Even today, saves come in all shapes and sizes

Even today, saves come in all shapes and sizes

After his two-inning save on Sept. 8, Mariano Rivera stood at his Yankee Stadium locker and fielded questions about whether the six outs he was brought on to record were too much of a load. The iconic Yankees closer was summoned at the beginning of the eighth to finish a 3-2 ballgame, just the second time manager Joe Girardi had used Rivera for two innings (and the first time with the original intent to do so) this year.

Rivera blew the save that night, giving up a run in the ninth after a scoreless eighth, but he eventually grabbed the win after the Yanks rallied in the ninth.

When asked postgame whether he'd been consulted about the unconventional save situation, Rivera said, "They don't need to talk to me. I'm not holding anything [back]. It's not like I'm coming back next year."

No pitcher in the history of the game has closed more games than Rivera. But that response was as indicative as anything that -- even with how the game has changed over the years -- a save is still a save, any way you slice it.

"I think just finishing the game," White Sox closer Addison Reed said. "That's probably the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a save. But now in today's game ... it almost means just the last three outs."

True enough, the conventional thought that comes to mind when you hear the word "save" is the closer's ninth inning. The winning team leads by one, two or three runs, and the designated reliever is called on to record the final three outs, beginning with the first batter of that half of the ninth inning.

But saves truly do come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Or, in baseball terms, more like situations and scenarios. According to BaseballReference.com, there were 1,168 saves recorded in the Major Leagues this season entering Sunday's slate of games. Of them, 1,027 (or 88 percent) were of the standard one-inning variety. Twenty-three required just two-thirds of a an inning, while 39 lasted just one-third. Seventy-nine consisted of at least 1 1/3 innings, 27 consisted of two or more frames, and 17 lasted at least three innings.

Oakland's Jesse Chavez, the Yankees' Adam Warren and Detroit's Drew Smyly each have been credited with a four-inning save this year. So there can certainly be more to a save than what you'd expect.

"Last time we were here at Wrigley, I had two in one day," Brewers closer Jim Henderson said. "That would be the most odd in my career."

The Major League Baseball rulebook says this about the save statistic:

"The official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:
(a) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
(b) He is not the winning pitcher;
(c) He is credited with at least 1 /3 of an inning pitched; and
(d) He satisfies one of the following conditions:
(1) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning;
(2) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batters he faces); or
(3) He pitches for at least three innings."

"I'm just thinking [about getting] three outs," said Henderson, who has two four-out saves this year, but none of less than three outs. "So when they throw those four outs at you, it's a little bit of a wrench. But it's a challenge I love to accept. The first time it happened, I was just like, 'All right, here we go. This is going to be fun.'"

According to BaseballReference.com, Rollie Fingers recorded 201 saves requiring at least four outs, the most all-time. Fellow Hall of Famers Goose Gossage (193) and Bruce Sutter (188) are right behind him. For perspective, Kevin Gregg, Rafael Soriano and Brian Wilson -- Nos. 8-10, respectively, on the active saves leaderboard -- do not have that many total saves in their career.

Rivera, without surprise, is the active leader with 118 saves of more than one inning. It can be viewed as an indication that with the emergence of setup men and situational relievers, closers are no longer required to take on such a load at the back end of games.

"Thiggy always gives me a hard time, because back when he was pitching, he said you had to go two or three innings to get a save," Reed said of White Sox bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen, who had 80 career saves of 1 1/3 innings or longer. "He says we're spoiled nowadays because we only have to go out there -- I'd say 99 percent of the time -- for three outs."

Fingers also leads the all-time closers list with 39 one-out saves. He's followed by Jeff Reardon (34) and Todd Worrell (33). Thigpen had 11.

"That's even more exciting, because you can just put more of yourself out there, more energy, more intensity just to get those one or two hitters," Henderson said of the short save opportunities.

"You just give it your all. That's fun. It's all good. It's fun to be in that ninth inning, no matter what the situation is."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.