The “value” of holds

Thursday morning, an Adam Hayes-penned an article appeared here at The Hardball Times regarding relievers and the shortcomings of the mainstream stats used to evaluate them.

Thursday evening, the Pirates lost their game against the Brewers to fall below .500 on the year as Pittsburgh continues to do a nifty imitation of last year’s collapse.

These two items are related because of the box score that game produced.

After climbing out of an early 4-0 hole to take a 7-4 lead, the Buccos coughed up their late lead and fell by a score of 9-7. One of the pitchers most responsible for this loss was Chad Qualls, who surrendered three runs on three hits while retiring a single batter.

Qualls was credited with a hold.

Chris Resop came in next and gave up a run on two hits and a walk while recording two outs.

Resop took the loss.

Obviously, neither hurler pitched well, but Qualls clearly was worse. It is absurd for him to receive positive credit for his “contribution” while Resop was on the hook for the loss.

Holds, saves, wins, losses, blown saves—these traditional counting stats we attribute to pitcher performances simply don’t do a sufficient job of assigning credit and blame. Yes, those with a sabermetric bent are well aware of this, so situations like this simply serve to provide more ammunition in the assault on these stats and the significance many fans—and mainstream media—attribute to them.

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Greg has been a writer and editor for both The Hardball Times website and Annual since 2010. In his dreams, he's the second coming of Ozzie Smith. Please don't wake him up.

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3 Comments on "The “value” of holds"

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Paul G.
Paul G.
WARNING: Rant. The Hold is not an important statistic, really.  Most of my encounters involve one of the following scenarios: 1. John Barten mocking it in the THT Awards as only John Barten can mock. 2. When I am staying in a hotel and get to amaze my co-workers with my explanation of “H,3” in the complimentary copy of USA Today. 3. On the occasional TV broadcast where it gets mentioned by the geekiest member of the announcing team.  This is typically met with (a) the color commentator having no clue what a Hold is and having to have it… Read more »
Paul G.
Paul G.
Now that I have stopped ranting, I still think the Hold could be a useful statistic.  Actually, right now it is a fairly useful stat because as much as we love to rip into the ridiculous situations like the one above, most Holds are legitimate.  But really the rules should be modified so they apply to success as a middle reliever as opposed to success as a hypothetical closer.  The simplest form would be “enter in a Save situation, get at least one out, don’t give up any runs, don’t get the Win or Save.”  You’ll still get a few… Read more »
@ above ranter: exactly wins and losses are goawed but by and large they do have meaning and these ststs need to be simple enough for the casual fan.  in reality the whole system needs a tweak.  Sorry boys but WPA isnt going to become a mainstream metric used to assign win shares. firstly they need to actually give credit for the win to the best pitching performande. bthe 5 ip starter requirement is fine.  but a 1-0 11th inning game in which a lefty specialist gets a win for one out while the sp pitched 9 shut out innings… Read more »