What is a Hold in Baseball?

We use affiliate links in this article. And, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for your support.

In the dynamic and strategy-rich world of baseball, understanding the various statistics, terms, and roles is key to appreciating the game’s complexities. One such term that often piques the curiosity of fans and players alike is the “hold” – a lesser-known yet significant statistic that sheds light on the effectiveness of relief pitchers. This introduction aims to set the stage for a deeper exploration into the meaning of a hold and its implications within Major League Baseball (MLB). Without venturing into its technicalities just yet, it’s sufficient to say that understanding the hold in MLB enriches one’s appreciation of the game, revealing the strategic undertones that define baseball’s unique charm.

What Does Hold Mean in Baseball?

A hold in baseball (abbreviated HLD, H, or HD) is an unofficial statistic that recognizes the contribution of relief pitchers who don’t typically get the opportunity to earn a save. Here’s what it takes for a pitcher to be credited with a hold:

Conditions for a Hold:

  • Relief pitcher: The pitcher must not be the starting pitcher, but come in later in the game.
  • Save situation: The pitcher enters the game when:
    • Their team is in the lead.
    • They are not the winning pitcher.
    • One of two conditions are met:
      • The lead is no more than three runs and they maintain it for at least one inning while recording at least one out.
      • The tying run is on deck, at bat, or on base and they record at least one out.
  • Leaves the game before it ends without losing the lead: The pitcher cannot pitch until the end of the game and cannot have their team relinquish the lead while they are pitching.
  • Doesn’t record a save: This statistic is exclusive to relief pitchers who don’t close out the game.

In simpler terms: A hold recognizes relief pitchers who come in during a tight game and maintain the lead (or at least keep the tying run off base) for a significant portion of the late innings, leaving their team in good shape for the closer to finish the game.

Let’s Understand Hold in Baseball With an Example

Imagine the New York Yankees are playing against the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees are leading 5-3 going into the 8th inning. The Yankees bring in a relief pitcher, Jake, to protect their lead.

Jake pitches the 8th inning without giving up any runs, maintaining the Yankees’ lead. However, he’s replaced by another pitcher in the 9th inning, and the Yankees ultimately win the game 5-4.

Even though the Yankees won, Jake would still be credited with a hold because he entered the game in a save situation (with the lead of three runs or fewer) and successfully maintained that lead until he was replaced, contributing to his team’s victory.

Can you get a hold in the 6th inning?

Yes, it is possible to get a hold in the 6th inning. The criteria for a hold does not specify a specific inning, but rather focuses on the role of the pitcher in maintaining the lead and preserving the win for their team. As long as a relief pitcher meets the requirements for a hold (such as entering the game with no more than three runs and

When Hold Was Invented in MLB?

The concept of a hold in Major League Baseball (MLB) was introduced in the 1980s by statisticians John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell. They established this statistical measurement to acknowledge the efforts of relief pitchers who play a crucial role in maintaining a team’s lead before the closer steps in. The hold statistic effectively fills a gap in recognizing valuable middle-inning performances that were previously undocumented in the traditional save statistic. This innovative approach highlighted the significance of setup men and their contributions to the success of their teams.

MLB Players with Maximum Holds

At the forefront of MLB’s hold leaders is Tony Watson, a dominant left-handed pitcher who made history with 246 holds from 2011 to 2021. His exceptional performance cements his status as one of the top relievers in the game.

Following closely is Arthur Rhodes, another southpaw with a lasting impact on the mound. Rhodes achieved 231 holds from 1991 to 2011, showcasing not just his longevity but also his consistent success in middle relief roles.

The record for most holds in a single MLB season is 41, achieved by Joel Peralta in 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Tony Watson equaled this milestone in 2015 while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their feat surpassed the previous record of 40 holds in a season, set by Luke Gregerson in 2010 with the San Diego Padres, underscoring the growing importance of middle relievers in baseball’s strategies.

Photo of author


James Arnold
I'm James, and I live in Stanislaus County, California. I'm playing Baseball for many years, and I love this sport so much that I also encourage my kids (Danny and Sara) to play Baseball & Softball.