How often have we watched a baseball game and seen the spotlight shine brightest on the starting pitchers and the closer, while the middle relievers, those unsung heroes who orchestrate the game’s middle innings, often go unnoticed? As anyone deeply entrenched in the nuances of America’s favorite pastime can attest, understanding the layers of strategy within a baseball game enriches the viewing experience manifold. Enter the “hold” (HLD), a statistic that provides a window into appreciating the critical yet underappreciated role of middle relievers in maintaining a team’s lead during those pivotal moments that can make or break a game.

The hold, though not an official MLB statistic, has become an invaluable metric since its development in 1986 by John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell. This metric shines a well-deserved spotlight on setup men and non-closing relief pitchers, offering a quantifiable measure of their effectiveness. To grasp the importance of this statistic, consider the specific conditions under which a reliever is eligible for a hold: entering the game in a save situation where the lead is precarious, yet managing to maintain this lead, even if the grip on the game seems tenuous. This introduces a layer of depth to analyzing game strategy, going beyond the more traditional metrics of wins, losses, and saves.

In this article, we delve into the significance of the hold statistic, exploring how it revolutionizes the way we assess player performance and team strategy. From its impact on fantasy leagues to its reflection in modern baseball video games, the hold offers a fascinating lens through which to view the game. By understanding and valuing the contributions of middle relievers, we gain a fuller appreciation of the intricate ballet that is a baseball game, recognizing every player’s role in weaving the fabric of this beloved sport. Whether you’re a casual fan or a seasoned aficionado, join me in exploring the pivotal yet often overlooked world of holds in baseball.

Baseball Hold (HLD) OverviewAdditional Insights
A hold acknowledges a relief pitcher who enters in a save situation and secures the team’s lead. To qualify, they must either maintain a lead of no more than three runs or enter with potential tying runs in a critical situation and secure at least one out.The concept of the hold was engineered in the 1980s by John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell to credit relievers crucial to a team’s late-game strategy who don’t serve as closers.
Key ConditionsStatistics & Recognition
Relief pitchers must come into the game leading but not as winners or closers, fulfilling specific criteria around the game’s state (e.g., leading by ≤3 runs) and securing outs without conceding the lead. Multiple holds can be achieved in one game by different pitchers.While not officially recognized by MLB as a statistic until later, holds are a common metric found in many fan leagues and box scores across various sports platforms, highlighting their growing visibility and acceptance.
Statistical NuanceCareer Leaders & Records
A hold can be awarded without the pitcher necessarily finishing an inning and can coincide with a loss if subsequent pitchers give up the lead.The all-time career and single-season leaders for holds highlight the contributions of setup pitchers, with names like Arthur Rhodes and Joel Peralta standing out for their significant roles in maintaining game leads.
Application in GamesCalculating Holds
In MLB The Show 23, holds are pivotal for player achievements, emphasizing relief pitchers’ roles. Achieving a hold involves entering a game led by ≤3 runs and securing outs without losing the lead.Although not officially tracked by MLB pre-1999, holds offer a valuable insight into a relief pitcher’s effectiveness, forming part of modern statistical evaluations in and beyond video simulations like MLB The Show.

Understanding Holds in Baseball

How to Achieve a Hold in Baseball

Defining a Hold

In the realm of baseball statistics, a hold (abbreviated as HLD, H, or HD) is one of those metrics that goes beyond the traditional win-loss or earned run average (ERA) to provide insight into the effectiveness of relief pitchers, specifically those who are not closers. A hold is awarded to a relief pitcher who enters the game under certain stringent conditions and exits without relinquishing the team’s lead. Specifically, for a relief pitcher to earn a hold, they must:

  1. Enter the game in a save situation, meaning the team is ahead, but not by an overwhelming margin.
  2. Not be eligible to earn the win for that game.
  3. Fulfill one of the following:
    • They come into the game with a lead of no more than three runs and maintain that lead for at least one inning.
    • They enter with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck.
    • They pitch for at least three innings.
  4. Record at least one out during their appearance.
  5. Leave the game without the team having lost the lead at any point, and not be in a position to earn a save.

