What is a hold in baseball? A Comprehensive Guide 2024

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the concept of what is a hold in baseball. Have you ever wondered what a hold is and how it impacts the game’s strategy? If so, then you have come to the right place. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of a hold, including its definition, significance, and evolution in the game of baseball.

  1. A hold is an essential statistic that measures a relief pitcher’s ability to maintain a lead in specific game situations.

While often overshadowed by the more prominent save statistic, holds play a significant role in the game’s strategy and bullpen management. By understanding the concept of a hold, you will gain a deeper appreciation of the contribution that relief pitchers make to their team’s success.

So come along with us as we embark on this journey to uncover the nuances of a hold in baseball and its impact on the game.

Key Takeaways:

  • A hold is a statistical category that measures a relief pitcher’s ability to maintain a lead in specific game situations.
  • Understanding the various pitching roles in baseball is crucial to comprehend the value of a hold for relief pitchers.
  • Holds have a significant impact on the game’s strategy, particularly in late-inning situations.
  • Advanced metrics and sabermetrics have reshaped the interpretation and utilization of holds in modern baseball.
  • Interpreting holds accurately can be challenging, and they should be considered within a broader context of a pitcher’s effectiveness.

Related: What is pinch hitter in baseball? The Best Guide 2024

Understanding Baseball’s Statistical Categories

To fully comprehend the significance of a hold in baseball, we must first appreciate the importance of statistical categories used to measure a player’s performance. These categories are critical in determining a player’s effectiveness on the field and contribute to the formation of strategies utilized by teams. For instance, one of the most commonly used statistical categories in baseball is the batting average (BA), which calculates a player’s number of hits divided by the total number of at-bats.

Other important baseball statistical categories include the Earned Run Average (ERA), which measures a pitcher’s effectiveness, On-Base Percentage (OBP), Slugging Percentage (SLG), and On-Base plus Slugging (OPS). Each of these categories contributes to our understanding of player performance and effectiveness, and their significance to the game cannot be overemphasized.

Familiarizing ourselves with these terms is crucial in comprehending the significance of a hold in the game. In the next section, we will delve into the various pitching roles utilized in baseball, which will provide context for our exploration of holds and their significance as a statistical measure.

Introduction to Pitching Roles in Baseball

Baseball is a game that is organized into specific positions that dictate each player’s roles and responsibilities. A team’s pitching staff is no exception, with each pitcher having a defined role that influences their usage and the team’s overall strategy.

The most prominent pitching roles in baseball are starters, relievers, and closers. Starters are the pitchers who begin the game, often throwing the first five to seven innings. Relief pitchers are pitchers who enter the game mid-way to relieve the starters and pitch for a few innings. Closers are relief pitchers who are specialized in finishing the game in the ninth inning when their team has a lead.

There are also other specialized roles in pitching, such as long relievers, setup men, and situational lefties. Long relievers are used when a starter cannot pitch deep into a game, and the team needs someone to give them multiple innings. Setup men are used in the eighth inning to set up the closer for a save opportunity. Situational lefties are left-handed relief pitchers who are brought in to get left-handed batters out in specific game situations.

Understanding each baseball pitching role is essential to comprehend the significance of a hold for relief pitchers. Let’s move on to defining what a hold is in baseball and why it matters.

Also Read: How many baseball games in a season In MLB: Best 10 Facts

What is a Hold in Baseball?

  1. In baseball, a hold is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher who enters a game in a save situation and successfully preserves their team’s lead without being credited with a save.
What is a hold in baseball
Leather stitch of a baseball off the diamond

To receive a hold, a relief pitcher must:

  1. Enter the game in a save situation (i.e. the potential tying or go-ahead run is on base, at bat, or on deck)
  2. Record at least one out during their appearance
  3. Leave the game with their team still in the lead

A hold therefore recognizes a relief pitcher’s role in keeping the lead intact before the closer takes over for the final outs. Importantly, holds do not depend on the pitcher’s performance or the quality of the inning pitched, only on whether the lead was maintained. This makes the hold a less subjective measure of a reliever’s effectiveness.

Compared to a save, a hold is a lower-pressure situation, as the pitcher doesn’t need to finish the game or protect a one-run lead. As such, a team can have multiple pitchers credited with holds in a game, while only one closer can receive a save. This makes holds a useful measure of the effectiveness of middle relievers and setup men, who often receive less recognition and publicity than closers.

Evolution of the Hold Statistic

  1. The hold statistic, while relatively new compared to other baseball statistical categories, has become an essential part of modern baseball analytics.

In this section, we’ll explore the history of the hold, its introduction, and how it has evolved over time.

Reasons behind the Introduction of the Hold Statistic

The hold statistic was first introduced in 1986 to address the limitations of the save as a measure of relief pitcher effectiveness. The save is only awarded if the pitcher finishes the game, which can lead to the misuse and overuse of certain pitchers. The hold, on the other hand, provides credit for relievers who pitch effectively in key situations, even if they don’t finish the game.

Controversies Surrounding the Use of the Hold

There has been ongoing debate about the usefulness and reliability of the hold. Some argue that it overvalues relief pitchers and can be misleading in evaluating a pitcher’s overall effectiveness. Additionally, the criteria used to award holds can be subjective and vary among official scorers at different stadiums.

The Hold’s Role in Modern Baseball Analytics

Despite the controversies, the hold has become an integral part of modern baseball analytics. Teams use the statistic to evaluate the performance of their respective bullpens and individual pitchers. It also provides valuable insights into a pitcher’s effectiveness beyond traditional measures like saves or strikeouts.

“The hold is a significant statistic that measures a relief pitcher’s performance in key situations. It provides additional context to a pitcher’s effectiveness and shouldn’t be overlooked in modern baseball analytics.”

Strategy and Importance of Holds in Baseball

Managing the Bullpen

In baseball, the bullpen plays a critical role in maintaining a lead and securing a win for the team. The bullpen consists of relief pitchers who enter the game in place of the starting pitcher to pitch the remaining innings of the game. The ability of a team to manage their bullpen effectively is crucial in preserving their chances of winning the game.

The Importance of Holding a Lead

When a relief pitcher enters the game with a lead, their primary objective is to maintain that lead until the end of the game. This is where a hold comes in. A hold is awarded to a relief pitcher who enters the game in a save situation, records an out, and leaves the game with a lead still intact. It rewards the pitcher for their contribution to the team’s success, as they were able to maintain the lead and give their team a chance to win the game.

A young man holds a baseball down at his side. Black background.

Holding onto a Lead in Late-Inning Situations

The importance of a hold becomes particularly crucial in late-inning situations, where the margin of error is thin. In these situations, a team’s strategy for managing their bullpen becomes essential. Managers must carefully consider which relief pitchers to bring into the game and for how long, ensuring that they have the best chance of holding onto the lead. A team’s ability to manage their bullpen in these situations can often make the difference between winning and losing.

The Impact of Holds on Bullpen Usage

A team’s success in managing their bullpen is reliant on pitchers who can accumulate holds consistently. When a relief pitcher earns a hold, it provides the manager with more flexibility in the use of their bullpen. They can utilize other pitchers in high-pressure situations without risking the loss of a lead.

Notable Pitchers and Records in Holds

Throughout baseball history, several notable relief pitchers have amassed impressive records in holds. A hold often showcases a pitcher’s ability to come in and shut down opposing batters in high-pressure, late-inning situations and maintain the lead for their team. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most prolific hold specialists and examine their records in this statistical category.

PitcherTeam(s)HoldsYears Active
Arthur Rhodes10 Teams2311991-2011
Tyler Clippard7 Teams2302007-Present
Scott Linebrink8 Teams2181998-2011
Koji Uehara4 Teams2172009-2017
Mike Stanton7 Teams2661989-2007

As we can see, Arthur Rhodes leads the pack with 231 holds to his name, closely followed by Tyler Clippard with 230. It’s worth noting that some of these pitchers, like Mike Stanton, began their careers before the hold was an official statistic in baseball, which means that their actual career holds may be higher.

Overall, these pitchers’ impressive records in holds showcase the essential role that relief pitchers play in modern baseball. It also highlights how a statistic such as a hold can provide valuable insights into a pitcher’s effectiveness, contributing to a more in-depth analysis of their overall performance on the field.

Challenges in Interpreting Holds

While holds can be a useful statistic in measuring a pitcher’s performance, it’s important to note that it also has its limitations and potential pitfalls when used as a measure of effectiveness.

