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Baseball Hacks by Joseph Adler

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Calculate Holds and Decent Holds for Relief Pitchers

Calculate the hold statistic for evaluating middle relief pitcher performance, and the decent hold for a more insightful analysis.

The mainstream statistics for evaluating relief pitchers are ERA, win–loss, and save. For a middle relief pitcher, there is little chance to get wins, losses, and saves—while the ERA can be misleading for describing pitcher performance. The hold statistic gives some insight into how a middle relief pitcher performs in holding the lead during a game. This hack will discuss why a hold is helpful and how it can be misleading.

What Is a Hold?

The hold is not an official Major League Baseball statistic. Despite this, many media outlets, including the Associated Press (AP) and MLB organizations, use the hold to better evaluate talent. According to the Major League Baseball’s web site definition:

The hold is not an official statistic, but it was created as a way to credit middle relief pitchers for a job well done. Starting pitchers get wins, and closers—the relief pitchers who come in at the end of the game—get saves, but the guys who pitch in between the two rarely get either statistic. So what’s the most important thing one of these middle relievers can do? “Hold” a lead. If a reliever comes into a game to protect a lead, gets at least one out and leaves without giving up that lead, he gets a hold. But you can’t get a save and a hold at the same time.

John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell, the creators of the hold, ...

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