Friday, September 19, 2008

Twenty-One Unique Saves

Ugh. Serious Blogger issues tonight, so if anything funky happens, that's probably why.

As I mentioned in my last post, during the early years of the save rule, it was possible for pitchers to be awarded a save without finishing the game for their team. I was actually incorrect in saying this was only possible during the 1973 and 1974 seasons. It turns out that players could get saves without being their team's finishing pitcher from 1969 to 1974. Here's how.

The original save rule said a reliever could pick up a save if he entered with a lead and maintained the lead until the game was over or (and this is what I skimmed over in my other post) he was replaced by a pinch hitter or pinch runner. If two or more pitchers qualified for a save, it was up to the official scorer to award the save to the pitcher judged most effective. So that's the original loophole allowing some pitchers to pick up these weird kinds of saves.

There was a change to the original save rule before the 1974 season (this isn't what I implied in my last post; see below). For that season, pitchers could be awarded saves if they fell under at least one of two conditions:
(1) He had to enter the game with either the potential tying or winning run either on base or at the plate and preserve the lead; or
(2) He had to pitch at least three or more effective innings and preserve the lead.
Since neither condition required the pitcher actually finish the game, saves still could be awarded to relievers who were replaced before the game was over. Like the original rule, it was up to the official scorer to decide between multiple qualified pitchers.

