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Great Moments in Statistics: Hisashi Iwakuma gets a save in a 21-8 game

May 31, 2012, 8:49 AM EDT

The outcome of last night’s Mariners-Rangers game was never in doubt. After posting 16 runs between the send and third innings, it was all over put the paperwork. Yet, because a pitcher finished the game with three full innings, we get this in the box score:


Yep, Hisashi Iwakuma gets the save. In a game in which he pitched poorly and which needed no saving whatsoever.

The save is just the worst, least-illuminating stat ever. One that has changed the way in which the game is played as opposed to merely describing what occurs. Or, in this case, is handed out for no reason whatsoever.

To blazes with it, I say. Let it hang out with the Game Winning RBI in the pile of “obsolete metrics which tell us nothing useful about the game.”

  1. paperlions - May 31, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Iwakuma getting a “save” isn’t any worse than a starting pitcher getting a “win” while giving up 5 ER in 6 IP….neither pitcher did anything that helped with the game.

    • dan1111 - May 31, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      I have no problem with the win being given in that situation, because it reflects the game outcome. The starter pitched the majority of the game. He did manage to give up fewer runs than the opposition. Pitchers get easy wins, just like teams do. It is part of the game. The win statistic for starters is not the problem; the problem is usin

      On the other hand, the save was supposedly designed to capture a relief performance in a high-pressure situation. It isn’t awarded all the time, only when the situation supposedly calls for it. And it fails at what it was designed to do, as this case illustrates.

      • dan1111 - May 31, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Oops, I was going to say that the problem is not the win statistic itself, but using it as a key judge of a pitcher’s talent or performance.

    • siftin thru nonsense - May 31, 2012 at 2:26 PM

      Why 6IP? Make it 5IP. That is all you need for the win. So 5IP and 5 runs or more with a win would be pathetic. I still think the vulture wins are worse than bad outings. At least starters pitch some innings. Blowing a save and then having your home team come back is a joke win in my book and the worst type of win. Wins should be a team statistic anyway.. based on run support of team and bullpen of team a lot of the times.. except for CGs.

      • paperlions - May 31, 2012 at 2:55 PM

        …because 6 IP is what happened…Beavan pitched 6 innings and gave up 5 runs.

    • sabatimus - May 31, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      Wins (and losses) need to be a TEAM stat only; assigning them to pitchers is like assuming the rest of the team did nothing to factor in. Besides, a relief pitcher can get a win if he happened to be on the mound the same inning his team went ahead of the other team. Or, worse, a relief pitcher immediately gets lined up potentially for a win AFTER BLOWING a save.

  2. heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Rolaids does not condone this commentary.

  3. mybrunoblog - May 31, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Utterly ridiculous to get a save for this. Someone get me Bud Selig right away……Ahh never mind.

  4. bulldog12b - May 31, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Its his first career save… who cares that its a meaningless stat… Iwakuma has a 6.00 ERA and was in there to eat innings because Beavan was stinking it up. By the way reminds me of Jack Morris pitching to the score.
    And Craig I kinda liked thwe GW RBI.

    • nategearhart - May 31, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      We care because managers run their bullpen by it and huge contracts are given to relievers because of it. It needs to go away.

      • natstowngreg - May 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        And because it’s relevant to millions of fantasy baseball players.

    • majmayhem - May 31, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      The GWRBI is soooo clutch! And what better way for tangelizing the intangibles?!? How can anyone not find that useful?

  5. wondroushippo - May 31, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    But is it worse than when a team down 5 loads the bases and a closer can come in for a one-out save?

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 31, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      even that is a higher leverage AB than starting an inning clean with a 3 run lead. Make sure you save your best reliever for that nail-biter, but not for a tie game.

    • hasbeen5 - May 31, 2012 at 9:16 AM


  6. randygnyc - May 31, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Or the pitcher who comes in for the last out in the 8th inning of a tie game, throws one pitch and gets the out. His team scores during the next at bat and he vultures the win? (or he could come in with the lead, blow the save, and still get the win if his team comes back). Atleast in yesterday’s case, he did pitch 3 innings.

    • pharmerbrown - May 31, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      closer blows the lead in the top of the ninth, his offense walks off in the bottom? Might be the worst “Win” a pitcher could “earn”.

  7. Detroit Michael - May 31, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    During 2011, just 10 saves out of 1,243 awarded were because the reliever pitched the final 3 or more innings in a victory. I can’t get exceited about the fact that < 1% of the saves are awarded in that manner.

