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What is a Save in Baseball? – Guide for Beginners

FAQs Written by MICHAEL ROGERS / Fact-checked by LEO HAGENES

what is a save in baseball

Since around the 1940s, baseball has become a popular sport due to its entertaining value during World War II. Since then, its fame has soared along with significant changes in rules.

Baseball save first entered into use around the 1950s, primarily among general baseball managers. However, it wasn’t until 1969 that it was implemented.

So, precisely, what is a save in baseball? It is the achievement of a relief pitcher who maintains his team’s advantage and does so under circumstances of a save opportunity. Read our detailed explanations below.

Save Situation Baseball Meaning

The save opportunity opens for a pitcher when he enters the game to replace his team’s starting pitcher, thus becoming the reliever, also known as the relief pitcher.

Here’re the three scenarios that present opportunities for the pitcher to score a hold, a save, or to be charged with a blown save:

  • The player is called into the game while his team is holding the lead of 1, 2, or 3 runs.
  • When the relief pitcher enters the game, his team is in the middle of a close-to-scoring situation or a tying run.
  • Or, he should pitch three innings or more after entering the game.

As the save opportunities present themselves, the player needs to achieve more to be credited a save, which is an official statistic in baseball to evaluate a relief pitcher’s performance.

What Qualifies for a Save in Baseball?

baseball-save

Let’s go into details on how save rules baseball MLB determines when a pitcher can get a save in baseball.

Here’re the four essential conditions that the relief pitcher must meet, specified in Rule 9.19:

The player must be the closer

When the reliever enters the game (often from the 5th – 9th inning), he must be the one that delivers the last pitch that gives his own team its win.

However, he cannot be the winning pitcher

The winning pitcher is the player who pitches last before the half-inning when his team still holds its lead.

He must meet the required credits

The relief pitcher must be given credit for one-third or more of all innings pitched.

Finally, it is important that he meets this final condition

To earn the pitching save, the relief pitcher, or as we call him, the closer, should achieve one of the following criteria:

  • He pitches three innings or more, which can be referred to as the 3 inning save rule.
  • When he joins the game, his team must be in a position to tie, whether on deck, at bat, or on base.
  • When he is called into the game to replace the starting pitcher, his team should have a lead of three runs at most. He also won’t receive a save in this case without pitching for at least one inning.

That’s what is written in the rule. Here’re some of the common sequences that bring real MLB save scores.

  • One common scenario is when a relief pitcher is called in the ninth inning with his team having the lead we described above, and he records three outs to secure the victory.
  • When a game goes into extra innings to determine the winner, the relief pitcher maintains his team’s lead in the second half of an inning.
  • In a save situation, the reliever also gets the win for his team, although it does not always have to end in the last inning. Furthermore, in this situation, his team can have more than three runs.
  • Or, when his team has the potential to tie on deck, at bat, or on base, and he is brought in when the team is leading by four or five runs with the baserunners all on base. The save is then credited.

Indeed, the above examples are also true for a save in college baseball and other leagues.

Frequently Asked Questions

save-situation-baseball

What does SV mean in baseball?

If you encounter the abbreviation SV on a baseball statistics board, it indicates a save, which is earned by the relief pitcher.

How do pitchers earn a save?

As mentioned above, the pitcher must be the closing pitcher, entering the game to replace the starting pitcher, keep the team’s three runs (or fewer) lead, and secure the team’s win.

How often do saves happen?

Here’s some data to show how frequently a baseball game in the Major League ends with a save.

Season Games Saves Ratio
2017 2430 1179 48.5%
2018 2431 1244 51.2%
2019 2429 1180 48.65%
2020 898 422 47%
2021 2429 1191 49%

How did saves come to be?

The term “save” was originally used in baseball around 1952 to credit the pitchers who delivered the winning pitch for their teams. However, because the statistic’s formula and rules were vague, it went ignored.

Then, in 1960, an American sportswriter named Jerome Holzman introduced specified criteria for saves, making it one of the measures used to evaluate a relief pitcher’s performance, alongside the available win-loss record (W-L) and earned run average (ERA).

In 1969, save was officially recognized as a statistic by Major League Baseball.

What is a blown save?

In baseball, the abbreviations BS, BSV, and sometimes B stands for blown save. It is given to a reliever who fails to extend the team’s winning streak.

When the reliever enters the game in a save situation and allows the opposing team to score or tie the game, he is said to have committed a blown save.

Although blown save in baseball is not an official MLB statistic, there are still records for analysis. In 2022, the MLB teams with the most blown saves are the Tampa Bay Rays with 32, followed by the Chicago Cubs at 29 BSV.

How many innings is a save?

The pitcher should pitch at least three innings or pitch one inning when his team leads by no more than three runs for a save. So, there will be 3-inning and 1-inning, yet no 2 inning save rule.

Conclusion

What is a save in baseball? What’s its purpose and use? We hope that you already find the detailed and easy-to-understand answers to those questions and much more.

Perhaps, this statistic also brought out your respect and amazement for a relief pitcher who keeps the team going strong and contributes significantly to the win!

5/5 - (3 votes)
M. Rogers

Rogers is a hardcore baseball enthusiast. He plays with a team in his neighborhood three days a week and spends the rest either watching baseball games or reading the news about it. He joined Nations Baseball as a writer to share his knowledge and help others realize their passions for the sport

Michael Rogers