This approach to measuring a pitcher’s performance provides a valuable metric for assessing the contributions of middle relievers and setup men, roles that are crucial yet often overshadowed by closers and starters.

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Origin and Development of the Hold Statistic

The concept of the hold emerged in 1986, a brainchild of baseball statisticians John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell. It was designed to offer a quantitative measure of the effectiveness of relievers, especially those who aren’t in the spotlight as closers but play a critical role in maintaining the team’s lead until the closer takes over. Despite its unofficial status within MLB official statistics, holds have found their place in box scores across major sports news outlets like ESPN and, further cementing their value in evaluating player performance.

The evolution of the hold statistic reflects a broader understanding and appreciation for the diverse roles within a baseball team, giving setup men and middle relievers the recognition they deserve. This statistic has not only reshaped how teams assess and value pitchers’ contributions but also influenced strategies regarding pitcher usage, bullpen management, and player contracts.

The Role of Middle Relievers

Critical Contribution to a Team’s Success

Middle relievers are the unsung heroes of baseball, entering games during critical junctures, often facing high-pressure situations with the game’s outcome hanging in the balance. Their ability to maintain leads, navigate through tough parts of the batting order, and hand over a winnable game to the closer is paramount to a team’s success.

The versatility and resilience of these pitchers make them invaluable, as they are often called upon to pitch in various scenarios, from holding a slim lead against the heart of the opponent’s lineup to stopping an opponent’s momentum to keep the game within reach.

Strategy Behind Utilizing Middle Relievers

Strategic deployment of middle relievers is a chess game in itself. Managers must understand the strengths and tendencies of their bullpen pitchers, as well as the matchup specifics against opposing hitters. Factors such as handedness matchups, pitcher fatigue, and recent performance play crucial roles in decision-making.

In essence, effective management of middle relief pitchers hinges on a delicate balance between leveraging their strengths and protecting the team’s lead, all while navigating the unpredictability that each game presents. The usage of holds as a statistic has sharpened this strategy, providing a more nuanced understanding of a pitcher’s reliability and effectiveness in crucial game situations.

Eligibility Criteria for a Hold

Appearance in a Save Situation

For a pitcher to earn a hold, they must first enter the game in a save situation. This requirement aligns the hold with the save statistic, emphasizing the pitcher’s role in preserving the team’s lead under pressure.

Maintaining the Lead Without Being Eligible for a Win

A crucial aspect of the hold is that the pitcher must not only maintain the lead but also do so without being in contention for a win. This delineation further solidifies the hold as a metric for middle relievers, differentiating their contributions from those of starters and closers.

Exiting the Game Without Relinquishing the Lead

Ultimately, to secure a hold, a pitcher must exit the game without having given up the lead at any point during their appearance. This condition underscores the core objective of a middle reliever: to serve as a bridge to the late-inning specialists while keeping the team’s prospects for a victory intact.

In sum, the hold serves as a crucial metric for understanding the often-overlooked yet critical contributions of middle relievers in the complex tapestry of baseball strategy. By quantifying their impact in maintaining leads and transitioning games to the closer, the hold offers a more complete view of a pitcher’s value and effectiveness beyond the win-loss record.

Statistical Significance of Holds

Contribution Beyond Wins, Losses, and Saves

The role of middle relievers in baseball is pivotal yet often overlooked. These unsung heroes come into play primarily in transition phases of the game, neither starting nor closing but holding the fort in critical situations. The introduction of the hold statistic, albeit not officially recognized by MLB, was a significant step towards acknowledging the efforts of these pitchers. A hold is credited to a relief pitcher who enters the game under save conditions and successfully maintains the lead, passing the baton to another reliever without the score being tied under their watch.

