Sanghoon Lee used to be a starting pitcher for the LG Twins before switching from the Chunichi Dragons to the bullpen. When he joined the Boston Red Sox in 2000, he was a bullpen pitcher.
A former KBO player, Oh Seung-hwan has successfully finished as a bullpen pitcher in the MLB. After serving as a Samsung Lions and Hanshin Tigers, Oh became a complete free agent in 2016, earning 2.5 million U.S. dollars per year through a one-plus-one contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2017, the team adopted an option and stayed with the St. Louis Cardinals for 2.75 million dollars per year.
Oh Seung-hwan was practically 34 years old at 33 years and 263 days when he made his debut. In his debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 4, 2016, he pitched in the seventh inning following starter Adam Wainwright, and reported two strikeouts and two walks without allowing a run.
At the time, fastball Trevor Rosenthal was in charge of the back door for the St. Louis Cardinals. Mike Matheny, a former catcher, hired Oh Seung-hwan depending on the situation. In the beginning, he wasn’t even the setup man who was in charge of the eighth inning. He pitched well every time he took the mound, and his role as a setup man increased.
Closer Rosenthal’s ERA rose to the four-point level with a series of blown saves. Three months after his debut, he pitched in the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 3, and reported his first save in the MLB with two strikeouts (swing) in one inning. Later, he finished the game with St. Louis.
When he made his debut in 2016, he had six wins, three losses, 19 saves, and an ERA of 1.92. He added 14 possessions with four possible saves. He struck out 103 and walked 18 times in 79.2 innings, establishing himself as the best finish in MLB. In 2017, he retreated with one win, six losses, 20 saves, and 4.10. However, St. Louis invested 5.25 million dollars over the past two years to achieve the best cost-effectiveness. The club was a “bargain” who signed a good contract.
Koo Dae-sung, who made his debut with the New York Mets in 2005, was 35, and Lim Chang-yong, who with the Chicago Cubs in 2013, made his MLB debut at age 37. Although Koo had common ground through the KBO and Japanese professional baseball, his pitching power was already unavailable in the MLB. Koo has only 33 games and 23 innings, and Lee has only six games and five innings. His Sanghoon Lee debut at age 29, which is relatively younger than those of Koo Dae-sung, Lim Chang-yong and Oh Seung-hwan, also ended with nine games and 11.1 innings.
Oh Seung-hwan has found success as the best bullpen pitcher produced by the KBO. During his four seasons in the MLB, he played 232 games, recording 16 wins, 13 losses, 42 saves, and 3.31. In total, he struck out 252 and walked 56 in 225.2 innings.
Ko Woo-suk, 25, who signed a two-year, 4.5 million-dollar contract with the San Diego Padres, is in far more favorable conditions than his predecessors. He entered MLB at his peak pitching power. In fact, experts say that Koo Dae-sung would have succeeded in finishing any team in MLB if he had advanced to his peak pitching power. His biggest advantage was “decision,” which no batter can grasp until the ball is released, as well as his left hand.
Ko Woo-suk played as a closer for the LG Twins, but it is still hard to predict whether he will be responsible for San Diego’s back door in 2024. Oh Seung-hwan was also verified by KBO-NPB, but St. Louis changed his position to closure after checking as a bullpen pitcher for about three months.
Pitchers tend to adapt more easily than hitters. Pitchers are more likely than hitters to make successful inroads into MLB. While hitters need time to adapt to the balls of opposing pitchers, pitchers only need to throw their own balls.
Successful KBO pitchers such as Oh Seung-hwan and Ryu Hyun-jin used to say, “Baseball is the same everywhere.” However, the batter did not make such a comment. There were no cases in which players succeeded immediately, and it takes time for them to adjust.