What Is a Hold in Baseball?

A hold is an unofficial statistic in Major League Baseball. It is awarded when the relief pitcher enters the game in a “save situation” and records at least one out.

If a pitcher exits the game without relinquishing the lead, you’ll get a “hold.” Holds are mostly intended to act as a way to track the effectiveness of late innings. 

You could say it’s almost like a “save.”

Need a little more help understanding the rules and the circumstances in which a hold applies? Here goes!

What is a Hold in Baseball? The Background 

The hold, invented in 1986 by John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell, keeps the baseball runners from advancing bases. It occurs when a reliever enters the game when it’s a save situation. 

The two statisticians created this performance evaluator to value setup men who pitch the eighth inning before the closer, who is meant to pitch the ninth inning, comes into the pitcher’s mound. 

Of course, that’s not always the case. The save situation is very versatile. 

Sometimes, a pitcher can get a hold as early as in the sixth inning. The only criteria are that the pitcher has to secure a one-run lead. 

As long as he keeps the team in a lead until the next pitcher enters the field, it’s fair game.

How to Secure A Hold in Baseball?

To secure a hold in baseball, the pitcher must meet all three conditions:

  1. Enter the game with his team in the lead (and he is not the winning pitcher). To qualify, he must meet one of these three conditions:
  1. The pitcher enters the game with a lead of three runs or less. He must maintain that lead for at least one inning, if not more.
  2. The pitcher enters the game with the potential tying run. Here, the count does not matter. The pitcher qualifies for the hold as long as the tying run is on the base, bat, or deck. 
  3. The pitcher pitches for a minimum of three effective innings.
  1. Record at least one out.
  2. Hand over the lead to the next relief pitcher without relinquishing the lead or tying up the score in the interim. 

Can a Pitcher Secure Multiple Holds in One Game?

A pitcher who secures a hold is no longer eligible to secure any other holds in the same game. Interestingly enough, more than one pitcher is eligible to secure a hold in a single baseball game. 

Here’s an example of how multiple pitchers can secure a hold in a particular baseball game:

  • A relief pitcher secures two outs to record an out on a one-hitter and comes out of the field in the seventh inning with his bases loaded.
  • A new pitcher follows the exit of the previous pitcher and enters the mound to pitch the eighth inning in a bid to preserve the save.
  • A closer enters the game to record the save and thus, save the game.

One thing you need to remember is that a hold is not an official MLB statistic for pitching. However, it is widely used in Fantasy Baseball to measure the performance of relief pitchers.

As a general rule, every out secured by the pitcher ends either as a hold, blown save, or save; it’s mostly a save.

What Is a Blown Save?

If you end up tying the lead or allowing your opposition to take the winning run when you’re on the pitcher’s mound for a save opportunity, you’ll be charged with a blown save.  

To avoid getting one, all a pitcher has to do is avoid allowing a go-ahead run. 

This save usually gets mistaken for what people call a “blown hold.” However, there’s no record of a blown hold in baseball.

Is a Blown Save an Official Statistical Tool?

A “blown save,” just like a hold, is not an official statistic in Major League Baseball. However, both Fantasy Baseball and MLB use it to analyze and evaluate the performances of the middle relievers. 

These statistics are visible in a lot of box scores, including the ones on espn.com and MLB.com.

Hold: A Middle Pitcher Performance Evaluator

Relief pitchers are evaluated based on win-loss, save, and earned run average (ERA). However, for a middle relief pitcher, there’s not much to go on in the face of an evaluation. 

The hold statistic was thus especially created to aid the performance evaluation of middle pitchers. While being an unofficial stat, the hold statistics help offer insight into the performances of middle relief pitchers. 

Middle pitchers have little to no chances of securing a win, loss, or save. This means their earned run average can potentially mislead their record performance in a baseball game. 

That’s where the hold comes in. 

The hold acts as a transition between the new relief pitcher and the previous relief picture. The thing is, a hold is not awarded to just everyone. 

It is one of the reasons why earning a hold is considered a merit in the performance of relievers who do not enjoy the same privileges as closers. 

One can say that middle relief pitchers act as a bridge between the starting pitcher and the closer. 

Who Holds the Record For Most Holds?

As of 2013, Joel Peralta of the Tampa Bay Rays holds the single season record with 41 holds. His success is closely followed by Tony Watson of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who bagged the same number of holds two years later.

Can a Pitcher Secure a Win in the Same Game He Got a Hold In?

The short answer is no. Allow me to explain.

Starting pitchers get wins, relief pitchers who follow them get saves, and the middle pitchers or middle relievers get holds.

Pitchers who record a hold cannot drive their team to the win in the same game. This is because the previous pitcher has already qualified to earn the win that will drive his team forward.

However, it’s important to note that a pitcher can earn a hold and a loss in the same baseball game provided that the pitcher entered the game with the lead, and records a hold but leaves with runners on the base. Now, the responsibility lies with the new relief pitcher that followed the previous one.

If the new reliever allows the runners to tie the score by scoring the go-ahead runs and puts his team’s lead in jeopardy, the pitcher before will be held responsible as he’s the one that allowed the base runners to reach the base safely.  

What’s the Purpose of the Hold Statistic? 

To put it simply, a hold is a statistical tool that determines the performance of a relief pitcher. While it’s not an official statistic, it provides better insight into the players’ pitching performance. 

The hold statistics also offer the pitchers and their team the opportunity to analyze their actions, compare and contrast them to the game’s outcome, and devise new strategies for the next game.

Wrapping Up

With so much information on the internet about so many different sports, it can be quite a task to sift through it all to find the answer you’re looking for. But the points above should give you some clarity on what a hold is in baseball.

Hopefully, it will help you better understand the ins and outs of pitching and what a hold is in a baseball game.