Baseball Basics: What is SU in Baseball?

What is SU in baseball? You might have heard baseball commentators saying ‘SU’ during baseball games. Do you know what it means? If you don’t, you’re not alone! SU is an abbreviation of “Setup” and describes a pitcher who pitches in the eighth inning and helps prepare the closer for the ninth inning. 

As a pitcher, SU indicates that they will pitch later in the game as a setup pitcher. A SU pitcher can also expect to pitch roughly one inning before the closer steps in to finish the game. SU pitchers play a critical role in a team’s success, and in this post, we will explore their role in detail.

What is the Purpose of an SU Pitcher? 

A setup pitcher’s job is to hold or maintain a lead until the closer enters the game in the ninth inning. It is the setup pitcher’s job to make sure the opposing team does not score in the seventh or eighth inning. In baseball statistics, the goal of every relief pitcher that enters the game is a “hold.” 

Can A Closer Be A Setup Pitcher?

Technically speaking, a closer cannot be a setup pitcher, especially in the same game. Closers are rarely brought in as setup pitchers, only in special situations like the World Series. Once they enter the game, they won’t record a save until they are the pitchers who record the final out of the game. 

What Is the SU Position in Baseball?

When you look at a baseball team roster, SU next to the player’s name doesn’t show up. Even then, the Setup Pitcher is one of the keys to winning or losing a game and is a very valuable role.

The team’s pitchers are divided into three groups: 

  • Starting Pitchers (SP)
  • Relief Pitchers (RP)
  • Closing Pitchers (CP).

They are a prominent feature of the baseball video game The Show. Setup Pitchers are from the Relief Pitchers, including the Middle and Long Reliever and Mop-Up Men. If a player is a Setup Pitcher, he must expect to be called up late in the game, even before the closer pitches for roughly one inning and takes the mound.

Commonly, pitchers are categorized into the following roles:

  1. Starting Pitchers (SP): Starting pitchers kick off the game, aiming to pitch at least six innings to set the tone for their team’s performance.
  2. Long Reliever or Long Relief Pitcher (LRP): If the starting pitcher exits the game early, a long reliever steps in, capable of pitching 5–6 innings if required, providing stability in the early stages.
  3. Middle Reliever or Middle Relief Pitcher (MRP): When changes are needed between the fifth and seventh innings, a middle reliever takes the mound, typically pitching two or three innings to maintain the team’s competitive position.
  4. Setup Man or SU Pitcher: As the team’s second-in-line relief pitcher, the setup man assumes a crucial role in the eighth inning, aiming to prevent the opposition from scoring and maintaining the team’s lead.
  5. Closer: The closer is the final pitcher in the game, tasked with securing the last 2-3 outs to ensure a victory for the team. Typically brought in at the game’s conclusion, the closer’s performance is pivotal in sealing the win.

How to Evaluate the Setup Pitchers?

MLB has designated separate statistics to measure the effectiveness of each role, aiming to distinguish success between closers and setup pitchers. Closers’ effectiveness is traditionally measured by the save statistic, established in 1969. However, a notable issue arose with this metric as it failed to account for relief pitchers who did not participate in the ninth inning.

In response to this limitation, statisticians John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell addressed the gap in the early 1980s by introducing the concept of the “Hold.” To earn a hold, a pitcher must enter the game without surrendering the lead. Whether pitching multiple innings, securing a single out, or simply maintaining the lead, these performances are recognized and awarded a hold. This innovation provided a more comprehensive measure of success for relief pitchers beyond the traditional save statistic.

Top Five Setup Men in MLB History

Below are the five super-hit setup men in baseball history:

  • David Robertson: Known as “D-rob,” boasts 34 hold AL record, a World Baseball Classic title, and a World Series.
  • Tyler Clippard: He had 226 holds throughout his MLB career. His career regular-season ERA figures out at 3.13.
  • Jonny Venters: He pitched 292 games and earned 96 holds and an unforgettable ERA of 2.71.
  • Mike Adams has 90 mph fastball power, took 137 holds, and an ERA of 2.41.
  • Eric O’Flaherty: 116 holds are considered brilliant.

Other SU pitchers worth mentioning include:

  • Kenly Jansen
  • Pedro Strop
  • Jonathan Broxton
  • Joel Peralta
  • Drew Storen
  • Kelvin Herrera
  • And many more

Conclusion for What is SU in Baseball?

In conclusion, the term “SU” in baseball is an abbreviation for “setup,” which refers to a relief pitcher who preserves a lead until the team’s closer enters the game in the final inning. Their job can be better described as maintaining or creating momentum for the closer. Setup Pitching is best understood if you think of a baseball game as a relay race. Starting pitchers are marathon runners, doing most of the work,

The setup man’s importance cannot be understated, as they are responsible for maintaining a team’s advantage and ensuring that the closer can secure the win. Understanding baseball terminology such as SU can be helpful for fans and players alike, as it enhances the appreciation and comprehension of the game.


Can More Than One Pitcher Earn A Hold?

If the first pitcher successfully holds the game, then the following pitcher can also earn a Hold if they leave the game with a lead and record one out. It means more than one pitcher can earn a Hold in the same game. 

How Many Innings Can An SU Pitch?

In a typical game, the preparing pitcher can pitch only one inning. In other cases, a ready pitcher may pitch two innings, very rarely more than this. Sometimes, a prep pitcher may only need to get one or two outs significantly for record keeping.

How Is A Shutout Achieved in Baseball?

When a pitcher and the team prevent the opposing team from scoring even a single run throughout the game, a shutout is automatically achieved. It means that the opposing team does not cross home plate even once.

How Common Are Shutouts in A Baseball Game?

Shutouts are quite rare in baseball, as they demand a solid defensive effort from the whole team and a strong performance from the pitcher. However, they occur, especially in games where the pitching is significantly strong.

In Which Situations or Games, The Shutouts Are More Common?

Where the pitching is particularly strong, or in games where the weather conditions are less likely to be favourable for hitting, shutouts are most common. Moreover, in games where one team is considerably stronger than the other team, the stronger team would be able to prevent the weaker team from scoring any run.

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