It turns out that twenty-one saves were awarded between 1969 and 1974 to pitchers that weren't the finishing pitcher in their team's victory. From first to last by date, here are those saves:
  1. April 29, 1970 - Angels 3, Yankees 2 - Paul Doyle kicked things off with a scoreless two inning appearance. He gave up a hit while striking out two before Jay Johnstone pinch hit for him in the top of the ninth. Ken Tatum gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth, but the Angels hung on for the win and Doyle's fourth save of the year.
  2. April 23, 1971 - Royals 5, Indians 2 - Tom Burgmeier picked up the save for entering the game with a 3-2 lead and one out in the eighth inning. He retired the next two batters before being replaced by a pinch-hitter during the Royals' half of the eighth. Kansas City scored two runs that inning and Ted Abernathy pitched a scoreless ninth to finish the game.
  3. September 6, 1971 - Pirates 10, Cubs 5 - Bob Moose was awarded a save for pitching three innings in relief of starter Luke Walker. He gave up two runs (one earned) while striking out two and allowing a single and a home run. He was pinch hit for in the bottom of the eighth and Ramon Hernandez recorded the final three outs of the game.
  4. May 18, 1972 - Cubs 6, Cardinals 4 - Entering with a 4-2 lead, Cubs righty Tom Phoebus pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk before Art Shamsky pinch hit for him in the top of the ninth. Dan McGinn gave up two runs in a rough ninth inning before the Cardinals finally ran out of outs.
  5. September 30, 1972 - Athletics 10, Royals 5 - It's just not a saves list without Rollie Fingers somewhere. The mustachioed reliever entered with a 6-4 lead and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. He allowed an inherited runner to score, but ended the inning with a 6-5 lead. Leading off the next inning, he singled (making him 6 for 19 on the year) and later came around to score. He set down the Royals in order in the bottom of the seventh. Don Mincher pinch hit for Fingers in the eighth and Dave Hamilton finished up the Athletics victory.
  6. May 9, 1973 - Dodgers 8, Pirates 5 - George Culver came in the game with a 6-5 lead after Dodgers starter Claude Osteen gave up 13 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Culver recorded five outs around a single and a walk before Steve Garvey pinch-hit for him. Jim Brewers pitched the final inning for the Dodgers.
  7. August 11, 1973 - Braves 9, Pirates 3 - Lefthander Tom House allowed only one hit in the 7th and 8th innings before the Braves exploded for five runs in the top of the ninth. Carl Morton retired the Pirates in order in the bottom of the inning.
  8. May 6, 1974 - Padres 7, Phillies 6 - The Padres roughed up reigning Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton, but when the Phillies rallied to make it 5-4 in the 7th, Rich Troedson was summoned from the San Diego bullpen to preserve the lead. He set down two Phillies to end the inning and was pulled for a pinch-hitter. Vicente Romo toiled the final two innings to finish the victory.
  9. May 7, 1974 - Cubs 3, Braves 2 - Steve Stone threw eight scoreless innings but hit a wall in the ninth inning. Horacio Pina came on in relief with runners on first and second, no one out, and a 3-0 lead. The first batter he faced reached on an error, allowing a run to score and the runner on first to go to third. A sacrifice fly followed. A walk followed to put the go-ahead run at the plate, but Marty Perez struck out. Jim Kremmel came in and got a groundout to short to end the game. Despite the rocky outing, Pina was awarded the save.
  10. May 10, 1974 - Athletics 4, Twins 2 - The third weird save of the week belongs to Darold Knowles. The lefty came in with runners on first and second and no one out. He struck a batter out, allowed a walk and a sacrifice fly and then induced a grounder to third to finish the inning. Rollie Fingers closed it out with a scoreless ninth, missing out on what would've been a save the next season.
  11. May 26, 1974 - Yankees 7, Orioles 5 - With a 7-3 lead after five innings, Cecil Upshaw came on in relief for the Yankees. He didn't allow a hit in three innings but issued three walks and hit a batter. Two of those baserunners scored in the ninth inning, but Upshaw had been pulled in favor of Sparky Lyle by then.
  12. June 9, 1974 - Indians 8, Royals 6 - Indians starter Steve Kline (no relation to the more recent lefthander) allowed four runs over five innings and left a 6-4 lead to reliever Fred Beene. Beene allowed two unearned runs on three hits over three innings to pick up the save. Milt Wilcox pitched the ninth for the Indians.
  13. June 26, 1974 - Indians 3, Yankees 2 - Taking over with one out in the sixth and a slim 3-1 lead, Tom Hilgendorf allowed an inherited runner to score on a single and kept Yankees bats down for 3 1/3 innings. Tom Buskey entered the game with two out in the ninth and retired Lou Piniella to finish the victory.
  14. July 6, 1974 - Brewers 3, Twins 0 - With runners on the corners and two out in the sixth, Eduardo Rodriguez entered the game and retired Bobby Darwin to end the inning. He then allowed only one hit over the next two innings. Tom Murphy set the Twins down in order in the ninth.
  15. July 21, 1974 - Athletics 6, Indians 3 - This is maybe the best one of these saves. At least it's one that people who enjoy faulting official scorers' decisions will enjoy. With the tying run at the plate and two out in the bottom of the seventh, Paul Lindblad came on in relief and got a groundout to second base. Rollie Fingers replaced Lindblad on the mound for the final two innings and allowed one hit. The official scorer deemed Lindblad's work the most effective of the night, however.
  16. August 4, 1974 - Royals 3, Angels 0 - Taking the mound with a 2-0 lead and runners on the corners, Joe Hoerner stranded both guys and pitched another inning to boot. Hoerner retired all five batters he faced, striking out one. Doug Bird pitched the ninth inning.
  17. August 18, 1974 - Athletics 13, Tigers 3 - Rollie Fingers shows up again! Trailing 4-3 with one out in the eighth, the Tigers were threatening with runners on the corners. The A's called Rollie Fingers out of the pen and he promptly induced a double play ball. The A's exploded for nine runs in the bottom of the eighth and Dave Hamilton came on to close out the ten-run victory.
  18. August 19, 1974 - Braves 11, Cardinals 6 - Max Leon entered in the fifth inning with a 6-5 lead and tightroped through three innings, giving up five hits while striking out one and allowing one run. Tom House pitched the final two innings for the victory but was ineligible for the save since he didn't enter with the tying run on base or at bat.
  19. August 24, 1974 - Cubs 2, Giants 1 - This game between two second division teams was bookended by scoring. Plating two in the top of the first, the Cubs held the Giants scoreless until the bottom of the ninth. Both teams managed to use ten pitchers in the contest. Burt Hooton pitched 2 2/3 innings for the Cubs while only issuing two walks. One of those walks was to Dave Kingman to start the bottom of the ninth. Kingman came around to score the Giants' only run after Hooton was removed from the game. Despite being responsible for the only Giants run, Hooton was awarded the save.
  20. August 30, 1974 - Athletics 10, Tigers 5 - Though he may have been robbed of a save in the August 18 game listed above, Blue Moon Odom picked up the save twelve days later. He allowed one run in 2 1/3 innings of relief on two hits and two strikeouts. Despite Darold Knowles doing his best to blow the game, the Athletics held on for the win and Odom picked up the first and only save of his career.
  21. September 29, 1974 - Athletics 3, White Sox 2 - Nearly a month after struggling against the Tigers, Darold Knowles shut down the White Sox for three innings. He allowed an inherited runner to score and then allowed another run to score the next inning, giving him a final line of three hits, two strikeouts, and one earned run (the inherited runner was changed to winning pitcher Dave Hamilton). Luckily for Knowles, the A's scored a run in between those innings and he never blew the lead. He was pulled with one out in the ninth in favor of Rollie Fingers and holds the obscure trivia distinction of being the final pitcher to record a save without finishing the game. He and Fingers are also the only two pitchers in major league history to record more than one save as a pitcher who didn't finish the game for his team.
And now, another mea culpa (kids, make sure your information is correct before posting!). At first I thought the save rule was changed before the 1973 season, but the fact that so many of these saves are in 1974 made me wonder if that was in fact the only season covered by the changed save rule. I would've expected to see the bulk of these odd saves split between 1973 and 1974 if both years had the same rule. suggests the rule was changed before the 1974 season, so that probably is the case. Sorry for the confusion. If you know for sure either way, let me know. Regardless, these twenty-one games are unique in baseball history.

