Saving it for 50 years: How baseball’s save stat came to be

first_imgSo what makes a save? The current rule has three conditions:• Must be the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club.• Not the winning pitcher, and one of the following conditions:• Entered the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; orentered the game, regardless of the score, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck; or pitched for at least three innings.SONG AND STANCEToday’s closers enter the game with great drama and fanfare. The lone gunner striding to the mound with fans on their feet and music blasting is typical. But it hasn’t always been that way. Before they were even called closers, the term most used for relievers was “firemen” because they came in to douse the fire. It wasn’t until 1972 when an assistant publicist for the New York Yankees came up with the idea to play music and ramp up the dramatic entrance. Choosing the right music for a closer is an art. Intense, lights out, end-of-the-world music is what we have come to expect. Bands such as AC/DC and Metallica are the most common crowd pleasers, but hard rock anthems weren’t the original choice. The first music for closers was played on stadium organs and in April 1972, Sparky Lyle entered to close out a game to “Pomp and Circumstance.” The song played at graduations might not inspire an adrenaline rush but a trend was started.CLOSING NOTES (from 2018)Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen “California Love” – TupacAngels closer Cody Allen “The Outsiders” – Eric ChurchINCREASED SAVINGSThe most saves recorded by a pitcher in each season from 1969 to 2018.SINGLE-SEASON SAVE LEADERSFrancisco Rodriguez, Angels: 62, 2008Edwin Diaz, Mariners: 57, 2018Bobby Thigpen, White Sox: 57, 1990Eric Gagne, Dodgers: 55 2003John Smoltz, Braves: 55 2002Trevor Hoffman, Padres: 53, 1998Randy Myers, Reds: 53, 1993Mariano Rivera, Yankees: 53, 2004Eric Gagne, Dodgers: 52, 2002Rod Beck, Giants: 51, 1998Dennis Eckersley, A’s: 51, 1992Jeurys Familia, Mets: 51, 2016Jim Johnson, Orioles: 51, 2012Mark Melancon, Orioles: 51, 2015CAREES SAVES LEADERSSources: MLB, Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference, ESPN Fifty years ago, the first recorded save was notched in the major league record books and the pitcher didn’t even keep the ball. On April 7, 1969, Dodgers pitcher Bill Singer was the first pitcher to record an official save after preserving the Dodgers’ 3-2 Opening Day victory for three innings. In 2013, Singer told ESPN writer, Doug Williams, “We went out and Drysdale pitched six, I went the last three and got the save and didn’t know anything about that ’til maybe 20 years later.”Singer became a starting pitcher for the Dodgers later that season and earned 20 wins. Singer’s next save didn’t occur until six seasons later when he was pitching for the then-California Angels, and he finished his career just those two saves across 14 seasons. But he got MLB’s first.SAVE IT UPBefore Major League Baseball recognized the save statistically there were relief wins and losses. Chicago Sun-Times writer Jerome Holtzman campaigned for years for a better statistical method of tracking one of the most pressure-packed pitching situations in the game. The role of relievers has changed significantly since the 1960s. Today’s top closers typically come in for one inning and seldom pitch more than three outs. But a reliever such as Rollie Fingers in the 1970s notched 341 career saves, with 135 of them being two innings or more (36 were three innings or more).IN CLOSINGThe definition of what determines a save has changed twice since it was first created in 1969. The first two versions of the rule were a bit simpler than what it used today. In 1969, a save was earned when a relief pitcher entered the game with his team in the lead and held the lead for the remainder of the game (no matter the score) and without getting credit for a victory. The rule was modified in 1974 and again in 1975 to what is in place now.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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