FanPost

Does MLB go beyond the rule book to award saves?

Here's the situation. Carlos Marmol relieves Paul Maholm in the bottom of the 8th inning at Busch Stadium with the Cubs leading the Cardinals by three. He promptly walks two batters before giving up a game-tying dinger to Adam Wainwright. He then strikes out the top three in the order to escape with a tie score intact. Clearly another Blown Save to Marmol's credit. But, the Cubs retake the lead in the top of the 9th, putting Marmol on the line for the Win in a scenario that is all too common but makes infuriatingly little intuitive sense. Rafael Dolis induces three weak ground balls and the Cubs win. Dolis gets the Save. Marmol gets the unofficial blown save and the Win . . . except, not according to the rules . . . .

The Save rule (10.19) states that a pitcher is credited with a Save when he meets all four of the following criteria:

1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;

2) He is not the winning pitcher;

3) He records at least one out; and

4) He enters in a save situation (defined in the 10.19(d)) or pitches at least 3 innings.

The key is #2. So what determines the winning pitcher? Well, among other things --

"The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance [read: "Carlos Marmol," in the above example], when at least one succeeding relief pitcher [read: "Rafael Dolis"] pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer. " Rule 10.17(c) (emphasis added).

There is no exception -- it is irrelevant that the succeeding relief pitcher would otherwise have been in line for the Save. He is the winning pitcher, and the official scorer shall (i.e., must) score it as such.

Which brings us back to the Save rule (10.19). Dolis only meets three of the four required criteria to get the Save. Thus, no one should get the Save, Marmol should get the blown save (if you like this as an unofficial stat), and Dolis should get the Win.

I hate the Save as a statistic (and the Win isn't really much better), but if MLB actually followed their own rules, it would all be a little easier to swallow.

I must not be the first person to notice this discrepancy.

Extra Credit Reading: There is a comment (i.e., a suggestion) on Rule 10.17(c) stating that "the official scorer generally should, but is not required to, consider the appearance of a relief pitcher to be ineffective and brief if such relief pitcher pitches less than one inning and allows two or more earned runs to score," even if they are not his earned runs.

I imagine it is this editorial comment that has created the leeway for Saves to become the All-Holy Relief Pitcher Stat. But all it really does is state a a minimum number of innings (namely, "less than one," which is not really a minimum at all and therefore adds nothing to the rule) and a minimum number of runs that should make the outing "ineffective" and "brief." The comment cannot be interpreted to mean, for example, that 1 ER in 1 inning should not be considered "ineffective and brief." If anything, it merely suggests that such an outing would be left to the scorer's judgment as to its effectiveness and brevity. Can anyone argue with a straight face, however, that allowing three earned runs (all belonging to the reliever in question) in one inning is anything other than "ineffective and brief"?

The bottom line is, there doesn't seem to be any situation where an ineffective relief pitcher does not get the win, as long as he was the pitcher of record when his team took the lead. And it seems to me the only reason for it is to reward the closer with a Save, rather than a Win. How many runs must a reliever give up in an inning before his outing will be considered "ineffective and brief" by a scorer? 4? 6? 10? I think 2-3 (ERA of 18.00 to 27.00) should be plenty if he manages to blow the lead. My solution -- If you must have such stats, give them both (Save and Win) the effective pitcher at the end of the game. Don't have a stat called the "Win" and then give it to the least effective pitcher in the whole game.

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