Beyond the conventional win-loss-save metrics, holds offer a nuanced perspective on a pitcher’s effectiveness and reliability in maintaining game momentum. Given their strategic deployment during critical junctures, holders essentially act as the bridge, ensuring that the game is set up favorably for the closer. Therefore, holds paint a more comprehensive picture of a pitcher’s contribution, beyond the binary outcomes of wins or losses and the glorified saves.

Calculating and Tracking Holds in Baseball

To calculate and subsequently track holds, certain conditions need to be met:

  1. The pitcher must enter the game in a save situation — this could range from the team leading by no more than three runs, the potential tying run being on base, at bat, or on deck, or by pitching for at least three innings.
  2. The pitcher must record at least one out.
  3. The pitcher leaves the game without surrendering the lead, and does not record a save.
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This precise definition ensures clarity in awarding holds, though it’s important to note more than one pitcher can earn a hold in a single game. However, a hold and a save cannot be recorded simultaneously by a pitcher in the same game.

Historical Context and Record Holders

The concept of the hold was introduced in 1986 by John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell to quantify the effectiveness of middle relievers. Since then, holds have offered insights into the crucial roles these pitchers play. Notably, Arthur Rhodes and Tony Watson have made significant contributions in this category, setting high benchmarks in career and single-season holds, respectively. This acknowledgment filled a gap in baseball statistics, providing a metric for an erstwhile unrewarded yet crucial role within the team’s pitching roster.

The Hold’s Impact on Baseball Analytics

Evaluation of Setup Men and Non-Closing Relief Pitchers

The integration of the hold statistic into baseball analytics has revolutionized the evaluation of setup men and non-closing relief pitchers. By quantifying their contributions, teams can make more informed decisions regarding player value, game strategy, and talent acquisition. This has also impacted contract negotiations and player marketability, as a strong track record in holds demonstrates a pitcher’s ability to perform under pressure, enhancing their value to the team.

Influence on Fantasy Baseball and Video Games

In realms beyond the diamond, such as fantasy baseball and video games like MLB The Show 23, holds have become a pivotal statistic. For fantasy leagues incorporating this metric, understanding and strategically picking players with high holds potential can significantly impact a team’s performance. Video games have also adapted, offering players the challenge of achieving holds, thereby introducing fans to the intricacies and strategic importance of this role within the game.

The Hold in Modern Baseball Analysis

In today’s era of sabermetrics and advanced analytics, the hold finds its place as a valuable tool for evaluating pitcher effectiveness. Though not an official MLB statistic, its widespread acceptance and use on platforms such as,, and various fantasy baseball leagues underscore its relevance. Analyses that factor in holds alongside other metrics provide a fuller understanding of a team’s bullpen strength and the individual contributions of middle relievers.

Notable Milestones and Records

Career Leaders in Holds

The leaderboard for career holds is a testament to the resilience, consistency, and underappreciated skill of setup men and middle relievers. Players like Tony Watson and Arthur Rhodes have set high standards, demonstrating the impact a top-tier holder can have over the course of their career. Tracking these leaders provides insights into durability and the ability to perform under pressure, essential traits for pitchers tasked with holding leads.

Single-Season Hold Records

The single-season record for holds, shared by Joel Peralta in 2013 and Tony Watson in 2015, further highlights the changing dynamics of baseball strategy. This record reflects not only individual excellence but also the evolving role of bullpen usage in modern baseball, where strategic deployment of pitchers in hold situations has become a critical aspect of game management.

In summary, the hold statistic, though unofficial, offers a deeper dive into the intricacies of pitching performance, particularly for those in middle relief roles. It underscores the importance of every link in the pitching chain, celebrating the work of those who set the stage for closers and, ultimately, for team victories. As baseball continues to evolve, the recognition and analysis of holds will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the strategies and appreciation of the game.

Holds in Baseball Culture and Media

The concept of holds in baseball, though not an official statistic by MLB standards, has integrated significantly into the culture and media revolving around the game. This has manifested most noticeably in two main areas: video games and sports media, including fantasy leagues.

