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. The number of saves, or percentage of save opportunities successfully completed, is an oft-cited statistic of relief pitchers. It became an official Major League Baseball statistic in 1969.
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 Rules of Baseball. That rule states the official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:
If the pitcher surrenders the lead at any point, he cannot get a save, but he may be credited as the winning pitcher if his team comes back to win. No more than one save may be credited in each game.
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 (not an officially recognized statistic by Major League Baseball).
Save rules have changed over the years; the above rules are the current as defined in Section 10.19 of Major League Baseball's Official Rules. The statistic was formally introduced in 1969, although research has identified saves earned prior to that point.
A blown save (abbreviated 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 that same pitcher also allows the go-ahead run to reach base and score, and if his team does not come back to tie or gain a lead in the game, said pitcher will be charged with both the loss (as in any other similar situation) and a blown save. The blown save is not an officially recognized statistic, but many sources keep track of them. Once a pitcher blows a save, he is no longer eligible to earn a save in that game (since the lead that he was trying to "save" has disappeared), although he can earn a win if his team regains the lead. For this reason, most closers' records include a few wins. Closers make the majority of their appearances with their team ahead, so a loss usually includes a blown save.
If a pitcher enters a game in a save situation (for a team leading by three runs or fewer) in an inning which is not the last (e.g. in a regulation nine inning home game, pitching the top of the eighth inning), and his team later scores one or more runs to extend their lead beyond three runs, then as long as the same pitcher pitches until the end of the game, he is still credited with the save. As the various roles of relief pitchers have changed since the 1960s, closers who often pitch two or more innings have become increasingly rare; although exceptions remain.
A pitcher also cannot create his own save situation. For instance, if he enters the game with a lead too large for a save, he would not make himself eligible for a save by surrendering enough runs to contract the lead to within save range. It must be a save situation when he enters the game, or he will not be able to earn one.
A notable occurrence of the "three innings pitched" save scenario is the save earned by Wes Littleton in the Texas Rangers' 30–3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on August 22, 2007. Littleton entered the game at the beginning of the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Rangers had a 14–3 lead, and pitched the final three innings. The Rangers subsequently scored an additional 16 runs, resulting in the final 27 run margin. However, despite the final score of the game, Littleton was credited with the save as he met all four criteria: 1) he was the finishing pitcher in the game that the Rangers won, 2) he was not the winning pitcher (the Rangers were leading when he entered the game), 3) he was credited with at least 1/3rd of an inning pitched, and 4) he pitched at least three innings (the 7th, 8th, and 9th).
(Bold denotes active players.)
(The statistic was formally introduced in 1969, although research has identified saves earned prior to that point.)
Listed are all Major League Baseball players with at least 300 career saves. Through October 4, 2009
|1||Trevor Hoffman||591||Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers||1993–present|
|2||Mariano Rivera||526||New York Yankees||1995–present|
|3||Lee Smith||478||Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos||1980–1997|
|4||John FrancoL||424||Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, Houston Astros||1984–2005|
|5||Dennis EckersleyH||390||Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals||1975–1998|
|6||Billy WagnerL||385||Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox||1995–present|
|7||Jeff Reardon||367||New York Mets, Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees||1979–1994|
|8||Troy Percival||358||California/Anaheim Angels, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays||1995–2005, 2007–present|
|9||Randy MyersL||347||New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays||1985–1998|
|10||Rollie FingersH||341||Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers||1968–1985|
|11||John Wetteland||330||Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers||1989–2000|
|12||Roberto Hernández||326||Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers||1991–2007|
|13||José Mesa||321||Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers||1987, 1990–2007|
|14||Todd Jones||319||Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Florida Marlins||1993–2008|
|15||Rick Aguilera||318||New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs||1985–2000|
|16||Robb Nen||314||Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, San Francisco Giants||1993–2002|
|17||Tom Henke||311||Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals||1982–1995|
|18||Rich "Goose" GossageH||310||Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners||1972–1994|
|19||Jeff Montgomery||304||Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals||1987–1999|
|20||Doug Jones||303||Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics||1982, 1986–2000|
|21||Bruce SutterH||300||Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves||1976–1986, 1988|
L denotes left-handed pitcher.
H denotes membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
|1||Francisco Rodríguez||62||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||2008|
|2||Bobby Thigpen||57||Chicago White Sox||1990|
|3||Éric Gagné||55||Los Angeles Dodgers||2003|
|John Smoltz||55||Atlanta Braves||2002|
|5||Mariano Rivera||53||New York Yankees||2004|
|Trevor Hoffman||53||San Diego Padres||1998|
|Randy MyersL||53||Chicago Cubs||1993|
|8||Éric Gagné||52||Los Angeles Dodgers||2002|
|9||Rod Beck||51||Chicago Cubs||1998|
|Dennis Eckersley||51||Oakland Athletics||1992|
|11||Mariano Rivera||50||New York Yankees||2001|
L denotes left-handed pitcher.
As of August 9, 2006:
L denotes left-handed pitcher.
L denotes left-handed pitcher.
During the 2008 baseball season Francisco Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Angels pursued the single-season saves record, inventor of the save statistic Jerome Holtzman died, and discussion erupted about the value of the save as a statistic. According to statistical measures other than saves, 2008 is not Rodriguez's best single season, and he is not the best relief pitcher in 2008—even on his own team. Instead, he has pitched for a team that provides many save opportunities, and is used almost exclusively in save situations.
Furthermore, the use of the save statistic has changed the way people perceive the role of a reliever, and some believe this change has been for the worse.  ESPN.com columnist Jim Caple has even argued that the save statistic has turned the closer position into "the most overrated position in sports".  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.") Another example of this model being used was Keith Foulke in the 2004 ALCS, who mainly served in his team's most important innings rather than save situations. Managers may be afraid of trying such moves due to them occasionally backfiring and leading to criticism. Closers themselves are also reluctant to enter games in non-save spots because of the huge monetary value of saves in the free agent market.