What is a Save in Baseball?

Definition of a Save in Baseball

A save in baseball is awarded to a relief pitcher who finishes a game for the winning team, providing certain conditions are met.
Saves are a statistical tool used to measure the effectiveness of late-game relief pitchers. 

They occur in baseball when the pitcher enters the field with a lead of three or fewer runs, and pitches for the rest of the game without losing that lead. Saves can be either made by closers or relievers, but it depends entirely on the set-up that has been provided by the opener.

Saves are entirely dependent on the conditions being met by the pitcher.

How do you get a Save in Baseball?

Saves are awarded to relief pitchers providing they can meet the four conditions that are set out by the rules of baseball. These conditions include being the final finishing pitcher for the winning team and not being the winning pitcher.

Additionally, the relief pitcher should have pitched three innings, OR enter the game with the potential tying-run either on-base, at-bat or on-deck, OR enter the game without more than a three-run lead and pitches one inning. 

All three of these conditions need to be met for a save to be counted. 

Are saves in baseball common?

The specific circumstances to obtain a save may appear hard to meet, but nearly half of all MLB games end with a save. A save count of over 1000 is normal for an MLB season, which is usually just over half of games played during the league. Based on these statistics, it’s more likely for a game of baseball to end in a save rather than be a completed game.

Every year since 1980 more saves have been seen than complete games during MLB competitions.

However, the outcome of a game relies on multiple factors, and whether it ends in a save or not is dependent entirely on the use of relief pitchers. 

Games can end without a save if a completed game is played, a walk-off is achieved, the starting pitcher throws a complete game or if the game is one-sided. 

History of Saves in Baseball

Saves in baseball were being recorded as far back as 1952, but were only made an official statistic by MLB in 1969. The conditions for a save to be declared were written in 1960 by Jerome Holtzman, who believed that saves would reflect the relief pitcher’s stats better than previous statistics provided. Holtzman independently recorded saves for nine year before the MLB adopted the statistic.

Saves in baseball are a relatively new aspect of the sport, but the concept had been around for years before then. Whilst saves didn’t become an official statistic until 1969, the conditions for saves had been met by pitchers for up to a century before and their saves totals have been retrospectively added posthumously.

The amount of games ending with saves depends entirely on the usage of relief pitchers. The increased use of relief pitchers has given teams more of a chance to earn saves, as with a relief pitcher, it’s possible to reach the required conditions necessary for a save to be counted. 

The 1980s brought change to how relief pitchers were used, with the introduction of Dennis Eckersley, who is well known for his “one inning” closing approach, which was a technique that was eventually mimicked by multiple other teams.

Now, the record for number of saves in a baseball career belongs to Mariano Rivera, who has 652 saves to his name. 

Read more about the history of baseball

Holds in Baseball

Holds in baseball are another statistic for relief pitchers. Holds are used for middle relievers and set-up men.

To achieve a hold in baseball, a relief pitcher must enter the game in a save situation, and successfully hand off a lead to another reliever after recording at least one out.

In a hold situation, a pitcher should enter with a maximum three-run lead or with the trying run on base, at the plate or in the on-deck circle. 

Holds aren’t an official statistic recognized by MLB but are useful to know about when researching or talking about relief pitchers. This means that statistics pertaining to holds are a lot harder to come by and require some digging to find them.

The most holds currently belong to Arthur Rhodes, who has an eye-watering 231 holds credited. 

Multiple holds can be earned by different pitchers in a game. The habit of using relief pitchers for one inning at a time can result in multiple relievers earning a hold. If the set-up is correct, up to three relievers can obtain holds during a game of baseball. 

A pitcher cannot earn both a save and a hold during a single game of baseball. This also goes along with blown saves.

There’s no such thing as a blown hold in baseball. On the other hand, a blown save could come from a situation that could lead to a hold, if a pitcher whose job is to hold a run lead for the seventh inning but is unable to would be given a blown save instead.

Holds can be used as statistics for determining how effective pitchers are at holding slight leads in the late game. 

What is a Blown Save in Baseball?

A blown save occurs when a pitcher can’t convert a save opportunity. When a pitcher’s situation changes or things begin to go wrong, a blown save may be accredited. A blown save is a statistic that is given to a pitcher who enters the game during a save situation, but allows the trying or go-ahead run to score.

Blown saves are only able to be picked up in situations where a save is possible, however, the pitcher who received a blown save does not have to finish the game, unlike the pitcher who is awarded a save.

As a result, multiple saves cannot be blown by a single pitcher, as they’d be unable to set-up another save or blown save whilst on the pitch.

A pitcher on the field cannot blow multiple saves in the same game.