad were "Stone Buddha" and "Final Boss." Will you be sticking with those or have you been given a new one here?
A. I don't mind a new nickname. I've been looking for one for a while. These are all nicknames given by the fans and I appreciate them. Getting a new one means people are showing interest in me.
Q. What do the other Cardinal players call you?
A. Stone Buddha and Final Boss.
Q. Are you Buddhist?
A. No, I'm non-religious.
Q. Is pitching the ninth inning different than pitching the seventh or eighth?
A. My mentality is the same whether it's the seventh, eighth or ninth, but the hitters I'm facing are very much focused when it comes to the ninth inning. From a pitcher's perspective, the inning doesn't matter. We go out with the same mentality.
Q. The hitters are more desperate because it's their last chance?
A. Yes, definitely.
Q. Would you like to continue to pitch here in the Major Leagues as long as you can?
A. That would be the best scenario.
Q. Is this the highest level of baseball in the world?
A. I don't need to say that. People already know. Every other player's dream is to come play in the Majors here.
In 2017, Oh was chosen to represent South Korea in the World Baseball Classic. He has pitched in all four World Baseball Classics, making him the first player to appear in every edition of the tournament.
January 12, 2016: Oh signed with the Cardinals organization. He received a one-year deal that included a club option for 2017.
|Birth City:||Jeollabuk-do, South Korea|
|Draft:||Samsung Lions #2 - 2005 - Out of Dankook Univ. (Korea)|
Oh is known as "Dol-bucheo" (which means: Stone Buddha) for being unshaken and maintaining an emotionless face in every situation. Those nerves of steel help to make him a very effective closer out of the bullpen.
"I didn't actually see it until I was on the DL and watched him on TV," teammate Tyler Lyons said in 2016. "There's just no emotion whatsoever when he's out there. That's a good quality for anyone to have."
Seung Hwan has a 90-94 mph FASTBALL. That heater jumps on hitters because of the deception he has within his delivery. The way he twists, then hesitates, gives him an advantage.
Oh goes right after hitters. With his command and good SLIDER, he can dominate. He also has a rarely seen CHANGEUP.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 60.6% of the time; Change 7.1% of the time; Slider 31.4% of the time.
Oh was 33 when he signed with St. Louis.
Seung Hwan had 80 saves and a 2.25 ERA in the his two seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's major league, 2014 and 2015.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was pleased with Seung Hwan's signing with the team a month before 2016 spring training.
"The stuff was pretty obvious," Matheny said. "Great stuff, and the numbers are there, too. Obviously, we're still trying to compare what that looks like here. But good stuff's good stuff, and realizing the success at the back end of the game is something that gives us a lot of flexibility of how we could use him here."
KOREAN CAREER STATS: Seung Hwan established himself as an elite closer during his career in the Korea Baseball Organization and Japan's Central League, posting a 1.81 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 10.7 K/9 and 5.18 K/BB in 646 innings.
- In 2016, his first season with the Cardinals, Seung Hwan finished among the top five National League relievers in: ERA (1.92, 3rd), strikeouts (103, 4th), innings (79.2, 5th), and WHIP (0.92, 5th).
- 2001: Oh underwent Tommy John surgery, not really returning to the mound until 2003.
- 2009: Seung-Hwan was limited by an elbow injury that sidelined him for much of the season.