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Save (baseball)

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, described below. The number of saves, or percentage of save opportunities successfully converted, is an oft-cited statistic of relief pitchers, particularly those in the closer role. It became an official Major League Baseball (MLB) statistic in 1969.[1] Mariano Rivera is MLB's all-time leader in regular season saves with 652.


  • History 1
  • Usage 2
  • Value 3
  • Leaders in Major League Baseball 4
    • Saves 4.1
      • Most saves in a career 4.1.1
      • Most in a single season 4.1.2
      • Most consecutive 4.1.3
    • Blown saves 4.2
      • Career 4.2.1
      • Single season 4.2.2
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The term save was being used as far back as 1952.[2] 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 that finished winning games but were not credited with the win, regardless of the margin of victory. The statistic went largely unnoticed.

A formula with more criteria for saves was invented in 1960 by baseball writer Jerome Holtzman.[3] 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.[1][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.[1][6]

The save became an official MLB statistic in 1969.[1] It was MLB's first new major statistic since the run batted in was added in 1920.[1] 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.[7][8]


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 10.19 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:[9]

  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:
  5. He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
  6. He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
  7. He pitches for at least three innings.
  8. 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).

    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.[10] 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.[11]

    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).[12] This addressed saves such as Ron Taylor's in a 20–6 New York Mets win over the Atlanta Braves.[13][14] 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.[15] 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.[12]


    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.[16][17][18] Sheehan offered that saves did not account for a pitcher's proficiency at preventing runs nor did it reflect leads that were not preserved.[16]

    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.[19] columnist Jim Caple has argued that the save statistic has turned the closer position into "the most overrated position in sports".[20] 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.")[20][21]

    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.[22] Gossage had more saves of at least two innings than saves where he pitched one inning or less.[23] "The times I did a one-inning save, I felt guilty about it. It's like it was too easy," said Gossage.[24] wrote that saves have not been determined to be "a special, repeatable skill—rather than simply a function of opportunities".[25] 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.[25] 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."[26] More than half of Gossage's and Finger's 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][12] The study offered "praise to the combatants who faced more danger for more innings."[12]

    On September 3, 2002, the Texas Rangers won 7-1 over the Baltimore Orioles as Joaquin Benoit pitched a seven-inning save, the longest save since it became an official statistic in 1969.[27][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.[30]

    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 victory 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."[31]

    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 Kansas City Royals.[32]

    Leaders in Major League Baseball


    The statistic was formally introduced in 1969,[1] although research has identified saves earned prior to that point.[33]

    Most saves in a career

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

    Stats updated through 2015 season
    Player Name of the player
    Saves Career saves
    Years The years this player played in the major leagues
    Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
    * Denotes pitcher who is still active
    L Denotes pitcher who is left-handed
    Regular season
    Player Saves Years
    Rivera, MarianoMariano Rivera 652 1995–2013
    Hoffman, TrevorTrevor Hoffman 601 1993–2010
    Smith, LeeLee Smith 478 1980–1997
    Franco, JohnJohn FrancoL 424 1984–2005
    Wagner, BillyBilly WagnerL 422 1995–2010
    Dennis Eckersley 390 1975–1998
    Rodríguez, FranciscoFrancisco Rodríguez* 386[34] 2002–present
    Nathan, JoeJoe Nathan* 377 1999–present
    Reardon, JeffJeff Reardon 367 1979–1994
    Percival, TroyTroy Percival 358 1995–2005, 2007–2009

    Most in a single season

    Stats updated through 2015 season
    Regular season
    Player Saves Team Year
    Rodríguez, FranciscoFrancisco Rodríguez* 62 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2008
    Thigpen, BobbyBobby Thigpen 57 Chicago White Sox 1990
    Gagné, ÉricÉric Gagné 55 Los Angeles Dodgers 2003
    Smoltz, JohnJohn Smoltz 55 Atlanta Braves 2002
    Rivera, MarianoMariano Rivera 53 New York Yankees 2004
    Hoffman, TrevorTrevor Hoffman 53 San Diego Padres 1998
    Myers, RandyRandy MyersL 53 Chicago Cubs 1993
    Gagné, ÉricÉric Gagné 52 Los Angeles Dodgers 2002
    Melancon, MarkMark Melancon* 51 Pittsburgh Pirates 2015
    Johnson, JimJim Johnson* 51 Baltimore Orioles 2012
    Beck, RodRod Beck 51 Chicago Cubs 1998
    Eckersley, DennisDennis Eckersley 51 Oakland Athletics 1992
    Johnson, JimJim Johnson* 50 Baltimore Orioles 2013
    Kimbrel, CraigCraig Kimbrel* 50 Atlanta Braves 2013
    Rivera, MarianoMariano Rivera 50 New York Yankees 2001

    Most consecutive

    Stats updated through 2015 season
    Regular season
    Player Saves Team(s) Years Ref
    Gagné, ÉricÉric Gagné 84 Los Angeles Dodgers 20022004 [35]
    Gordon, TomTom Gordon 54 Boston Red Sox 19981999 [35]
    Valverde, JoséJosé Valverde* 51 Detroit Tigers 20102011 [36]
    Axford, JohnJohn Axford* 49 Milwaukee Brewers 20112012 [37]
    Lidge, BradBrad Lidge 47 Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies 20072009 [35]
    Balfour, GrantGrant Balfour* 44 Oakland Athletics 20122013 [38]
    Beck, RodRod Beck 41 San Francisco Giants 19931995 [35]
    Hoffman, TrevorTrevor Hoffman 41 San Diego Padres 19971998 [35]
    Bell, HeathHeath Bell 41 San Diego Padres 20102011 [35]
    Eckersley, DennisDennis Eckersley 40 Oakland Athletics 19911992 [39]

    Blown saves


    Stats updated through 2007 season[40]
    Regular season
    Player Blown Saves Years
    Goose Gossage 112 1972–1994
    Rollie Fingers 109 1968-1985
    Jeff Reardon 106 1979-1994
    Lee Smith 103 1980-1997
    Bruce Sutter 101 1976-1988
    John FrancoL 101 1984-2005
    Sparky LyleL 95 1967-1982
    Roberto Hernández 94 1991-2007
    Gene Garber 83 1969-1988
    Kent Tekulve 81 1974-1989

    Single season

    Stats updated through 2007 season[41]
    Regular season
    Player Blown Saves Team Year
    Gerry Staley 14 Chicago White Sox 1960
    Rollie Fingers 14 Oakland Athletics 1976
    Bruce Sutter 14 Chicago Cubs 1978
    Bob Stanley 14 Boston Red Sox 1983
    Ron Davis 14 Minnesota Twins 1984
    John HillerL 13 Detroit Tigers 1976
    Goose Gossage 13 New York Yankees 1983
    Jeff Reardon 13 Montréal Expos 1986
    Dan PlesacL 13 Milwaukee Brewers 1987
    Dave RighettiL 13 New York Yankees 1987

    See also


    1. ^ differs slightly and recorded it occurring in only eight 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).[4] Associated Press also reported Face allowing a tying run to score in his July 9 win over the Chicago Cubs.[5]
    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.[28] retroactively credited eight-inning saves to pitchers prior to 1969 including Jim Shaw (1920), Guy Morton (1920), and Dick Hall (1961).[29]


    1. ^ a b c d e f  
    2. ^ Newman, Mark (July 22, 2008). "Holtzman helped 'save' baseball". Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. 
    3. ^  
    4. ^ "Roy Face 1959 Pitching Gamelogs".  
    5. ^ Wilks, Ed (July 10, 1959). "Dodger' Craig Old Self Again; Two Double Shutouts in American League". The Florence Times (Alabama). Associated Press. Section 2, Page 3. Retrieved December 4, 2012. 
    6. ^ Zimniuch, Fran (2010). Fireman: The Evolution of the Closer in Baseball. Chicago:  
    7. ^ Expansion Era Famous Firsts – Baseball Almanac.
    8. ^ Los Angeles Dodgers 3, Cincinnati Reds 2; Monday, April 7, 1969 (D) at Crosley Field – Retrosheet.
    9. ^ Divisions Of The Code
    10. ^ "About The Award". McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNeil-PPC, Inc. Archived from the original on January 17, 2012. 
    11. ^  
    12. ^ a b c d Schechter, Gabriel (March 21, 2006). "Top Relievers in Trouble".  
    13. ^ Zimniuch 2010, p.126
    14. ^ "August 7, 1971 New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
    15. ^ "Baseball changes rule". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. January 31, 1975. p. 3B. 
    16. ^ a b  
    17. ^  
    18. ^  
    19. ^ Doolittle, Bradford (July 28, 2008). "Wishing that baseball’s save statistic had never been invented".  
    20. ^ a b Caple, Jim (August 5, 2008). "The most overrated position in sports". Archived from the original on February 25, 2011. 
    21. ^  
    22. ^ Zimniuch 2010, pp.xxvi,158–9
    23. ^ Schecter, Gabriel (January 18, 2006). "The Evolution of the Closer".  
    24. ^ Zimniuch 2010, p.99
    25. ^ a b Philip, Tom (April 30, 2011). "Blown saves are overblown". Archived from the original on January 5, 2012. 
    26. ^ Zimniuch 2010, p.98
    27. ^ Beck, Jason (April 6, 2013). "Smyly's long save has nothing on Benoit". Archived from the original on April 25, 2013. 
    28. ^ "AL roundup: Benoit gets 7-inning save against O's". Deseret News. Associated Press. September 4, 2002. Archived from the original on April 25, 2013. 
    29. ^ "From 1916 to 2013, Recorded Save, (requiring IPouts>=21), sorted by smallest IP". Retrieved April 25, 2013. (subscription required)
    30. ^ "Rangers MLBeat: Narron pleased". Retrieved April 15, 2007. 
    31. ^ Spousta, Tom (August 23, 2007). "With a 27-Run Cushion, a Save Is in the Books".  
    32. ^
    33. ^ Armour, Mark L.; Levitt, David R. (2004). Paths to Glory: How Great Baseball Teams Got That Way. Potomac Books. pp. 92–93.  
    34. ^
    35. ^ a b c d e f Center, Bill (May 4, 2011). "Pregame Preview: Will Bell set Padres saves record?".  
    36. ^ "Tigers edge Red Sox after Jose Valverde blows save". Associated Press. April 5, 2012. Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. 
    37. ^ "Corey Hart, Brewers edge Cubs in 13 innings". Associated Press. May 12, 2012. Archived from the original on May 12, 2012. 
    38. ^ "Tommy Milone carries shutout into 9th, then A's hold on". Associated Press. July 5, 2013. Archived from the original on July 5, 2013. 
    39. ^ Schlueter, Roger (August 26, 2011). "Fascinating facts from Thursday's games". (MLB Advanced Media, L.P). Archived from the original on August 27, 2011. 
    40. ^ Gillette, Gary; Palmer, Pete; Gammons, Peter (2008). The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia (Fifth ed.). Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 1770.  
    41. ^ Gillette, Palmer, Gammons 2008, p.1788

    External links

    • Career Leaders & Records for Saves
    • From 1957 to 2007, Saves without a batter faced
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