Integration in Baseball Video Games

One cannot overlook the impact of baseball video games, notably MLB The Show series, in popularizing the hold statistic among fans. In the latest installment, MLB The Show 23, holds are tracked as an essential part of a relief pitcher’s performance. This inclusion serves a dual purpose: educating players on the nuances of baseball strategy and providing a more immersive and realistic game experience.

In MLB The Show 23, the implementation of holds reflects the real-world scenario of middle relief pitching. Players are tasked with entering the game in save situations and maintaining the lead until the next relief pitcher takes over, without the requirement to finish the game. This closely mimics the actual role of setup men and middle relievers in baseball, who are pivotal in transitioning from the starting pitcher to the closer. Successfully achieving a hold in the game involves strategic pitcher selection and situational awareness, augmenting the player’s understanding and appreciation of the game’s depths.

Furthermore, the game introduces missions and challenges centered around acquiring holds, incentivizing players to engage with this aspect of pitching. This not only increases the educational value of the game but also adds a layer of strategy and achievement to the gaming experience.

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Coverage in Sports Media and Fantasy Leagues

In parallel with video games, sports media and fantasy baseball leagues have significantly contributed to the recognition and valuation of the hold statistic. Most major sports outlets, including ESPN and, now regularly include holds in their box scores and pitcher analyses. This mainstream visibility underscores the importance of middle relievers and setup men in the sport, acknowledging their contributions beyond the traditional win-loss-save metrics.

Fantasy baseball, in particular, has been a driving force behind the holds’ increased prominence. Many leagues now incorporate holds as a category, placing value on pitchers who might not rack up wins or saves but play critical roles in their teams’ successes. This shift has prompted fantasy players to develop more nuanced strategies when drafting and managing their rosters, looking beyond starters and closers to those relievers who can contribute valuable holds.

By including holds as a category, fantasy leagues mirror the complexity and strategy of actual baseball management, challenging players to deepen their understanding of the game. This has fostered a community of knowledgeable fans who appreciate the intricacies of relief pitching and the vital role of those who excel in setup situations.

Through both video games and fantasy baseball, the concept of the hold has gained a foothold in the cultural and media landscape of the sport. This broader recognition reflects a more nuanced appreciation of the game’s strategies, celebrating the unsung heroes of the bullpen whose contributions are now rightfully acknowledged and valued.

Criteria for Awarding a Hold in Baseball

Game SituationEnters in save situation: leads <= 3 runs or the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck
Pitcher RoleAppears in relief and is not the starting or winning pitcher
PerformanceRecords at least one out
Game OutcomeLeaves without relinquishing the lead and does not record a save

Historical Context and Statistical Leaders in Holds

Year IntroducedInventorsPurposeNotable LeaderRecord
1986John Dewan and Mike O’DonnellTo credit middle relieversTony Watson232 holds (as of March 29, 2024)

Holds in MLB The Show 23

Simulation AspectTracks benefit of relief pitchers
ObjectiveMaintain team’s lead until the next reliever enters
Requirement for HoldLead <= 3 runs, at least one out recorded, and not the final pitcher
Earning StrategyEnsure team lead, select relief pitcher, maintain lead without concluding the game

Methods to Acquire and Utilize Stubs in MLB The Show 23

Method to Earn StubsDescription
Selling CardsSell unwanted cards in the marketplace
Participating in EventsWinning championships, playing showdowns, and completing programs
PurchasingBuying Stubs with real money as an option

Analyzing Hold Statistics for Relief Pitchers

Hold (HLD)Evaluates a middle reliever’s performance in maintaining a leadDoes not guarantee effective pitching; varies by source
Decent HoldProvides a more insightful analysis than a basic hold

Note: Data and criteria for evaluating baseball pitching performance and in-game strategies reflect professional standards and practices as of 2024.


