A hold (abbreviated HLD, H or HD) is awarded to a relief pitcher who meets the following three conditions:
- 1. Enters the game in a save situation; that is, when all of the following three conditions apply:
- (a) He appears in relief (i.e., is not the starting pitcher) when his team is leading; and
- (b) He is not the winning pitcher; and
- (c) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
- (i) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and maintains that lead for at least one inning
- (ii) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck
- (iii) He pitches for at least three effective innings.
- 2. Records at least one out;
- 3. Leaves the game before it has ended without his team having relinquished the lead at any point and does not record a save.
Unlike saves, wins, and losses, more than one pitcher per team can earn a hold for a game, though it is not possible for a pitcher to receive more than one hold in a given game. A pitcher can receive a hold by protecting a lead even if that lead is lost by a later pitcher after his exit.
The hold was invented in 1986 by John Dewan and Mike O'Donnell to give a statistical measure of the effectiveness of the vast majority of relief pitchers who are afforded few opportunities to close a game. While middle relievers earn their share, holds are most often credited to setup pitchers.
In 1994, PA SportsTicker created an alternate definition for a hold, removing the requirement that a pitcher needs to make an out in order to record a hold. In 2009, STATS LLC purchased PA SportsTicker, and the alternate definition is no longer in use.
While holds are not an official MLB statistic, they are increasingly visible in many box scores, including espn.com and MLB.com. Many fantasy baseball providers also include holds as an optional category which can be included in customized leagues.
The career leaders are listed based on total holds according to MLB.com, which only records the statistic from 1999 onwards.
- Stats updated through 2017 season
|Rank||Ranking of the player all-time|
|Player||Name of the player|
|Years||The years this player played in the major leagues|
|†||Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame|
|*||Denotes pitcher who is still active|
|L||Denotes pitcher who is left-handed|
|1||Rhodes, ArthurArthur RhodesL||231||1991–2011|
|2||Benoit, JoaquínJoaquín Benoit*||211||2001–present|
|3||Thornton, MattMatt ThorntonL||206||2004–2016|
|4||Smith, JoeJoe Smith*||195||2007–present|
|5||Clippard, TylerTyler Clippard*||192||2007–present|
|6||Gregerson, LukeLuke Gregerson*||187||2009–present|
|7||Hawkins, LaTroyLaTroy Hawkins||184||1995–2015|
|8||López, JavierJavier LópezL||178||2003–2016|
|9||Qualls, ChadChad Qualls*||176||2004–present|
|10||Downs, ScottScott DownsL||174||2000–2014|
Baseball statistics sites such as Baseball-reference.com and The Baseball Cube credit holds to players in games played before 1999 based on the record of the game situation when the pitcher entered and left the game. However, the hold totals do not always agree from site to site, or with MLB.com from 1999 onward.
The following players who began their Major League careers before 1999 would be among the career leaders if MLB had recorded the statistic in games prior to the 1999 season. They are listed here with hold totals as calculated by Baseball-reference.com.
|Stanton, MikeMike StantonL||266||1989–2007|
|Rhodes, ArthurArthur RhodesL||254||1991–2011|
|Embree, AlanAlan EmbreeL||194||1992–2009|
|Hawkins, LaTroyLaTroy Hawkins||185||1995–2015|
|Orosco, JesseJesse OroscoL||185||1979–2003|
|Assenmacher, PaulPaul AssenmacherL||180||1986–1999|
|Jackson, MikeMike Jackson||179||1986–2004|
|Plesac, DanDan PlesacL||179||1986–2003|
|Howry, BobBob Howry||178||1998–2010|
|Nelson, JeffJeff Nelson||177||1992–2006|
|Quantrill, PaulPaul Quantrill||177||1992–2005|
|Timlin, MikeMike Timlin||172||1991–2008|
|Groom, BuddyBuddy GroomL||171||1992–2005|
|Reed, SteveSteve Reed||168||1992–2005|
|Honeycutt, RickRick HoneycuttL||165||1977–1997|
|Myers, MikeMike MyersL||163||1995–2007|
** as calculated by Baseball-reference.com to include years before 1999.
Single season record
The single season MLB record for holds is 41, established by Joel Peralta in 2013 pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays and equaled by Tony Watson in 2015 pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Peralta surpassed the previous record of 40 holds set by Luke Gregerson in 2010 with the San Diego Padres.
- MLB Miscellany: Rules, regulations and statistics
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.
- Baseball FAQ by Rob Neyer (formerly of ESPN); Internet Archive
- All-time Holds Leaders at MLB.com
- https://www.baseball-reference.com/ Baseball-reference.com
- http://www.thebaseballcube.com The Baseball Cube
- All-time Leaders by Year at MLB.com