MLB Needs To Implement New Way Of Determining How Saves Are Earned

by Rob Downey | Posted on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
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Edward Mujica

The save has become the primary measuring stick for determining the effectiveness of the relief pitcher who fills the role of closer on each Major League team. Typically, a closer has to: 1. face the tying run or have the tying run on base or on deck, or 2. be protecting a lead of no more than three runs and pitch at least one inning, or 3. pitch at least three innings while protecting a lead. However, many times a relief pitcher might face the tying run in the middle innings, say the sixth or seventh stanza of a game, or a relief pitcher might face the middle of the order in the eighth inning and then turn the game over to the so-called closer who pitches the ninth inning while facing the bottom of the opposing team’s batting order.

To wit, in the game between St. Louis and Los Angeles on Tuesday night the Cardinals were leading 2-1 when St. Louis relief pitcher Seth Maness entered during the sixth inning of a 2-1 game with the bases loaded and one out. Maness promptly induced a double play that preserved the Cardinals lead. Subsequently, St. Louis reliever Trevor Rosenthal pitched the eighth inning and had to go through the middle of the Dodgers batting order (Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, and Andre Ethier), and he set the aforementioned LA batters down in order while protecting the same 2-1 lead. Ultimately, the Cardinals added to their lead while winning the game 5-1 negating the save opportunity for St. Louis closer Edward Mujica, who pitched the ninth inning while protecting more than the requisite 3-run lead. Clearly, the game was “saved” by the clutch pitching of Maness who has induced more double plays this season than any other relief pitcher in the National League. If Maness had surrendered so much as a sacrifice fly the game would have been tied, but he got out of the inning and Cardinals winning pitcher Joe Kelly was undoubtedly grateful. However, Maness does not get credit for a save.

Rosenthal could have also easily slipped up and surrendered the tying run when he faced the toughest hitters in the LA batting order while the score was still sitting at 2-1 in favor of the Cardinals, but he did not and yet he also does not get credit for a save. The irony in all this is that if either Maness or Rosenthal had failed to protect the Cardinals lead they would have been saddled with a blown save. That just does not make sense. It would seem a more objective means of evaluating save situations would be worth undertaking by major league baseball.

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Rob Downey
About the Author

Rob is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan having attended the 1967, 1968, 1982, 1987, and 2006 World Series. Rob played basketball at Ball State University in the mid-1970's and enjoys watching and coaching baseball at all levels. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobSbcglobal50.

  • McLean_Deluxe

    Your right and many others agree. This is why Fangraphs came up with their “shutdown” and “meltdown” metric. There’s is also WPA(win probability added)

  • Sam

    I think there are far too many (relatively speaking) easy saves. The 3 inning save is fine, but otherwise a save should be given only when the reliever comes in with the tying run ALREADY ON BASE, doesn’t allow the runner to score, & finishes the game. That’s the only way he can actually “save” the game for another pitcher.

    LaRussa was the chief culprit who cheapened the save in the 80’s when he brought in Eckersly to start the 9th inning.

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