# Save opportunity (Baseball)

ESPN’s baseball glossary defines a save opportunity as:

When a pitcher 1) enters the game with a lead of three or fewer runs and pitches at least one inning, 2) enters the game with the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck, or 3) pitches three or more innings with a lead and is credited with a save by the official scorer.

Now any time a pitcher enters a game with a lead of three or fewer runs, the potential tying run is at least on deck, so part 2 applies so why is part 1 in this definition?

Furthermore, why should the length of time a pitcher pitches define a save opportunity. That is, if part 2 weren’t there if a closer came in in a standard save opportunity and lost the game without pitching a full inning, he wouldn’t have a save opportunity and therefore wouldn’t have a blown save.

I’m assuming part 3 is there so that a pitcher who comes in with an 8-0 lead and pitches the last three innings winning 8-7 can not credited with a save for his lousy performance. But he really did have a save opportunity if he’d pitched better.

Your math is a bit off. If no one is on base, at bat plus on deck only equals 2 runs. On the other hand, with the bases loaded, five runs will do. Also, I don’t think a pitcher needs to pitch a full inning if he qualifies under the “on deck” rule.

That’s correct; a pitcher can get a save by facing (and retiring) only one batter, if the conditions described in point #2 apply.

Here are, apparently, the current rules for saves (as per Wikipedia):

If the above is correct, pitching the final three innings of a game in which you are not the winner would seem to earn you a save, regardless of whether it was a “lousy performance”. That said, it’s hard to picture a situation in which a relief pitcher would give up multiple runs, imperil the comfortable lead which he’d inherited, and not get pulled for another pitcher.

Notice that it is possible to get a save without delivering a single pitch.

According to sub-point #2 above, yeah, it could be (say, via picking off a runner).

Nope - look at criteria #1: “1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team”. (I think you may be confused by the final 3 - they should be labelled as 4a, 4b, and 4c. Gotta get 1 & 2 & 3 & (4a or 4b or 4c).)

I think it’s technically possible to pitch a complete game without delivering a single pitch, though completely impossible in practice. Involves some legal technicality wherein a batter is awarded first base, followed by a pick-off, repeated 27 times.

I think you misunderstand what I’d meant (or, we’re talking sideways at one another).

If:
a) your team wins the game
b) you are not the pitcher who is credited with the win
c) you finish the game
c) you pitch at least three innings

…it appears that you automatically get a save, no matter how badly you pitched.

OldGuy had posited that, in that situation, the official scorer could elect to withhold awarding a save to such a pitcher, because he’d not pitched well, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case, based on the wording of the rules as I found them.

As long as you don’t surrender the lead, you DO get this “cheap” save.

Rule 10.20 (3) © in my book says “he pitches effectively for at least three innings.”

Unless the wording which stood from 1975-2006 has been changed since then, it is the scorer’s judgment whether the finishing pitcher has been effective. (If not, the scorer could award the save to a preceding relief pitcher, or not at all.)

It appears they have changed the wording; the official rules presently on MLB’s website, which are kept up to date, simply say “He pitches for at least three innings.” It’s also now Rule 10.19.

Hmm, well okay then.

I’m a bit surprised, and wondering what else has changed.

I don’t care about the save rule itself–saves are a curiosity at best, not a meaningful stat.

I was actually going to note that, then I realized it wasn’t necessary.

If your team wins the game, you don’t, yourself, qualify for the win, and you finish the game (which are among the other criteria for earning a save), by definition, you can’t have surrendered the lead. If you’d surrendered the lead, but your team still won (by scoring additional runs after you surrendered the lead), and you finished the game yourself, you would get the W, not the S.

A ball can be awarded to a batter if the pitcher licks his fingers, for example. So if the pitcher licks his hand four times, he could walk the batter without throwing a pitch. So it would take 108 licks to get to the complete game.

The three-inning clause was designed to be an exception to an exception. You get a save when you enter with a lead and pitch until the end of the game, unless the game is already a blowout when you enter, when you don’t get a save, unless you pitch at least three innings.

Given present-day relief pitching patterns, this exception almost never comes into play. It’s very rare, nowadays, for a finishing pitcher to pitch three or more innings, whether the game is a blowout or not. In fact, if anybody has a means of searching, I’d be interested in knowing how many 3+ inning saves were recorded in all of MLB all last season. I’m guessing the answer will be either “very few” or “zero”.

Only four times last year, 13 times in '09 and 16 times in '08.

EDIT: By comparison, it happened 146 times in 1987.

The best save of all time was the one recorded by Wes Littleton of the Texas Rangers against the Baltimore Orioles on August 22, 2007.

His team won, 30-3.