Closer Battle: Rosenthal vs. Oh.

Someone mentioned the other day, that down the road, Seung-hwan Oh, a 33 year old Korean closer who we signed in the off-season to join our bullpen, would eventually supplant Trevor Rosenthal as our closer. I thought I’d take a closer look at the two and compare them.

Oh, who I mentioned is a former closer in Korea (he also, in fact, closed in Japan) earned 357 saves in the two foreign leagues he pitched in before coming over here. Oh is primarily a 3 pitch guy, relying on a 93 mph 4 seamer, a 86 mph slider and a 83 mph changeup. He also has a 73 mph curve which he uses very rarely.

Rosenthal, as you know, has been our full time closer since 2014, and has earned 104 saves for the Cardinals. Rosie is mainly a two pitch guy, relying on his 98 mph heater and a 88 mph change-up. Rosie also can throw both a slider and curve, but rarely uses them.

As far as stats go, here are their numbers so far this year:


26.2  IP in 25 games. 2.03 ERA, 36 K’s, 7 BB, 0 saves, 1 blown save.


16 IP in 17 games, 2.25 ERA, 25 K’s, 12 BB, 8 saves, 1 blown save.

If you look at the numbers, Oh is having the better year. He’s got more innings (partly because Mike adheres to the whole “saving the closer” thing where closer’s *must* only be used at certain times!) a lower ERA, and a better strikeout to walk ratio (5.14 for Oh, 3.57 for Rosie) Simply put, Oh has been the better pitcher.

So back to the point of the post, which pitcher do you want in the game in say, the ninth inning, with 2 men on and 2 men out?

I’d go with Oh, and not just because he has better stats.

One thing has always bothered me (and others I’m sure) about Trevor. He’s always been a bit of a “here’s the heat, see if you can hit it!” kind of pitcher. Sure his change-up has gotten better over time, but batters can sit fastball. Plus what happens if/when his fastball declines? There’s only one arm immune to age and Aroldis Chapman already has it. I’d feel better if Rosie had at least a third reliable pitch.

Oh, on the other hand, *does* have a third reliable pitch, as he uses his three main pitches relatively regularly. the batters can’t just sit out the change-ups and wait for the heater because he might sneak a slider in. It’s just one pitch, but it makes a huge difference. Plus he’s closed (300+ saves across the ocean) so it’s not like you can say he hasn’t pitched in such situations.

Yes, Oh will likely get more innings in a setup man role, but this post was simply about who you’d trust more in the highest leverage situation possible, and I think I’d trust Oh more, not Rosenthal.

Quick Hits:

1) This is cool. Jennie Finch Managed A Minor League Team.

2) I like to see players having fun out there, after all, it’s just a game.

3) Our old friend Tony La Russa got upset.


As always, tahnks for reading, and enjoy your Memorial Day.



  • God's Left Hand June 11, 2016, 3:59 pm

    There are several ways to look at this. First of all, Oh is clearly the more refined and skilled pitcher, he should be, he’s 33 and been around for quite a while. He took about a week of getting used to the American ball and the strike zone but since then has basically dominated – he had i believe 5 walks the first week and has just 3 since then.

    The question is is it more valuable to have your best pitcher pitching the most innings or the most important inning? I have always believed that smart baseball puts your best player into the most opportunities. Over the long haul that will work better. Traditionally most closers come and go within about 3 years and don’t maintain success for an extended period in the role. Also many non-traditional closer type pitchers can be inserted into the role and find success for some time. It is a very overglorified role and totally wrong that you have to throw hard to succeed in it.

    At this point, Oh should be brought into the game to face the other teams middle of the order, whenever that may happen late in the game – he has no significant righty/lefty split – he dominates all.
    Another thing to think about is if Oh becomes your long term closer, Rosenthal is freed up to try his hand at being a starter, which he has apparently always wanted to be and was throughout his time in the minors. No reason not to give it a shot and see what he can do; though i fear the results would be less than stellar based on his pitching repertoire (2 strong pitches) and general wildness.
    Sometimes i wish some team would bring back the old fireman position in the bullpen and really think it would work in today’s game, even better than the now traditional 1 inning relievers. Think about having Oh pitching 150 innings for the team with his 1.60 ERA closing out victories with 2 innings here and there. Siegrist could pitch the other days and you have 2 highly skilled relievers picking up a bulk of the innings. Even Rosenthal could be there pitching multiple innings as well. No need for disasters like Maness and Broxton and all the other treadons to even be there (an exaggeration yes I know). In truth, this team is one that I feel could pull the olden style bullpen off successfully and would love to see it. Your best pitchers should pitch the most innings – just seems like sound logic yet no one does it anymore.

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