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Milwaukee Brewers among handful of teams with interest in Seung-hwan Oh, per report

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We have to sign at least one former Cardinal pitcher, don’t we?

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
Man...that looks like Tom Seaver!
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

According to Brian Stull, the Brewers are one of at least two teams that have shown an interest in signing former Cards reliever (and closer) Seung-hwan Oh:

Once again, the Brewers and Cubs are tied to the same pitcher. This is a recurring theme of the 2017-18 offseason. Of course, the Cubs have enough money and room under the luxury cap to have an interest in almost any free agent, and the Brewers seem to be (and should be) kicking the tires on any pitcher, starter or relief, that might be an upgrade for the staff.

It does seem to go deeper than that, though. As Kyle pointed out in his article on what kinds of pitchers the Brewers are stockpiling, the Brewers seem to have a specific type of pitcher in mind for their pen in 2018. Perhaps the Cubs have the same metrics and parameters to guide them. Oh fits the model Kyle profiled, that of a fastball/slider type of pitcher. That was over 90% of Oh’s deliveries in 2017 (and 2016, for that matter).

The man known as the Final Boss was considerably more effective for St. Louis in 2016 than in 2017. In fact, his 2016 season (his first in MLB after a nine year career in the KBO and two in Japan) was so good that he came in 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting - not a mean feat for a relief pitcher (ok, ok - somebody will look it up; he had one point). In 2016 he had an xFIP of 2.88, with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.0 walks per nine...that’s a 5.7 K/BB ratio. He worked to a 0.9 WHIP and allowed 5 homers in 79.2 innings. He registered 19 saves after taking over for the ineffective Trevor Rosenthal, and had 14 holds before that.

2017 was not so kind, as every peripheral declined. His fastball and slider stayed at about the same velocity (93.3 to 93.4 mph fastball, 86.2 to 85.9 mph slider), but his groundball percent went from 40% to 28.7% and his dingers/9 almost tripled (0.56 to 1.52). Oh's K/9 fell from that 11.6 to 8.2 and walks moved up slightly from the 2.0 of 2016 to 2.3 in 2017. And surprise! His xFIP jumped to 5.04. Oh still saved 20 games for the Redbirds, but was not closing games as the season ended. With velocities unchanged, he either had difficulty locating his pitches, or had less movement on them. Or both.

So...is Oh a bounce-back candidate, is he injured, or is he old? Or all of the above, with a ‘was’ injured inserted into the ‘is’ injured slot? (That’s what Brian Stull said above, after all - that Oh is healthy.) He will be 35 this season; that isn’t young, but pitchers - especially relievers - have had success at that age. He had hamstring issues in 2017, which can certainly affect a pitcher’s effectiveness. And his success in 2016 could very well have certain pitching coaches that have successfully aided pitchers in rebounding salivating (I’m looking at YOU, Derek Johnson!). Oh isn’t overpowering, but neither is he a soft tosser - if location and movement can be improved, results can be, too.

Oh was paid $2.75 mil last season with the Cards, fulfilling his two-year deal. It seems he won’t be back in St. Louis, and that should be concerning - the Cardinals' bullpen isn’t exactly stocked with great arms right now. I have no idea how much Oh is looking for, but it doesn't seem like his price will be prohibitive. On a low-risk deal, I’d certainly like to see the Brewers take a shot at him recapturing his 2016 (or at least close to it) form.

Statistical information courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference