What Are Saves In Baseball (History, Types & Earnings)

The baseball world is full of statistics that are often equally important as any player’s skillset and performance. One of these stats is called a Save. You must have heard the term often especially in fantasy baseball stats of pitchers, so what are Saves in Baseball?

A save is a credit given to a relief pitcher who maintains a lead of no more than three runs in the ninth inning, leading to a victory for the winning team. Commonly, a relief pitcher is the closer for the team, meaning he enters the game when the team is leading and likely to win, so the pitcher is sent in for the last few outs. When leading their team to victory in the ninth inning, such closers get rewarded with a save or save opportunity when the team wins. This term isn’t a physical reward but a virtual one as it is added to the pitchers’ stats.

History of Saves in Baseball

The term Saves goes back to the ‘50s when the award went to pitchers who led their team to victory but were not directly given credit for it. 

Legendary statisticians like Allan Roth of the Dodgers were among the pioneers to coin the term accredited to pitchers. Later in the ’60s, baseball writer Jerome Holtzman officially introduced the criterion for saves into stats of relievers. Initially, relievers were judged based on earned-run average and win-loss records. 

However, most of these records had an unnoticed attribute where the relievers had lost runs but still maintained a lead that led to the team regaining a win in the next inning. Thus, a new statistic called Saves was added. 

The Sporting News introduced the Fireman of The Year Award in 1960, awarded to pitchers based on the saves and wins on their record.

Earning a Save in Baseball

Now that we understand what saves are in baseball, why not ask how to earn one, especially if you want to be a relief pitcher yourself? The criteria for earning a save is of primary importance; according to the Official Rules of MLB, Rule 9.19, a pitcher must fulfil four conditions:

  1. He is not the winning pitcher, i.e. the pitcher who pitched last at the end of the half inning getting their team the lead in the first place.
  2. He is the finishing pitcher of the game his team won.
  3. He is credited with at least one-third of an inning pitched.
  4. He satisfies any one of the following rules:
  • He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
  • He enters the game with the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck.
  • He pitches for at least three innings.

If you complete all four of the stated conditions and maintain your team’s lead in the final innings, you get a save rewarded to your stat sheet. This requires an extremely high level of skillset and patience and a strong resilience playing under pressure. It is important to remember that if the lead is of more than three runs, it does not count as a save, regardless of your performance as a relief pitcher. In that case, given their run lead, your team already had a predictability of winning the match.

Types of Saves in Baseball

Every save earned occurs in a different circumstance in the game hence, there are different types of saves in baseball. Here are the types and what they entail:

  1. Traditional Save: simply preserving your team’s lead, which is no more than three runs, in the final innings.
  2. Multi-Inning Save: pitching more than three innings in a match as a relief pitcher grants you a save with or without the lead criteria.
  3. Tough Save: awarded for entering the game with the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck.
  4. Four- or Five-Out Save: earned by recording four or five outs as a relief pitcher in a single match.

Now that we understand the types of saves, another important statistic is related to it. A save opportunity is a circumstance where the pitcher can earn the save, given that they successfully maintain the lead. Save Percentage is a ratio between the saves a pitcher has earned and the save opportunities they were presented with, which allows a far better analysis of a relief pitcher or a closer.

Memorable Saves in Baseball

In April 1969, Bill Singer was the first pitcher in the history of baseball who was officially awarded a save when he pitched three innings against the Cincinnati Reds, bringing the Dodgers an opening-day victory. In the same month, just a few weeks later, Frank Lizy was the first pitcher to be credited with two saves in a single game. Stan Williams was the first pitcher to be awarded a save without facing a batter in 1970. Joaquin Benoist earned a massive seven-inning long save in 2002 after getting his team, the Texas Rangers, a 7-1 victory. In 2007, Wes Littleton won a save in the largest winning margin game of 30-3 in which he pitched the last three innings, granting him the save in one of the most memorable matches in baseball history. And finally, in 2014, Madison Bumgarner was awarded the longest save ever recorded after pitching five innings without losing a single run.

Conclusion to What are Saves in Baseball

So, to conclude, what are saves in baseball? A statistic badge of honour granted to relief pitchers or closers who perform with such excellence their teams emerge victorious due to their relentless pitching skills. 

A save is awarded when a pitcher who enters late in the game maintains a lead for their team of no more than three runs in the final pitch. It should be noted that this rule is invalid if the pitcher pitches for more than three innings in the match. A pitcher can earn many types of saves in baseball if they play it right. As the term states, a save opportunity is an opportunity to coin a save. Save percentages are important advanced analytical stat used by statisticians to assess the performance of relief pitchers. 

There have been remarkable feats in the history of baseball where pitchers have earned saves of all kinds, giving unimaginable performances. Now that you understand what saves are in baseball, we hope you use this knowledge to choose the perfect closers in your fantasy MLB teams or, if you are a coach reading this, an actual pitcher in your baseball team.


What is the single-season save record?

Francisco Rodriguez set the single-season save record with 62 saves in 2008 while playing for the Los Angeles Angels.

Are there any controversies surrounding saves?

Yes, saves have faced criticism for relying on team performance and the arbitrary nature of some criteria. Critics argue that a pitcher’s performance in Save Opportunities can be influenced by factors beyond their control, such as defensive errors or managerial decisions.

How do saves impact pitcher evaluation and strategy?

Saves play a significant role in how relief pitchers are evaluated and compensated. Pitchers who excel in save situations are often highly valued by teams and can command lucrative contracts. Managers must also carefully consider when to use their top relievers to maximize their effectiveness in Save Opportunities.

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