Save (baseball)

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Mariano Rivera is the MLB all-time leader in saves. Mariano Rivera allison 7 29 07.jpg
Mariano Rivera is the MLB all-time leader in saves.

In baseball, a save (abbreviated SV or S) is credited to a pitcher who finishes a game for the winning team under certain prescribed circumstances. Most commonly a pitcher earns a save by entering in the ninth inning of a game in which his team is winning by three or fewer runs and finishing the game by pitching one inning without losing the lead. [1] The number of saves or percentage of save opportunities successfully converted are oft-cited statistics of relief pitchers, particularly those in the closer role. The save statistic was created by journalist Jerome Holtzman in 1959 to "measure the effectiveness of relief pitchers" and was adopted as an official MLB statistic in 1969. [2] [3] The save has been retroactively measured for pitchers before that date. Mariano Rivera is MLB's all-time leader in regular-season saves with 652.

Baseball team sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objective of the offensive team is to hit the ball into the field of play, allowing it to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

Pitcher the player responsible for throwing ("pitching") the ball to the batters in a game of baseball or softball

In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throws the baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the pitcher is assigned the number 1. The pitcher is often considered the most important player on the defensive side of the game, and as such is situated at the right end of the defensive spectrum. There are many different types of pitchers, such as the starting pitcher, relief pitcher, middle reliever, lefty specialist, setup man, and the closer.

An inning in baseball, softball, and similar games is the basic unit of play, consisting of two halves or frames, the "top" and the "bottom". In each half, one team bats until three outs are made, with the other team playing defense. A full baseball game typically is scheduled for nine innings, while softball games consist of seven innings; although this may be shortened due to weather or extended if the score is tied at the end of the scheduled innings. Inning, in baseball and softball, is always singular, which contrasts with cricket and rounders in which the singular is "innings".



The term save was being used as far back as 1952. [4] Executives Jim Toomey of the St. Louis Cardinals, Allan Roth of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Irv Kaze of the Pittsburgh Pirates awarded saves to pitchers who finished winning games but were not credited with the win, regardless of the margin of victory. The statistic went largely unnoticed.

St. Louis Cardinals Major League Baseball team in St. Louis, Missouri, United States

The St. Louis Cardinals are an American professional baseball team based in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. Busch Stadium has been their home ballpark since 2006. One of the nation's oldest and most successful professional baseball clubs, the Cardinals have won 11 World Series championships, more than any other NL team and second in MLB only to the New York Yankees. The team has won 19 National League pennants, third-most of any team. St. Louis has also won 14 division titles in the East and Central divisions.

Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Los Angeles, California, United States

The Los Angeles Dodgers are an American professional baseball team based in Los Angeles, California. They compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) West division. Established in 1883 in Brooklyn, New York, the team moved to Los Angeles before the 1958 season. They played for four seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before moving to their current home of Dodger Stadium in 1962.

Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

The Pittsburgh Pirates are an American professional baseball team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. The team plays its home games at PNC Park; the team previously played at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium, the latter of which was named after its location near the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. Founded on October 15, 1881 as Allegheny, the franchise has won five World Series championships. The Pirates are also often referred to as the "Bucs" or the "Buccos".

A formula with more criteria for saves was invented in 1960 by baseball writer Jerome Holtzman. [5] He felt that the existing statistics at the time, earned run average (ERA) and win–loss record (W-L), did not sufficiently measure a reliever's effectiveness. ERA does not account for inherited runners a reliever allows to score, and W-L record does not account for relievers protecting leads. Elroy Face of the Pittsburgh Pirates was 18–1 in 1959; however, Holtzman wrote that in 10 of the 18 wins, Face allowed the tying or lead run but got the win when the Pirates offense regained the lead. [6] [note 1] Holtzman felt that Face was more effective the previous year when he was 5–2. When Holtzman presented the idea to J. G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News , "[Spink] gave [Holtzman] a $100 bonus. Maybe it was $200." Holtzman recorded the unofficial save statistic in The Sporting News weekly for nine years before it became official in 1969. In conjunction with publishing the statistic, The Sporting News in 1960 also introduced the Fireman of the Year Award, which was awarded based on a combination of saves and wins. [6] [9]

Jerome Holtzman American sportswriter and U.S. Marine

Jerome Holtzman was an American sportswriter known for his writings on baseball who served as the official historian for Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1999 until his death.

