You’re reading the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the season had by every player to play for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the least amount of rWAR and end up with the player with the most.
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No. 40, Seunghwan Oh (-0.6 rWAR)
When the 2019 season began, Seunghwan Oh was 36 and entering his fourth season in Major League Baseball. At the time, the Rockies assumed that Oh would be competing with Scott Oberg for Adam Ottavino’s eighth-inning job, who would then hand off the game to closer Wade Davis. Those were innocent days.
In 2018, General Manager Jeff Bridich traded for Oh who was then with the Toronto Blue Jays. Kyle Newman called Oh “instrumental to the Rockies playoff run.” During his two months with the Rockies in 2018, he pitched just over 21 innings and earned an ERA of 2.54.
Oh’s 2019 mirrored that of the Rockies as a whole. In 2019, Oh pitched in 18.1 innings for an ERA of 9.33. He gave up 29 hits and 19 runs, all of them earned. He also surrendered 6 home runs. In short, this was not a good year for Oh. He went on the IL on June 10 with an abdominal strain; his season ended in July when he returned to Korea and underwent surgery to remove “loose bodies” from his elbow.
In August, it was announced that he had been released from the Rockies and had signed with the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization:
Former #Rockies RHP Seunghwan Oh has rejoined his ex-KBO club, Samsung Lions. 1 yr, approx. $490K in USD. Must first serve 72-game suspension following gambling conviction in Korea. 42 this year, 30 next year. Will undergo elbow surgery soon and should be ready by early May '20— Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) August 6, 2019
During Oh’s time in MLB, he pitched 225.2 innings and posted a 3.31 ERA with a K/BB ratio of 252/56.
In retrospect, Oh had been clear about his desire to return to Korea. On October 22, Patrick Saunders reported Oh had told a Korean newspaper:
“I am a bit exhausted after spending five seasons in Japan and the United States,” Oh said. “I feel like I want to return to the KBO while I still have the energy to help the team and pitch in front of home fans. I can’t make this decision alone. I’ll have to speak with my agency about the next season.”
Jeff Bridich dismissed Oh’s comments, indicating that they showed Oh’s desire to retire in Korea and that he intended to meet his commitment to the Rockies. Oh’s feelings of homesickness continued into spring training. Oh admitted to Nick Groke that he was homesick:
“To be honest, yeah, I am sometimes . . . . It’s hard when things go on in my mother country and I want to be there for my friends and family and when I can’t do that, I think about how much I miss home.”
Frankly, who can blame Oh for wanting to return home to finish his career? The Final Boss was a hero in Korea with fans creating art that showed him as a godlike figure. It must have been exhausting, missing friends and family and culture and relying on an interpreter to mediate his experience. (In fairness, Eugene Koo is very cool.)
Here’s wishing Seunghwan Oh success in his homecoming — after he concludes that 72-game gambling suspension. And here’s sending him thanks for helping the Rockies reach Rocktober in 2018.