Blown Save in Baseball: Impact on Teams, Bullpen Strategy, and Relief Pitcher Performance

Pat Bloom

Blown Save in Baseball

If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve likely heard the term “blown save” tossed around during tense late-game moments. But what exactly does it mean, and why does it matter so much?

A blown save occurs when a relief pitcher, typically brought in to secure the team’s lead, allows the tying or go-ahead run to score. This can be a heart-wrenching moment for teams and fans alike, often changing the course of the game.

While the concept of a blown save might seem straightforward, there’s more complexity beneath the surface. Unlike official statistics like wins, losses, and saves, blown saves aren’t recognized in the Official Rules of Major League Baseball.

Yet, they’ve become crucial in evaluating the performance of relief pitchers and even play a role in salary negotiations.

Understanding this term not only enriches your appreciation of the game but also provides insight into the evolving metrics that shape baseball.

The Blown Save in Baseball

A blown save in baseball occurs when a relief pitcher enters the game in a save situation (usually with a lead of three runs or fewer) but fails to successfully maintain the lead until the end of the game.

Here’s a breakdown of what it entails:

Defining a Blown Save

A blown save occurs when a relief pitcher, whose primary role is to maintain a lead and secure a win, allows the opposing team to tie or take the lead.

Despite not being an official MLB stat, the concept of a blown save is widely recognized by fans and statisticians.

For a clearer understanding, consider a scenario where the relief pitcher enters the game with a team leading by a run or two.

If this pitcher concedes runs that result in the game being tied or the lead being lost, this situation is termed a blown save.

Rules and Conditions for a Blown Save

Certain conditions must be met for a blown save to be recorded. A relief pitcher must enter the game in a save situation, typically defined as an instance where the pitcher’s team has a lead of three runs or fewer.

The pitcher must then allow the tying or go-ahead run to score. For example, if a relief pitcher enters the game in the 9th inning with a two-run lead and gives up three runs, they are charged with a blown save.

Conversely, if the lead is lost while the pitcher is out of the game due to tactical reasons, the pitcher replacing them may record a blown save.

In both instances, the main criteria involve the initial opportunity to secure a save and the subsequent failure to maintain the lead.

This metric offers insight into a relief pitcher’s effectiveness and can influence their evaluation and team dynamics.

Historical Perspective

In a historical perspective, blown saves in baseball have evolved as a key statistic that reflects the challenges and pressures faced by relief pitchers throughout the game’s history.

Here are some insights into the historical perspective of blown saves:

Origin of the Save and Blown Save Statistic

The save statistic emerged in the 1960s, conceptualized by sportswriter Jerome Holtzman. MLB officially adopted it in 1969.

A save is credited to a relief pitcher who finishes a game for the winning team under specific circumstances, such as maintaining a lead of three runs or fewer.

The blown save statistic, although not official, evolved alongside it as a way to assess when a reliever fails to preserve the lead.

A blown save can be particularly devastating, impacting team morale and reshaping the game’s outcome. Over time, it has become a crucial metric for evaluating a closer’s effectiveness and consistency.

Evolution of the Blown Save Over the Years

Blown saves grew in prominence with the specialization of relief pitching roles. Earlier eras saw pitchers like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage often pitch multiple innings for a save, making blown saves less common.

By the 1990s, the one-inning closer role became the norm, increasing the frequency and focus on blown saves. Modern analytics and databases, such as BaseballReference and FanGraphs, track blown saves in detail, providing deeper insights into relievers’ performances.

This shift has led to increased scrutiny and strategic adjustments by managers, aiming to optimize bullpen usage.

As a result, understanding the intricacies of blown saves has become essential for evaluating a team’s pitching depth and overall success.

Analysis of Blown Saves in Major Leagues

Analyzing blown saves in Major League Baseball (MLB) involves understanding the statistical trends, impact on teams, and broader implications for players and strategies.

Here’s a detailed analysis:

Impact on Team Performance

Blown saves significantly affect team performance by altering game outcomes and influencing team strategies. Relief pitchers are crucial in maintaining leads, and a blown save can shift momentum to the opposing team.

These events often lead teams to reconsider bullpen configurations, especially if blown saves become frequent for certain pitchers.

Analyzing game data, such as from BaseballReference and FanGraphs, provides insights into how often these events happen and their direct impact on win-loss records.

Blown saves can demoralize a team, especially if they happen during critical games. For instance, a blown save in a playoff game can mean the difference between advancing and elimination.

Consistent blown saves can lead teams to trade for more reliable bullpen options or develop in-house talent to fortify their relief pitching.

Notable Blown Saves and Their Outcomes

Notable blown saves in Major League Baseball (MLB) history often highlight critical moments where the outcome of games, series, or even championships hinged on the performance of relief pitchers.

Here are some notable examples:

Bill Buckner’s Error (1986 World Series, Game 6)

In the 1986 World Series Game 6, the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of winning their first championship since 1918.

Leading 5-3 against the New York Mets in the bottom of the 10th inning, closer Calvin Schiraldi took the mound. However, Schiraldi allowed three runs, including the tying run on a ground ball that infamously went through Bill Buckner’s legs at first base.

The Mets went on to win the game 6-5 and eventually won the series in seven games, completing a stunning comeback and denying the Red Sox the title.

Game 7 of the 2001 World Series

The 2001 World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees culminated in a dramatic Game 7.