Earned run average Baseball statistic

In baseball statistics, earned run average (ERA) is the average of earned runs given up by a pitcher per nine innings pitched. It is determined by dividing the number of earned runs allowed by the number of innings pitched and multiplying by nine. Runs resulting from passed balls or defensive errors are recorded as unearned runs and omitted from ERA calculations.

In baseball and softball, a pitcher's win–loss record indicates the number of wins and losses they have been credited with. For example, a 20–10 win–loss record would represent 20 wins and 10 losses.

The save became an official MLB statistic in 1969. [6] It was MLB's first new major statistic since the run batted in was added in 1920. [6] Bill Singer is credited with recording the first official save when he pitched three shutout innings in relief of Don Drysdale in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 3–2 Opening Day victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field on April 7 of that year. [10] [11]

1969 Major League Baseball season

The 1969 Major League Baseball season was celebrated as the 100th anniversary of professional baseball, honoring the first professional touring baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Run batted in statistic used in baseball and softball

A run batted in (RBI), plural runs batted in, is a statistic in baseball and softball that credits a batter for making a play that allows a run to be scored. For example, if the batter bats a base hit, then another player on a higher base can head home to score a run, and the batter gets credited with batting in that run.

Bill Singer American baseball player

William Robert Singer is an American former professional baseball pitcher with a 14-year career from 1964 to 1977. He played primarily for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1964–72) and the California Angels (1973–75), spending his final two seasons with the Texas Rangers (1976), Minnesota Twins (1976), and Toronto Blue Jays (1977). His nicknames included "Sing Sing," "Billy No-No" and "The Singer Throwing Machine."


In baseball statistics, the term save is used to indicate the successful maintenance of a lead by a relief pitcher, usually the closer, until the end of the game. A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in Rule 9.19 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. That rule states the official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four of the following conditions: [12]

Baseball statistics play an important role in evaluating the progress of a player or team.

Closer (baseball) baseball or softball relief pitcher who specializes in finishing games

In baseball, a closing pitcher, more frequently referred to as a closer, is a relief pitcher who specializes in getting the final outs in a close game when his team is leading. The role is often assigned to a team's best reliever. Before the 1990s, pitchers in similar roles were referred to as a fireman, short reliever, and stopper. A small number of closers have won the Cy Young Award. Eight closers have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter and Hoyt Wilhelm.

Official scorer Person who records the official record of events in a baseball game

In the game of baseball, the official scorer is a person appointed by the league to record the events on the field, and to send the official scoring record of the game back to the league offices. In addition to recording the events on the field such as the outcome of each plate appearance and the circumstances of any baserunner's advance around the bases, the official scorer is also charged with making judgment calls that do not affect the progress or outcome of the game. Judgment calls are primarily made about errors, unearned runs, fielder's choice, the value of hits in certain situations, and wild pitches, all of which are included in the record compiled. This record is used to compile statistics for each player and team. A box score is a summary of the official scorer's game record.

  1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
  2. He is not the winning pitcher;
  3. He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
  4. He satisfies one of the following conditions:
    1. He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
    2. He enters the game with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
    3. He pitches for at least three innings.

If a relief pitcher satisfies all of the criteria for a save, except he does not finish the game, he will often be credited with a hold (which is not an officially recognized statistic by Major League Baseball).

Hold (baseball)

A hold is awarded to a relief pitcher who meets the following three conditions:

A blown save (abbreviated BSV, BS or B) is charged to a pitcher who enters a game in a situation which permits him to earn a save (a save situation or save opportunity), but who instead allows the tying run to score. Note that if the tying run was scored by a runner who was already on base when the new pitcher entered the game, that new pitcher will be charged with a blown save even though the run will not be charged to the new pitcher, but rather to the pitcher who allowed that runner to reach base. If the reliever allows the tying or leading run, but the reliever's team wins the game, the reliever wins the game. Due to this definition, a pitcher cannot blow multiple saves in a game unless he has multiple save opportunities, a situation only possible when a pitcher temporarily switches defensive positions. The blown save was introduced by the Rolaids Relief Man Award in 1988. [13] A pitcher who enters the game in a save situation and does not finish the game—but his team still leading—is not charged with a save opportunity. Save percentage is the ratio of saves to save opportunities. [14]

In 1974, tougher criteria were adopted for saves where the tying run had to be on base or at the plate when the reliever entered to qualify for a save (unless he pitched three innings). [15] This addressed saves such as Ron Taylor's in a 20–6 New York Mets win over the Atlanta Braves. [16] [17] The rule was relaxed in 1975 to credit a save when a reliever pitches at least one inning with no more than a three-run lead, or comes in with runners on base but the tying run on deck. [18] In 2000, Rolaids started recording a tough save when a pitcher enters a save situation with the potential tying run already on base, but still earns the save. [15]


As Francisco Rodríguez pursued the single-season saves record in 2008, Baseball Prospectus member Joe Sheehan, Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci, and The New York Sun writer Tim Marchman wrote that Rodríguez's save total was enhanced by the number of opportunities his team presented, allowing him to amass one particular statistic. They thought that Rodríguez on his record-breaking march was less effective than in prior years. [19] [20] [21] Sheehan offered that saves did not account for a pitcher's proficiency at preventing runs nor did it reflect leads that were not preserved. [19]

Bradford Doolittle of The Kansas City Star wrote, "[The closer] is the only example in sports of a statistic creating a job." He decried the best relievers pitching fewer innings starting in the 1980s with their workload being reduced from two- to one-inning outings while less efficient pitchers were pitching those innings instead. [22] columnist Jim Caple has argued that the save statistic has turned the closer position into "the most overrated position in sports". [23] Caple and others contend that using one's best reliever in situations such as a three-run lead in the ninth—when a team will almost certainly win even with a lesser pitcher—is foolish, and that using a closer in the traditional fireman role exemplified by pitchers such as Goose Gossage is far wiser. (A "fireman" situation is men on base in a tied or close game, hence a reliever ending such a threat is "putting out the fire.") [23] [24]

Firemen frequently pitched two- or three-inning outings to earn saves. The modern closer, reduced to a one-inning role, is available to pitch more save opportunities. In the past, a reliever pitching three innings one game would be unavailable to pitch the next game. [25] Gossage had more saves of at least two innings than saves where he pitched one inning or less. [26] "The times I did a one-inning save, I felt guilty about it. It's like it was too easy", said Gossage. [27] wrote that saves have not been determined to be "a special, repeatable skill—rather than simply a function of opportunities". [28] It also noted that blown saves are "non-qualitative", pointing out that the two career leaders in blown saves—Gossage (112) and Rollie Fingers (109)—were both inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. [28] Fran Zimniuch in Fireman: The Evolution of the Closer in Baseball wrote, "But you have to be a great relief pitcher to blow that many saves. Clearly, [Gossage] saved many, many more than he did not save." [29] More than half of Gossage's and Fingers' blown saves came in tough save situations, where the tying run was on base when the pitcher entered. In nearly half of their blown tough saves, they entered the game in the sixth or seventh inning. Multiple-inning outings provide more chances for a reliever to blow a save. The pitchers need to get out of the initial situation and pitch additional innings with more chances to lose the lead. A study by the Baseball Hall of Fame [note 2] found modern closers were put into fewer tough save situations compared to past relievers. [note 3] The modern closer also earned significantly more "easy saves", defined as saves starting the ninth inning with more than a one-run lead. [note 4] [15] The study offered "praise to the combatants who faced more danger for more innings." [15]

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has suggested the "goose egg," a new statistic that he considers to be a better evaluation of relief performance than the save. A reliever earns a goose egg for each scoreless inning pitched (no earned or unearned runs, no inherited runners score) in the seventh inning or later, where when he starts the inning: the score is tied, his team holds a lead of no more than two runs, or the tying run is on base or at the plate. Should the reliever be charged with an earned run in a goose egg situation, he will be credited with a "broken egg", the counterpart of the blown save, unless he finishes the game. The statistic is named for Gossage, who is the all-time leader in goose eggs but recorded relatively few saves compared to modern closers. [30]

On September 3, 2002, the Texas Rangers won 7-1 over the Baltimore Orioles as Joaquín Benoit pitched a seven-inning save, the longest save since it became an official statistic in 1969. [31] [note 5] Benoit relieved Todd Van Poppel (who entered the game in the first inning after starter Aaron Myette was ejected for throwing at Melvin Mora) at the start of the third inning, and finished the game while allowing just one hit. The official scorer credited the win to Van Poppel and not Benoit, a decision that was also supported by Texas manager Jerry Narron. [34]

On August 22, 2007, Wes Littleton earned a save with the largest winning margin ever, pitching the last three innings of a 30–3 Texas Rangers win over the Baltimore Orioles. Littleton entered the game with a 14–3 lead, and the final 27-run differential broke the previous record for a save by eight runs. The New York Times noted that "there are the preposterous saves, of which Littleton's now stands out as No. 1." [35]

On October 29, 2014, Madison Bumgarner of San Francisco Giants recorded the longest save in World Series history, pitching five scoreless innings of relief in a Game 7 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. [36]

Leaders in Major League Baseball


The statistic was formally introduced in 1969, [6] although research has identified saves earned prior to that point. [37]

PlayerName of the player
SavesCareer saves
YearsThe years this player played in the major leagues
Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
*Denotes pitcher who is still active
LDenotes pitcher who is left-handed

Most saves in a career

Listed are the Major League Baseball players with the most saves in their career.

Stats updated through 2019 season

Regular season
Mariano Rivera 6521995–2013
Trevor Hoffman 6011993–2010
Lee Smith 4781980–1997
Francisco Rodríguez 4372002–2017
John Franco L4241984–2005
Billy Wagner L4221995–2010
Dennis Eckersley 3901975–1998
Joe Nathan 3771999–2016
Jonathan Papelbon 3682005–2016
Jeff Reardon 3671979–1994

Most in a single season

Stats updated through 2019 season

Regular season
Francisco Rodríguez 62 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2008
Bobby Thigpen 57 Chicago White Sox 1990
Edwin Díaz * Seattle Mariners 2018
John Smoltz 55 Atlanta Braves 2002
Éric Gagné Los Angeles Dodgers 2003
Randy Myers L53 Chicago Cubs 1993
Trevor Hoffman San Diego Padres 1998
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 2004
Éric Gagné 52 Los Angeles Dodgers 2002
Dennis Eckersley 51 Oakland Athletics 1992
Rod Beck Chicago Cubs 1998
Jim Johnson Baltimore Orioles 2012
Mark Melancon * Pittsburgh Pirates 2015
Jeurys Familia * New York Mets 2016

Most consecutive without a blown save

Stats updated through 2019 season

Regular season
Éric Gagné 84 Los Angeles Dodgers 20022004 [38]
Zack Britton L*60 Baltimore Orioles 20152017 [39]
Tom Gordon 54 Boston Red Sox 19981999 [38]
Jeurys Familia *52 New York Mets 20152016 [40]
José Valverde 51 Detroit Tigers 20102011 [41]
John Axford *49 Milwaukee Brewers 20112012 [42]
Brad Lidge 47 Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies 20072009 [38]
Grant Balfour 44 Oakland Athletics 20122013 [43]
Brad Ziegler 43 Arizona Diamondbacks 20152016 [44]
Rod Beck 41 San Francisco Giants 19931995 [38]
Trevor Hoffman San Diego Padres 19971998 [38]
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 20102011 [38]

Blown saves


Stats updated through 2007 season [45]

Regular season
PlayerBlown savesYears
Goose Gossage 1121972–1994
Rollie Fingers 1091968–1985
Lee Smith 1031980–1997
Bruce Sutter 1011976–1988
John Franco L1984–2004
Sparky Lyle L951967–1982
Roberto Hernández 941991–2007
Jeff Reardon 851979–1994
Gene Garber 831969–1988
Kent Tekulve 811974–1989
Gary Lavelle L1974–1987

Single season

Stats updated through 2007 season [46]

Regular season
PlayerBlown savesTeamYear
Gerry Staley 14 Chicago White Sox 1960
Rollie Fingers Oakland Athletics 1976
Bruce Sutter Chicago Cubs 1978
Bob Stanley Boston Red Sox 1983
Ron Davis Minnesota Twins 1984
John Hiller L13 Detroit Tigers 1976
Goose Gossage New York Yankees 1983
Jeff Reardon Montréal Expos 1986
Dan Plesac L Milwaukee Brewers 1987
Dave Righetti L New York Yankees 1987

See also


  1. differs slightly and recorded it occurring in only seven of the 18 wins. Face blew leads in his wins four times (April 24, May 14, June 11, and July 12), allowed lead runs in tie games he won three times (April 22, Aug 30, and Sept 19), and allowed an additional run while already behind in a win once (Aug 9). [7] Associated Press also reported Face allowing a tying run to score in his July 9 win over the Chicago Cubs. [8]
  2. The March 2006 study analyzed the career saves of Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Dennis Eckersley, Trevor Hoffman, and Mariano Rivera. Hoffman and Rivera were still active, and had 436 and 379 career saves, respectively, at that time.
  3. Tough save opportunities (tough saves + tough blown saves): Fingers (161). Gossage (138), Hoffman (49), Rivera (46).
  4. Easy saves: Hoffman (261), Rivera (235), Fingers (114), Gossage (113).
  5. Benoit bested the previous record of six innings by Horacio Piña of the Rangers in 1972. [32] retroactively credited eight-inning saves to pitchers prior to 1969 including Jim Shaw (1920), Guy Morton (1920), and Dick Hall (1961). [33]

Related Research Articles

Mariano Rivera Panamanian baseball player

Mariano Rivera is a Panamanian-American former professional baseball pitcher who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees, from 1995 to 2013. Nicknamed "Mo" and "Sandman", he spent most of his career as a relief pitcher and served as the Yankees' closer for 17 seasons. A thirteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, he is MLB's career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). Rivera won five American League (AL) Rolaids Relief Man Awards and three Delivery Man of the Year Awards, and he finished in the top three in voting for the AL Cy Young Award four times. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of its class of 2019 in his first year of eligibility, and was the first player ever to be elected unanimously by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA).

The Sporting News Reliever of the Year Award was an annual award presented to the best relief pitcher in each league in Major League Baseball (MLB). It was established in 1960 by The Sporting News (TSN) as the Fireman of the Year Award. At the time, no reliever had ever received a Cy Young Award vote. The Fireman of the Year Award originally recognized the reliever with the most combined saves and wins in each league in MLB. The magazine had started publishing the then-unofficial save statistic that same year. Later, a save was worth two points compared to one for a save in determining the winner. In 2001 the award was chosen based on consensus from TSN editors, and it was renamed to Reliever of the Year Award. The award was last issued in 2010 before being discontinued.

Relief pitcher baseball or softball pitcher who relieves a previous pitcher

In baseball and softball, a relief pitcher or reliever is a pitcher who enters the game after the starting pitcher is removed due to injury, ineffectiveness, fatigue, ejection, or for other strategic reasons, such as inclement weather delays or pinch hitter substitutions. Relief pitchers are further divided informally into various roles, such as closers, setup men, middle relief pitchers, left/right-handed specialists, and long relievers. Whereas starting pitchers usually rest several days before pitching in a game again due to the number of pitches thrown, relief pitchers are expected to be more flexible and typically pitch more games but with fewer innings pitched. A team's staff of relievers is normally referred to metonymically as a team's bullpen, which refers to the area where the relievers sit during games, and where they warm-up prior to entering the game.

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Brad Lidge American baseball player

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300 save club Wikimedia list article

In Major League Baseball (MLB), the 300 save club is the group of pitchers who have recorded 300 or more regular-season saves in their careers. Most commonly a relief pitcher earns a save by being the final pitcher of a game in which his team is winning by three or fewer runs and pitching at least one inning without losing the lead. The final pitcher of a game can earn a save by getting at least one batter out to end the game with the winning run on base, at bat, or on deck, or by pitching the last three innings without relinquishing the lead, regardless of score. The statistic was created by Jerome Holtzman in 1959 to "measure the effectiveness of relief pitchers" and was adopted as an official statistic by MLB in 1969. The save has been retroactively measured for past pitchers where applicable. Hoyt Wilhelm retired in 1972 and recorded just 31 saves from 1969 onwards, for example, but holds 227 total career saves.

Jim Johnson (baseball, born 1983) American baseball player

James Robert Johnson is an American professional baseball relief pitcher who is a free agent. He has played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels. Johnson was an All-Star in 2012 and won the Rolaids Relief Man Award that year while leading MLB in saves. In 2013, Johnson became the first American League (AL) pitcher ever to have recorded back-to-back seasons of 50 saves or more. Johnson and Éric Gagné are the only two MLB pitchers to accomplish this feat.

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Rolaids Relief Man Award award

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