What’s the toughest save in baseball?

August 28, 2008

My partner at ACTA, Greg Pierce, and I were talking about relief pitchers. We wondered what would be the absolute toughest save situation a relief pitcher could encounter. We decided that it would be a save situation in the ninth inning or later where the pitcher enters with the bags loaded, nobody out, and a one-run lead.

Then we realized: That's a Houdini. Mostly. A Houdini is the new stat that Bill James developed (www.BillJamesOnline.com) to count the number of times a pitcher got out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam with no runs scoring. It's a Houdini Save if it's done in a save situation.

Then, the most extreme performance would be a Houdini Save with a 1-run lead in the last inning AND the pitcher entered the game at that point. Specifically, the runners were put on base by previous pitchers. We'll call that an Extreme Houdini Save.

How many times has an Extreme Houdini Save happened in the last eight years?

Zero.

It used to happen occasionally, but now it seems to be a thing of the past. The last time a pitcher entered a game in the last inning with the bases loaded, no outs, and got the save was May 27, 2000. Kerry Ligtenberg entered the game in the ninth inning with the bags loaded and no outs, performed a Houdini, and saved the 6-5 victory for the Atlanta Braves.

Here are the eight Extreme Houdini Saves since 1974:

5/27/2000 Kerry Ligtenberg Braves over Astros, 6-5, 9th inning
4/17/2000 Todd Erdos Yankees over Rangers, 5-4, 11th inning
4/19/1998 Juan Acevedo Cardinals over Phillies, 3-2, 9th inning
7/08/1992 Alejandro Pena Braves over Mets, 2-1, 9th inning
8/03/1991 Larry Andersen Padres over Braves, 3-2, 9th inning
8/14/1983 Tim Stoddard Orioles over White Sox, 2-1, 9th inning
7/19/1979 Sid Monge Indians over Royals, 2-1, 9th inning
8/24/1975 Tom Murphy Brewers over A's, 7-6, 9th inning
 
 

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