The Yankees tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning, thanks to a clutch RBI single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera by Tony Womack. This tied the game and set the stage for more drama in the bottom of the 9th inning.

The Diamondbacks ultimately won the game and the series with a walk-off hit by Luis Gonzalez off Rivera, marking a historic and memorable blown save in a decisive championship game.

Francisco Rodriguez (2009 ALCS, Game 2)

In the 2009 ALCS Game 2, the Los Angeles Angels faced the New York Yankees. The Angels held a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the 9th inning.

However, Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez allowed a game-tying home run to Alex Rodriguez with two outs.

This blown save allowed the Yankees to eventually win the game in extra innings, ultimately winning the series and advancing to the World Series.

2016 World Series, Game 7

The 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians culminated in a thrilling Game 7.

With the Cubs leading the series 3-3, the game was tied 6-6 in the 8th inning. Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman entered the game and gave up a game-tying home run to Rajai Davis.

Despite this blown save, the Cubs prevailed in extra innings with an 8-7 victory, securing their first World Series title since 1908 in a dramatic and historic championship game.

Jose Mesa (1997 World Series, Game 7)

In the 1997 World Series Game 7, the Cleveland Indians were poised to win their first championship since 1948.

Leading 2-1 against the Florida Marlins in the bottom of the 9th inning, Indians closer Jose Mesa allowed the Marlins to tie the game on a sacrifice fly by Craig Counsell.

The Marlins went on to win the game 3-2 in the 11th inning, denying the Indians the championship in a heartbreaking blown save scenario.

In recent years, blown saves have been a significant statistic in Major League Baseball (MLB), reflecting both the challenges faced by relief pitchers and the strategic decisions of managers.

Here’s an analysis of recent trends and statistics:

Teams With Most Blown Saves

Tracking blown saves offers insights into bullpen effectiveness. The Pittsburgh Pirates led all teams with 14 blown saves this season. This statistic reflects bullpen performance and impacts team standings.

TeamBlown SavesOpportunitiesSave Pct
White Sox122245%
Red Sox102255%

Players With Notable Records

Individual players contribute significantly to blown save statistics. Monitoring these records provides a clearer understanding of relief pitching challenges.

T Roark42108813285.91591543
M Grace01144011.69981
E Romero1111123.0013
B Kintzler0010020.000111
T Gott00000519.0001
R Madson123

Criticism and Debate

Blown saves in baseball have sparked various criticisms and debates among fans, analysts, and within the sport itself.

Here’s an exploration of some key points:

Arguments Against the Blown Save Statistic

Critics argue that the blown save statistic unfairly penalizes relief pitchers. Even when inheriting difficult situations, they get tagged with a blown save if they surrender the lead, regardless of the game’s context.

For example, relievers often inherit runners in scoring position with no outs, making it challenging to prevent runs.

This leads to scenarios where pitchers are held accountable for situations beyond their control, skewing their overall effectiveness.

Others claim that the statistic doesn’t accurately reflect a pitcher’s skill. A closer might blow a save due to a costly defensive error, yet the statistic doesn’t account for such nuances.

This lack of differentiation can impact career stats for pitchers who frequently face tough save opportunities.

Proposed Changes to Save Rules

Several proposals aim to revise the save and blown save rules for fairer assessments. One suggestion is to redefine save situations, focusing more on the overall context rather than just the outcome.

Introducing a “team save” could distribute responsibility for maintaining leads among all bullpen members, recognizing collective efforts rather than individual failures.

Another proposed change includes tracking “inherited runners” separately. Pitchers who prevent inherited runners from scoring would receive credit, offering a more balanced view of a reliever’s performance.

Moreover, adjusting how defensive errors impact blown saves might provide a more accurate reflection of a pitcher’s abilities, blending fairness and statistical integrity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a blown save in baseball?

A blown save occurs when a relief pitcher fails to maintain a lead his team has, resulting in a tied game or the opposing team taking the lead.

How has the statistic of blown saves evolved over the years?

Blown saves have become a more significant statistic, reflecting bullpen effectiveness and influencing team strategies and pitcher evaluations.

Why are blown saves important in evaluating relief pitchers?

Blown saves highlight a pitcher’s ability to perform under pressure and secure late-game leads, making them crucial for bullpen and team assessment.

Which MLB teams have the most blown saves recently?

Recent trends show that teams with high blown save counts often struggle to maintain leads, which can negatively impact their standings and postseason prospects.

How do blown saves affect bullpen effectiveness and team standings?

High blown save counts can indicate bullpen issues, affecting a team’s ability to secure wins and maintain competitive standings.


Understanding blown saves is crucial for evaluating relief pitchers and overall team dynamics. High blown save counts can significantly impact a team’s success, especially in high-stakes games.

Effective bullpen management is essential for securing those late-game leads and ensuring postseason success. While the blown save statistic has its critics, it remains a valuable tool for assessing performance under pressure.

As the debate continues and potential rule changes are considered, staying informed about these dynamics will help you appreciate the complexities of baseball even more.

Teams and analysts must constantly adapt to evolving strategies and metrics to optimize performance. Knowing how to balance trust in veteran closers with the potential of emerging talents can make or break a season.

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Pat Bloom

I lead Washington University in St. Louis' baseball team, emphasizing skill development, strategic play, and sportsmanship. Our rigorous training and competitive spirit cultivate discipline and teamwork, preparing athletes for success both in baseball and academics. We embody the determination and sportsmanship that define our university's athletics. LinkedIn

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