What Are Saves In Baseball? (Rules, Types & Popularity)
Have you heard of those roars and screams for relief pitchers? Why do relief pitchers get applauded for their performances? This is where the save record comes into the picture. Batter, runner, and pitchers play different roles and influence the team’s victory. But what is a save in baseball?
A relief pitcher gets credited with a save when he finishes the game by stepping into the ninth inning and maintaining the lead. Closers earn saves, and the winning team leads by the utmost three runs.
Every stat in baseball has a host of conditions and circumstances. Save is no exception. It differs in applications based on scenarios. Let us look at them one by one.
Background Of Saves In Baseball
A save is a quantitative statistic awarded to a relief pitcher for ending the game and marking the team’s victory. It was adopted in 1969 and followed in all baseball seasons.
The relief pitcher must maintain the lead and pitch one inning to credit the team with a win. Jerome Holtzman coined the save statistic in 1959, intending to evaluate the performance of relief pitchers. He observed that stats like win-loss record and earned run average were insufficient to assess a pitcher’s performance. MLB adopted it in all seasons from 1969.
After the introduction of saves in baseball, the concept of a closer emerged. The relief pitcher was further subdivided to explain the instance when closers influence the success of the same. Upon observing performances of closers in the last few years, closers play only during save situations and are prone to losing records. They have minimum victories on their credits.
How does the save statistic work today? Closers in recent times pitch the utmost 70 innings in a season and enter during save situations when their teams are leading the game. The problem with the save statistic is that it applies to relievers and disregards sustaining a team and pitching in extra innings.
Rules of Saves In Baseball
The pitcher is credited with a save upon fulfilling these criteria:
- He has contributed to the victory of the team.
- He has pitched for a minimum of 1/3rd of an inning.
- He is not deemed the winning pitcher.
- He leads with a maximum of 3 runs.
- The pitcher enters during an at-bat or on-base situation.
Despite these criteria, the scorer holds the right to award or deny a save to a pitcher. However, the rule of thumb is to assign a maximum of one save in a game.
The rules have significantly changed since its inception. Back in 1969, when it was initially applied, a relief pitcher was not credited with the win. Instead, he scored a save to maintain the lead throughout the game. As multiple pitchers were on the field and caused the team’s victory, the scorer assessed the effectiveness of every player to decide the pitcher for which the save needs to be credited.
The method to assess the effectiveness was not practical and had several constraints. The relief pitcher was liable to pitch for a minimum of three “effective” innings. After several criticisms about this stat, the basis of effectiveness was changed and removed. Today, saves work better and felicitate relief pitchers with victories.
Types of Saves
Saves have two variations – tough and blown. A relief pitcher who enters with zero odds and then presents the lead to another reliever is a tough save. When the pitcher promotes scoring the tying run, it leads to a blown save.
A tough save doesn’t reward relief pitchers as it works from the redemption perspective. The relief pitcher does not have any odds to capitalize on the save. However, before the relief pitcher changes hands and hands over to another relief pitcher, the lead is surrendered. In this scenario, a penalty of two points is credited to the relief pitcher. There is no predominant save opportunity during a tough save.
A blown save implies that the lead is already blown away. The relief pitcher gets a save only when the team gains control of the lead. In this case, the relief pitcher becomes closer as he enters the game when the team is already leading and blows a save earlier.
In baseball history, pitchers have scored blown and tough saves under various circumstances.
How Do You Quality For A Save?
A pitcher qualifies for a save opportunity when he has pitched for a minimum of three innings, enters with a tying run to score, and the team leads a maximum of three runs. Closers hold maximum save opportunities and withstand leads compared to other types of pitchers.
MLB stresses the influence of a save opportunity in identifying holds, blown, and tough saves. When there is no save opportunity, the pitcher remains at stake.
Save vs. Hold In Baseball
When a relief pitcher sustains the lead and hands it over to the upcoming relief pitcher, thereby taking a minimum of one out, it results in a hold. However, he is credited with a save when he finishes the game with a maximum of three runs.
Save and hold are stats commonly used to understand how relief pitchers end the game.
A relief pitcher enters the game during a save opportunity and then holds the winning percentage. He is charged with a penalty when he does not retain the lead while handing it over to the following relief pitcher.
When a pitcher scores a hold, he is not credited with a save. This is because several relief pitchers play to end the game. The save statistic focuses on the number of save opportunities rightly used and capitalized by relief pitchers. It is a save opportunity when he retains the lead and enters the ninth inning. Hold stat does not come into the picture here.
Hold and save stats are interrelated and influence relief pitchers’ closing approaches. However, hold stat does not have other forms. It is direct and credits the middle relievers with the score.
Save vs. Win In Baseball
When a pitcher enters the game and leads the team towards victory, he is credited with a win, but the first pitcher is more likely to get a win if he plays a minimum of five innings. However, he is credited with a save score when he plays the last.
The number of innings differs in these stats. Another difference is that the pitcher has to enter the game when the team is already leading by a maximum of three runs. When the pitcher surrenders to another relief pitcher, it blows away the lead, and a save credit is not credited.
The current rules of MLB deny the possibility of crediting a win and a save in the same game. However, there were instances earlier when both stats were credited.
In a game between Seattle and Texas on 14 April 2002, Kazuhiro Sasaki was credited with a save, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa had a win.
In the history of baseball, this game let Japanese teams make it possible to score a win and a save in the same game.
In another game between Nippon Ham and Kintetsu Buffaloes on 12 July 1974, Naoki Takahashi from Nippon Ham was credited with a win and a save.
Naoki recorded two outs and pushed Takahashi to the third base. During the seventh inning, Naoki entered the mound and completed the game. This credited him with a save. On the other hand, he also got a win earlier in the same game, with Nakahara letting Jones complete the inning.
To toughen stats and assess pitchers better, MLB has revised its rules so that a pitcher with a win remains ineligible to get a save.
Popular Saves In MLB History
Mariano Rivera recorded a total of 602 saves in his MLB career. However, Francisco Rodriguez recorded 62 saves in a single MLB season in 2008. Joaquin Benoit holds the record for longest save in 1969 as he pitched for seven innings.
Here are the top MLB leaders (career):
|Player name||Innings pitched||Saves|
Here are the top MLB leaders (single season):
|Player name||Innings pitched||Saves||Year|
Here are the top leaders with maximum saves in the last 5 years (National League):
Here are the top leaders with maximum saves in the last 5 years (American League):
MLB also recognizes players each year based on their active save scores and progression from previous years.
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