After a poor start to the season for Trevor Rosenthal, Seung Hwan Oh, the 33-year-old rookie, took over the 9th inning for the Cardinals and never looked back.
“Final Boss” closed out 19 games while posting a 1.92 ERA on the year during 79.2 innings. But how will the now-34 year old Sophomore compare to the other closers in the NL Central?
1. Chicago Cubs
After acquiring Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees at the trade deadline, the Cubs went on to win their first World Series in 108 years. The 100+ MPH hurler had a superb season, but has since departed ways, forcing the Cubs to find a new closer. So who did the Cubs sign? Only the player with the lowest qualified ERA as a relief pitcher since 2014: Wade Davis.
During his past three years with the Royals, Davis has pitched his way to over 11.5 K’s per 9, a 1.18 ERA, and 6.3 wins above replacement. Since transitioning from the 8th inning to the 9th inning in 2015, Davis has successfully converted nearly 94% of his save opportunities.
Although Wade showed that he was indeed a human in 2016 when his ERA rose above 1.00 for the first time since 2013, he is still a top-tier closer and will surely help Chicago continue their dominance into 2017.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
Kenley Jansen, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman. What do these 4 All-Star have in common? They are the only 4 relief pitchers with a higher WAR than the Cardinals Seung Hwan Oh in 2016. Although it was only 6 months ago that he recorded his first save in the MLB, Oh has proven that he has the stuff to compete with the best of them. Oh struck out over 11.5 batters per 9 while walking 2.03 per 9. Oh expertly pairs his 93 MPH fastball with a dangerous slider to fool batters and lock up wins for the Cardinals.
3. Cincinnati Reds
Although the Reds don’t have a clear closer for 2016, they do have 3 viable options. Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and Drew Storen will look to compete for the 9th inning responsibility during Spring Training. Iglesias and Lorenzen eached pitched 50 innings in 2016 for the Reds, posting a 1.98 and 2.88 ERA respectively.
Iglesias took over some closing duties in August after transitioning from the rotation, saving 6 games on the year, while recording over 9 Ks/9 and under 3 BB/9. Likewise, Lorenzen transitioned into the bullpen in 2016. Storen, on the other hand, had been a productive relief pitcher for the Nationals since 2010 before a poor 2016 with the Mariners and Blue Jays.
4. Pittsburg Pirates
Tony Watson looks to continue his role as the Pirates closer in 2017 after taking over after the mid-season departure of Marc Melancon. Watson recorded a 3.06 ERA with 7.7 K’s/9 and 2.7 BB/9 and saved 15 games on the year. 2016 was a bit of a disappointment for Watson compared to his successes in 2014 and 2015 when he held a 1.63 and 1.91 ERA, respectively. If in 2017 Watson can pair the stuff he had in 2015 with the experience he gained as a closer in 2016, the back end of the Pirates bullpen will be feared. But for now, his pitching is a bit uncertain.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
Like the Reds, the Brewers will allow Carlos Torres and Corey Knebel to compete for closer. But unluckily for the Brewers, neither option seems too viable. Torres held a 2.73 ERA in 2016, but only converted 2 saves while blowing 3. Knebel had an ERA of 4.68, but hit many hot and cold streaks during the year.
From mid-August to mid-September Corey saw his ERA rise from 3.52 up to a 6.00. But over the last 3 weeks, Knebel was able to drop it back down to 4.68. If he is able to bring his hot-side that produced a 2.08 ERA in his last 9 appearances, Knebel might prove to be a productive closer, but for now the Brewers are stuck with a big question mark for the 9th inning.