    • dan1111 - May 31, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      I am excited about it. It’s the other 1,233 that were boring.

  8. RickyB - May 31, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    As mentioned somewhere recently about the quality start, looking at the worst application of the stat should not be the way to condemn said stat. Just because a pitcher gets a quality start for throwing six innings and allowing 3 ER does not mean that a 4.50 ERA is a good ERA. But taking all quality starts into consideration, the combined ERA is barely over 2.00. Not all saves are created equally, either. Occasionally you get a reliever that enters the game with runners on second and third and nobody out in the ninth to preserve a one-run lead (OK, rarely these days, but the point is still valid). While I agree that the save is a misleading statistic and it causes managers to use relievers in a less than optimal manner, condemning the stat based on the three-inning version of the save (which is also quite rare in the big leagues these days) is mostly meaningless.

    • pharmerbrown - May 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      so how about this… wins only apply when the SP has met the criteria for a QS. No QS = No W. That removes RP who were assisted by an offense waking up late in the game, and totally kills the vulture win. For saves, change the criteria slightly… At least 1 IP with the game on the line (3-run lead seems like a lot, but OK), last inning of play, 1 ER or fewer allowed, team wins.

    • Chris Fiorentino - May 31, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      Ricky, the only thing that HBT hates more than Curt Schilling and the Pitcher Win is the SAVE!!! Do not even try to debate it. You will only pull your hair out of your head.

      As soon as I saw that Iwakuma got the save last night, my first thought was whether this would be the first or second post after ATH. It was the second. I don’t know why Craig actually sat on it for a post…maybe he thought the Martin-Diaz feud was worse(it was) :)

      • hasbeen5 - May 31, 2012 at 11:57 AM

        I know Craig has given Schilling a lot of crap lately, deservedly so for abandoning his principles when it suited him. But I was wondering if Craig has ever given Smoltz, another Republican, any crap. If not, is it because Smoltz is not as outspoken and inciting about it, or does Braves loyalty trump party loyalty?

      • Craig Calcaterra - May 31, 2012 at 12:03 PM

        I don’t think I’ve given Smoltz crap. Nor would I simply because he’s a conservative Republican. His views are his own and they deserve respect just as I would like mine to be.

        I would give him crap if, as you put it, he abandoned his principles when it suited him. I would likewise give a liberal the same crap for the same thing. Because for me party loyalty is stupid.

        Have principles. Believe in them and support them and do your best to advance them whatever they are and I will have no problem with you as long as you (a) don’t impose them on others; or (b) aren’t a hypocrite.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 31, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        FYI…when I say HBT, I don’t mean Craig, Aaron, Matthew, etc. per se. I mean the commenters. For the most part, the HBT bloggers are fair with their writing, and even when Craig seems like he is not, it’s all in good fun. The commenters however…that’s a different story. But as far as I am concerned, everything on HBT is in good fun…and when I rib on 95% of the commenters being left-leaning, I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean it in a “pointing-it-out” way.

        To each his or her own!!!!!!!!! Just be consistent and be fair is all I ever ask from a blogger(especially for the price I pay to come on here 😉 )

    • sabatimus - May 31, 2012 at 6:36 PM

      The quality start, as defined, celebrates mediocrity. Granted, obviously not every quality start is a 4.50 ERA start, but I hardly define a 4.50 ERA as quality, and this stat does exactly that.

  9. sleepyirv - May 31, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Somewhere Wes Littleton is smiling. (Would it really be that hard to rewrite the rules to stop this from happening? Like, you can never get a save if your team leads by six.)

    • dan1111 - May 31, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      Or just eliminate the 3-inning save completely, since it almost never happens in today’s game.

  10. hushbrother - May 31, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    It was a higher leverage save than Wes Littlefield’s in the 30-3 game.

  11. purnellmeagrejr - May 31, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    I agreeee with Craig in every respect on this topic.Perhaps it shold be noted that the statistic is kept for the sake of contract leverage for relief pitchers.

  12. jamessmyth621 - May 31, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    But if it wasn’t for this silly part of the save rules, we would never have remembered who Wes Littleton was. And we would have been deprived of Tim Kurkjian’s recap on Baseball Tonight after that 30-3 game.

  13. jlovenotjlo - May 31, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Without the save statistic Billy Beane couldn’t continue to trick other General Managers. So I say keep it.

  14. siftin thru nonsense - May 31, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Why not make your example 5ER in 5IP? 5ip is the minimum you need to get the win. So use 5IP with it.

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