In conclusion, the hold statistic (HLD) has become an invaluable tool for examining the nuanced role of middle relievers in baseball, shining a light on the critical, albeit less heralded, phases of a game where these pitchers maintain leads and set the stage for closers. This metric not only complements established statistics like wins, losses, and saves but also provides a tangible measure of a reliever’s effectiveness in high-pressure situations. My analysis, rooted in decades of observing and studying the game, underscores the importance of the hold in recognizing the strategic contributions of setup men and middle relievers. Their work, often overshadowed by the flashier closing moments, is pivotal in a team’s path to victory. I recommend baseball enthusiasts and analysts alike to pay closer attention to this statistic. As the game continues to evolve, embracing a broader spectrum of performance metrics will only enhance our appreciation and understanding of baseball’s intricate dynamics. The hold statistic, though unofficial, stands as a testament to the sport’s ongoing analytical evolution and the enduring significance of every player’s contribution, no matter how brief their moment in the spotlight.

Questions and answers about the hold baseball

⚾ What is a hold in baseball?

A hold (HLD) is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher who enters the game in a save situation, maintains his team’s lead while recording at least one out, and hands over that lead to another reliever without the score having been tied in the interim. It’s designed to credit middle relief pitchers who play a critical role in maintaining leads but aren’t closers.

⚾ How is a hold credited to a pitcher?

A pitcher is awarded a hold when he meets three conditions: 1) Enters the game in a save situation, which involves coming in relief while the team leads and he is not the winning pitcher, under specific scenarios such as having a lead of no more than three runs or faced with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck. 2) Records at least one out. 3) Leaves the game without his team having relinquished the lead at any point and does not record a save.

⚾ Can a pitcher earn a hold and a loss in the same game?

Yes, it is possible for a pitcher to receive both a hold and a loss in the same game. This can happen if the pitcher exits the game with his team in the lead, earning him a hold, but the subsequent reliever allows inherited runners to score, which ties or loses the game, thereby crediting the original pitcher with a loss.

⚾ Can more than one pitcher earn a hold in a single game?

Indeed, more than one relief pitcher can earn a hold in a single game, given that they each meet the criteria for a hold. However, it’s not possible for a pitcher to earn more than one hold in a game.

⚾ Is the hold an official MLB statistic?

While holds are tracked and increasingly recognized in many box scores, including media and official MLB platforms, the hold is not considered an official statistic by Major League Baseball. Despite this, holds offer valuable insight into the effectiveness and contribution of middle relievers to a team’s success.

⚾ How does the hold statistic reflect on a relief pitcher’s performance?

The hold statistic serves as a measure of a relief pitcher’s ability to maintain a game’s status quo effectively, preserving leads for their team. It highlights the critical work of setup men and middle relievers, acknowledging their contributions which might not be as immediately visible as wins, losses, or saves. However, the hold statistic has its limitations and should be considered alongside other performance metrics.

⚾ Has the definition of a hold changed over time?

The concept and criteria for a hold have remained relatively stable since its invention in 1986. However, there was a minor adjustment in 1994 by PA SportsTicker, allowing a hold without the necessity of recording an out, though this definition is less commonly used today.

⚾ Who are the career leaders in holds?

While the career leaders in holds can vary slightly depending on the source, since holds are tracked from 1999 onwards by, Tony Watson became known as a significant figure in the statistic, surpassing Arthur Rhodes with 232 holds as of 2021. This count includes only holds recorded from 1999 onwards, as Major League Baseball began to keep track of the statistic despite its unofficial status.

⚾ How is a hold different from a save in baseball?

Both holds and saves are measures of relief pitching performance, with the key difference being the game situation and outcome. A save is awarded to a closing pitcher who secures the win for the team under specific conditions, while a hold is given to a relief pitcher who enters in a save situation and maintains the lead but does not finish the game. Essentially, a hold can be considered a setup for a save situation.

By Joseph Johnson

Joseph Johnson is the main writer on the site. He prepares up-to-date news and reviews on baseball.