Schechter: A save was a save — but no, it wasn’t

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at Seamheads on April 29, 2013:

Don’t ask me why, but this morning I was looking at the New York Times obituary of Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Jim Hughes, who died in 2001 at the age of 78. The headline identified Hughes as “Relief Pitcher Who Set Dodger Mark for Saves.” Despite the title of this post, the headline contained not one but two misconceptions which continually piss me off, but I will discuss only one of them here.

Jim Hughes did not set a franchise record with 24 saves in 1954, though the obituary writer, the estimable Richard Goldstein, claimed that he his total of 24 led the major leagues that year. Saves did not exist in 1954. Even Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman, who created the “save,” would have been stumped if you had said to him, following the 1954 season, “Hey Jerry, how about that Jim Hughes! He led the majors with 24 saves this season.” It would have been as incomprehensible to Holtzman as informing him that Willie Mays had led the National League in BFW, WAR, and oRAR, not to mention Total Zone Runs, but only third in Base-Out Runs Added. Those numbers were calculated in 1954 either. The only difference is that Saves became an official stat in 1969, while the other are more recent sabermetric concoctions.

How can you lead the league in something that doesn’t exist? This isn’t a simple counting statistic like RBI, which was not an official statistic until 1920.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: April 29, 2013. Last Updated: April 29, 2013.