A save is awarded to the relief pitcher who finishes a game for the winning team, under certain circumstances. A pitcher cannot receive a save and a win in the same game.
A relief pitcher recording a save must preserve his team's lead while doing one of the following:
- Enter the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitch at least one inning.
- Enter the game with the tying run in the on-deck circle, at the plate or on the bases.
- Pitch at least three innings.
For a long time, saves were the ultimate barometer of a good closer. Recently, however, statisticians have begun to consider saves a major product of opportunity.
Still, as many Major League pitchers will point out, there is something very difficult about earning a save, because it represents the final out(s) of a game, and an opposing team will do everything in its power -- pinch-hitting, pinch-running, etc. -- to tie the score.
The term save was used by general managers in the 1950s, without specific parameters. It simply referred to a pitcher who entered the game with a lead and finished off a win -- regardless of score. Writer Jerome Holtzman was the first to give specific criteria to saves in the early 1960s. But saves didn't become an official stat until 1969.
Watch: Zach Britton protects a three-run lead in the ninth inning to record a save.