What is a Hold in Baseball? Let’s Find Out Right Now!

A. Coatess

Written by

A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

Wenzen-ball is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

what is a hold in baseball

Ever wonder how long a pitcher keeps a team going? Or, what happens in pitching in between innings? All of that occurs in a hold. Learning everything about what is a hold in baseball empowers the pitcher.

Pitching requires a high set of skills. Thus, it should prove to be one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, positions to play in the game.

Read on to learn more about the hold.

Hold in Baseball Definition 


The definition of a hold in baseball is that it is a point, credit, or reward given to a relief pitcher who can keep the team’s lead until the next relief pitcher comes in. The pitcher must also record a minimum of one out to qualify for a hold.

For What Purpose Then?

Earning a hold is a merit in pitching performance. It is specifically created to assess relievers who do not have the position of closers.

The role of a relief pitcher is not an easy one. He has to maintain the team’s lead and keep it that way until another relief pitcher takes over.

Once one gets to record a hold within a specific game, he is no longer entitled to finish it to a win as it will be the closer’s job to do that.

Moreover, the hold exists to provide a transition, leeway, or a time for the new relief pitcher to replace the previous one.

This action continues until the closer finally takes over to finish the game to a win.

What is a Closer

A closer is a relief pitcher who usually comes in last to secure the final out before a win.

A closer rarely starts playing with his team losing or tying, and often comes in at the 9th inning when there’s a safe opportunity.

Not all relief pitchers can be a closer, as it is a high-pressure role that demands a track record and history of outs. But in terms of effort, the closer often plays only 1 inning, while other relief pitchers can take part in 1 to 4 innings.

Ultimately, this is one feature of the role that importantly assigns the closer to his place.

Can a Relief Pitcher Work to Get a Hold in Baseball


With experience, innate skill, diligence, and confidence, a relief pitcher can become a closer. But keep in mind that pitching roles are not assigned in a hierarchy.

Hierarchy has nothing to do with baseball positions. Everyone is equally important in the field, with critical roles to play.

A player, by all means, must keep the balance between being an expert in one’s position and being knowledgeable on the other. And while it would undeniably be a plus if a player can multitask, being a master of one’s assigned work serves more strategically for the team!

The same idea applies to the hold. So while earning a hold is good, it still does not guarantee the team a lead, at least strategically.

What are Specific Conditions That Earn Pitchers a Hold

Two common conditions earn the pitcher/relief pitcher a hold, namely:

  • At most, three (or fewer) runs as a lead and sustaining that lead while recording an out (at least one)
  • Starting with a tying run in one of these specific areas (plate, bases, or on-deck) while hitting an out (at least one)

Note: Several relief pitchers can earn a hold in a game. However, each one is only entitled to one.

Note also: According to the mlb hold definition, a relief pitcher can bag in a loss and a hold in the same game. This condition applies when he goes out with a lead, and later, the runners he left on-base score runs (specifically, tying or go-ahead runs).

How Did the Hold Come to Be

The hold came about as a relief pitcher statistics credit for helping baseball commentators analyze the pitchers’ performance points, the team’s odds for taking the lead, the opposing team’s probabilities for outs, and many more.

Statisticians Mike O’Donnell and John Dewan came up with the hold in the 1980s to measure the relief pitcher’s (who are not closers) performance and their odds for holding a lead in a given setup.

Predicting a pitcher’s potential for recording at least one out in every save situation makes a big difference for the team. Every out secured by the pitcher earns the team either a blown save, a hold, or mainly, a save.

Can the Hold Be Considered an Official Statistic Tool

The hold cannot qualify as an official statistical or scoring tool. The lack of official command of the hold explains why pitchers are some of the only people to keep note of it and not the official scorer. In a way, the hold exists as one’s merit.

In Which Inning is the Hold Most Crucial

Ideally, a hold on the eight inning spikes up the chances of pitching a final out in the ninth. The save situation in the last inning depends entirely on the sustained lead being held by the relief pitcher.

However, this is not always the case in the field. Sometimes, you can get a hold as early as the sixth inning, as long as you can secure a one run lead. What is important is that you could keep the team’s lead intact even after you left the game for the other relief pitcher to take over.


Knowing the answer to the question “what is a lead in baseball” introduces the pitcher to the complex nature of pitching for a lead. Usually involving relief pitchers between innings, the hold serves as a credit or reward for measuring their performance.

Although the lead does not qualify as an official scoring or credit move, it still provides the pitchers and their team with some ideas on the next best actions to win.

5/5 - (3 votes)