One of the challenges of interpreting holds is that it does not account for the number of base runners on when a pitcher enters or exits the game. A pitcher could have a hold in a game where they only faced one batter and retired them, whereas another pitcher could have pitched two innings and allowed three hits and no runs but not qualify for a hold.

Another challenge is that it doesn’t take into account the game situation. For example, a pitcher may enter a game with a significant lead, and pitching in the ninth inning, retire three batters in a row without allowing any runs. Because the pitcher didn’t pitch a complete inning and had a lead of three or more runs, they won’t qualify for a save, but they will receive a hold.

Moreover, because holds require a lead to be maintained by a relief pitcher, it does not accurately measure a pitcher’s ability to pitch effectively in close games, tie games, or when the team is behind.

In conclusion, while holds can provide valuable insights, it’s essential to consider the limitations and challenges when interpreting them as a measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness. It’s important to view holds within a broader context of a pitcher’s performance and consider multiple factors when evaluating a pitcher’s impact on the game.

Effect of Analytics on Holds

The rise of baseball analytics has brought about a significant impact on the evaluation of statistical categories like holds. It has led to the development of advanced metrics and sabermetrics that provide a better understanding of a pitcher’s effectiveness and contribution to the team.

The advent of these analytical approaches has led to a revolution in the interpretation and utilization of holds. The traditional way of evaluating a player based on saves and wins has been replaced by a more nuanced approach that considers various factors like matchups, leverage, and game situation.

By analyzing data like opponent batting average, run expectancy, and historical performance in similar situations, teams can make evidence-based decisions on when to use their relief pitchers and who should be credited with a hold.

The effect of analytics on holds has been significant for players as well. It has led to a shift in the value placed on different statistical categories, with holds gaining more recognition as a measure of a reliever’s impact. This shift has undoubtedly impacted how players are evaluated and compensated.

In conclusion, the effect of analytics on holds has been transformative, providing teams with greater insight into a pitcher’s effectiveness and contribution to the game. As the field continues to evolve, it’s likely that we’ll see further advancements in how we evaluate statistical categories like holds.

What is a hold in baseball its FAQ

What is a hold in baseball?

A hold is a statistic in baseball that measures a relief pitcher’s ability to maintain a lead in specific game situations without giving up that lead to the opposing team.

How is a hold different from a save?

While both hold and save are statistics related to relief pitchers, they differ in their criteria. A hold is credited when a relief pitcher enters the game with a lead of three runs or fewer and successfully maintains that lead, without being credited with a save. On the other hand, a save is credited when a relief pitcher finishes the game and meets specific criteria regarding the lead and tying run.

What are the criteria for a relief pitcher to be credited with a hold?

To be credited with a hold, a relief pitcher must meet the following criteria: – Enter the game in a save situation (his team is winning) – Pitch at least one inning – Leave the game with the lead intact – Not earn a save or a win in the same game

Do holds affect a pitcher’s ERA?

Yes, holds can affect a pitcher’s Earned Run Average (ERA). If a relief pitcher gives up a run while being credited with a hold, that run counts towards his ERA. However, holds themselves are not considered an official pitching statistic in terms of ERA calculation.

Can starting pitchers earn holds?

No, holds are exclusively credited to relief pitchers and not to starting pitchers. Starting pitchers have their own statistical categories, such as wins or quality starts, that recognize their contributions to the game.

Are there any all-time records associated with holds?

Since the introduction of the hold statistic, several pitchers have accumulated significant numbers of holds throughout their careers. However, there are no official all-time records specifically tied to holds. Nevertheless, holds serve as a measure of a relief pitcher’s effectiveness and can be an important factor when evaluating their overall performance.


In conclusion, the concept of a hold in baseball may seem straightforward, but its importance to the game cannot be overstated. Relief pitchers play a vital role in maintaining leads and preserving chances of winning, and holds are an essential measure of their effectiveness.

While it is crucial to understand statistical categories like holds, it is equally important to acknowledge their limitations. Interpreting holds accurately requires context and an understanding of a pitcher’s overall performance.

As baseball continues to evolve and incorporate advanced metrics, the significance of holds may change. However, for now, it remains a valuable aspect of the game, providing fans and analysts with insights that go beyond traditional statistics like ERA and saves.

By exploring the concept of a hold in-depth, we gain a better appreciation for the complexities of baseball and the contributions of all players to their team’s success.

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