You might notice that of these twenty-one saves, thirteen of them took place in games between American League teams. It's easy to think something strange was going on the AL, but if you look closely, six of those twelve were accounted for by the Athletics alone. Take them out of it and the saves are split pretty evenly between the leagues. Count this as another way Charlie O's Athletics were different from other major league teams.


Bopperland said...

Wow, you knew exactly what I was going to ask, BEFORE it was even written! The number of A's entries in that list stuck out like a sore thumb. I wonder what Rollie would say about this list if you asked him?

A point of clarification. As you mentioned, this period was a blip in baseball history. If they had happened TODAY, would they now be considered Holds, or would the pitchers involved even get awarded anything other than their normal performance stats?

Good find, Theron!

Theron Schultz said...

I'm learning, I guess. :) Going through the list, the only guy that would probably not have gotten credit for a hold rather than a save in today's game was Cecil Upshaw on May 26, 1974. He entered into the game with a 7-3 lead and no one on base, so it wasn't a save situation. That said, he threw three innings in relief which would have been enough to give him a save in today's game had he been the finishing pitcher. If you think that any guy who qualified for a save without being the finishing pitcher deserves a hold, you might be inclined to give him one.

The other guys all entered their games in what would today be considered save situations.

Bopperland said...

Looks like even Rotoworld is on the cheap save bandwagon. See what they wrote about K-Rod yesterday?

Francisco Rodriguez notched save No. 60 on Saturday by getting the final out in a four-run game against the Rangers.

Just because he has the record, that's apparently no reason for the Angels to stop making the effort to get him cheap saves. Despite back-to-back awful appearances, Jason Bulger was the choice to start the ninth in a four-run game tonight. He proceeded to walk the leadoff man, retire the next two batters and then give up a single. Of course, that created a save situation and Rodriguez was immediately brought into the game. He got Nelson Cruz to fly out for his eighth save of less than three outs. For comparison's sake, the pitchers ranked second and third in the AL in saves (Joakim Soria and Jonathan Papelbon) have combined for three all year. Brad Lidge, the NL's best reliever this season, has none.