(Busch Stadium) It could be Seung Hwan Oh. Or Trevor Rosenthal. Or Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, or even Tyler Lyons. It’s not quite a closer by committee, but the St. Louis Cardinals are keeping their options open for the back end of games.
“I think the way we should probably look at this as we move forward is, who’s best for right now?,” explained Mike Matheny recently. “Without anybody having to have ownership to a title, be on point, be ready–whether that’s best or not, it’s kind of what’s necessary right now.”
The Cardinals have been in this state of flux since last week after Oh was unable to keep the lead against Arizona. It was his third blown save of the year and fifth time in eight games he had allowed at least one run.
“I don’t think I’m at a bad status right now,” he continued. “But the results are not showing up this year, obviously, compared to last year.”
After allowing just five home runs in 79.2 innings last season, Oh has allowed six in 36.2 innings this season. Many of those have come when he’s ahead in the count, underscoring the drop in his swing and miss rate with hitters. There have been fewer ground balls as well and left-handers are hitting his slider at a much higher rate this season.
“You can always try to analyze as much as you want and go as deep as you want, and when something’s not working that’s what you want,” said Oh, who’s aware of the numbers but isn’t trying to get stuck in them. “If you’re stressed about that and thinking too much about that, it’s not going to help either. I’m trying not to do too much on either.”
“He’s a smart guy–he knows what’s going on,” said pitching coach Derek Lilliquist. “For him, it’s a matter of executing his fastball command and being in a good position to throw his slider for strikes.”
Elevated pitches have also hurt Oh this season, which coincides with that good position.
“A little bit of overthrowing,” explained Lilliquist. “Gets him out of whack. Really trying to press the envelope for success and usually when you do that, it just gets a little hairier. You’ve got to trust that once you put your base on the ground, get your arm in good position, then you’re going to have your command and your stuff.”
As he has done all season, Oh is continuing to study film with coaches and Yadier Molina.
“He was pretty good last year, so that’s a good place to start,” said Lilliquist. “We side by side it and look at it and see what he’s doing.”
There has also been a tinkering with the velocities on pitches to see if that makes a positive difference.
“There’s not too much tweaking I need to do, I feel pretty good right now,” said Oh, who struck out two batters in 0.2 innings during his last appearance.
“I’m coming to the stadium a lot earlier these days and doing some running to warm up,” he shared. “Just trying things a little differently now.”
As Oh is getting squared away on the mound, he’s also adjusted to the new experience of dealing with trade rumors. With the trade deadline coming up the end of this month, there have been rumors of various teams having interest in picking him or Trevor Rosenthal up in a deal.
“I can’t say 100% that it doesn’t bother me at all because it’s the first time that I’m going through this in my career,” shared Oh. “I’m trying not to pay too much attention to it and feel like I’m moving past that and focusing on what I’m doing now.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry, Scott Kane, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports,