What is a Save in Baseball?

A save is a statistic that shows how effective some relief pitchers are in preserving wins.
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

You know what a win is, so what is a save? A save is a statistic that shows that a pitcher helped a pitcher of record keep a win. It is meant to show that another pitcher finished the game while your team was already winning. The save has changed a bit over the years, but it is a statistic that shows how effective some relief pitchers are in preserving wins. 

You should note that your team must already be ahead for a pitcher to earn a save. Only a pitcher appearing in a relief role can earn the save. The pitcher who started the game is not eligible to earn a save in the same game they started. Depending on the level, you may see that a pitcher is too high in a pitch count, is tired, or is no longer effective. This is when you may call in a relief pitcher to save the game. 

Related: Types of pitchers in baseball

What Impact Do Saves Have on the Game? 

Saves impact the game by preserving wins for your team. Relief pitchers are an important part of your team. Your pitchers may get tired. The other team may start to pick up on the types of pitches your pitcher is throwing. A relief pitcher can come in and save the game. 

As a statistic, it can show you which teams have a strong bullpen. If you are playing a team that has saved a lot of games it can change your strategy for the game. It may be more important for you to try and score against the starting pitcher. 

How Do Pitchers Earn a Save?

There are several different ways that you can earn a save. The most important thing for you to note is that your team must be ahead for a pitcher to earn a save. Also, if you are the starting pitcher, you are not eligible to earn the win and the save. Finally, to earn a save, you must be the pitcher to finish the game. 

In all scenarios, your team must be winning. If you are a relief pitcher and you come into a game and pitch three innings – you can earn a save. If you are a relief pitcher and you enter the game with the tying run in one of three places: the on-deck circle, the bases, or at-bat – you can earn a save. If you enter the game ahead by no more than three runs and pitch a full inning – you can earn a save. 

A save shows that you have prevented a threat. There’s no threat if your team is up by ten and you pitch the last inning. Also, you can’t create a save situation as a reliever. For example, if you enter the game winning by ten runs and surrender eight, you will not get credit for a save. If it is not a save situation when you enter the game, you cannot be credited with a save. 

If you enter the game in a save situation, you are going to be credited with one of the following: a save, blown save, win, loss, or a hold.

How Often Do Saves Happen?

Saves happen around 50% of the time in Major League Baseball. You may think that number may be a bit low. However, when you consider the average run margin is about four runs a game that means the average game is not a save opportunity. Unless you plan on throwing a reliever for three innings – which most teams do not do. There are other factors for you to consider as well – comeback wins, blown saves, blowouts, etc. 

How Did Saves Come to Be?

The save statistic dates back to 1959. Jerome Holtzman created it to evaluate the effectiveness of relief pitchers. Initially, it was a generic term used by teams. If you relieved a pitcher in a game that your team was winning and your team won the game, you were credited with a save. Holtzman changed that by creating guidelines for the stat. Saves became an official statistic in 1969. After the statistic became official, journalists used the guidelines to go back and grade pitchers’ statistics that were collected before 1969. 

What is a Blown Save?

A blown save is when you enter a save situation and surrender enough runs to lose the lead. The tying run does not have to be charged to you to be credited with a blown save. Any situation where the tying run or more, scores results in a blown save. 

You are still eligible for a win, loss, or no-decision if you blow a save. You are not eligible for a save or another blown save – unless you swap positions and reenter as a relief pitcher. 

You will be credited with a blown save as soon as the tying run scores. It is not dependent upon the outcome or completion of the game. 

What is a Hold in Baseball?

A hold is like an assist in baseball. You earn a hold by entering the game in a save situation and recording at least one out without the tying run scoring. One difference between a save and a hold is who you are evaluating. The save is meant to evaluate closers. The hold is meant to evaluate the success of setup relievers. The main difference between the two stats is whether or not you finish the game. You can’t earn a save if you don’t finish the game. You can earn a hold if you hold the lead and pass the ball on to another reliever. 

If you earn a lot of holds, you are an effective reliever to set up the closer to earn the save. In many cases, you will find that the relief pitchers that earn several holds become the back-up, or future, closer. Many closers start as setup pitchers. 

Only one player on your team can earn a save. Multiple relief pitchers can earn a hold in a single game. 

FAQ

What is the longest save in MLB history?

The longest save in MLB history was recorded in 2002. Joaquín Benoit pitched 7 innings for the Texas Rangers in relief of Todd Van Poppel. Van Poppel was credited with the win and Benoit earned the save in a 7-1 victory. 

Who has the most saves in MLB history?

The career record holder for saves in the MLB is Mariano Rivera with 652. Rivera is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The single-season record holder for saves is Francisco Rodríguez with 62 saves recorded in 2008 for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. 

Can pitchers get the win and save?

Pitchers are not eligible for both a win and a save in the same game. 

Who has the most blown saves in MLB history?

The pitcher with the most career blown saves is Goose Gossage with 112. There is a four-way tie for most blown saves in a season. The record is 14 and was most recently set by Ron Davis in 1984. 

Who are the most successful pitchers when it comes to saves? 

Eric Gagne holds the record for the longest streak of saves without a blown save. His record is 84 consecutive saves without a blown save between the years 2002-2004. 
The next closest pitcher is Zach Britton with 60 consecutive saves between 2015-2017.