Set-up Pitcher
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Set-up Pitcher

In baseball, a setup man (or set-up man, also sometimes referred to as a setup pitcher or setup reliever) is a relief pitcher who regularly pitches before the closer. They commonly pitch the eighth inning, with the closer pitching the ninth.[1][2]

As closers were reduced to one-inning specialists, setup men became more prominent.[3] Setup pitchers often come into the game with the team losing or the game tied.[4] They are usually the second best relief pitcher on a team, behind the closer. After closers became one-inning pitchers, primarily in the ninth inning, setup pitchers became more highly valued.[5] A pitcher who succeeds in this role is often promoted to a closer.[6] Setup men are paid less than closers and mostly make less than the average Major League salary.[7]

The most common statistic used to evaluate relievers is the save. Due to the definition of the statistic, setup men are rarely in position to record a save even if they pitch well, but they can be charged with a blown save if they pitch poorly. The hold statistic was developed to help acknowledge a setup man's effectiveness,[8] but it is not an official Major League Baseball (MLB) statistic.

Historically, setup men were rarely selected to MLB All-Star Games, with the nod usually going to closers with large save totals.[9] From 1971 through 2000, only six relievers with fewer than five saves at midseason were selected as All-Stars. There were 10 such players from 2001 through 2009.[10] In 2015, the majority of the American League's All-Star relievers were not closers, outnumbered 4-3.[11] Setup men who have been named All-Stars multiple times include Justin Duchscherer, Tyler Clippard,[12] Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller.[13]

Francisco Rodriguez, who was a setup pitcher for the Anaheim Angels in 2002,[14] tied starting pitcher Randy Johnson's Major League Baseball record for wins in a single postseason after recording his fifth victory in the 2002 World Series.[15]

Tim McCarver wrote that the New York Yankees in 1996 "revolutionized baseball" with Mariano Rivera, "a middle reliever who should have been on the All-Star team and who was a legitimate MVP candidate."[16] He finished third in the voting for the American League (AL) Cy Young Award,[17] the highest a setup man has finished. That season, Rivera primarily served as a setup pitcher for closer John Wetteland, typically pitching in the seventh and eighth inning of games before Wetteland pitched in the ninth. Their effectiveness gave the Yankees a 70-3 win-loss record that season when leading after six innings.[18] McCarver said the Yankees played "six-inning games" that year, with Rivera dominating for two innings and Wetteland closing out the victory.[16]

Illustrating the general trend, both Rivera and Rodriguez were moved to closer soon after excelling as setup men. On January 22, 2019, Rivera became the first unanimously elected baseball hall-of-famer having been inducted his first eligible year on the ballot.


  1. ^ Zimniuch, Fran (2010). Fireman: The Evolution of the Closer in Baseball. Chicago: Triumph Books. pp. 154, 168. ISBN 978-1-60078-312-8.
  2. ^ Felber, Bill (2006). The Book on the Book: An Inquiry Into Which Strategies in the Modern Game Actually Work. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-312-33265-5. Retrieved 2011.
  3. ^ Zimniuch 2010, pp.168-9
  4. ^ Zimniuch 2010, p.169
  5. ^ Zimniuch 2010, p.163
  6. ^ Zimniuch 2010, pp.165,168,171-3
  7. ^ Zimniuch 2010, p.169
  8. ^ Zimniuch 2010, pp.169-70
  9. ^ Rancel, Tommy (June 24, 2013). "Set-up guys who would be worthy All-Stars". Archived from the original on October 19, 2014.
  10. ^ Kay, Joe (July 13, 2015). "All Star Game could be decided by setup men". The Star. Associated Press. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ Jennings, Chad (July 13, 2015). "Yankees' Betances leading wave of standout setup men". The Journal News. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ Kilgore, Adam (July 14, 2014). "2014 MLB All-Star Game: For Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, a perfect setup". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ Crasnick, Jerry (June 23, 2018). "Eight under-the-radar relievers who deserve All-Star consideration". Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ Curry, Jack (October 11, 2002). "Rodriguez Is a Fantasy Player Like No Other". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 21, 2014.
  15. ^ Johnson, Chuck (February 20, 2005). "Rodriguez set to close for Angels". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Zimniuch 2010, p.221
  17. ^ "1996 Awards Voting". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2012.
  18. ^ Zimniuch 2010, pp.219-221

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