Every time the word “less” was used in such contexts, I would say, very quietly, “fewer”. Finally my husband informed me that he was afraid I was fighting a losing battle. I conceded that I was but vowed to fight on even against such overwhelming odds. This resulted in (a) my husband nicknaming me “Donna Quixote” and (b) my looking up the rules for using “fewer” and “less”.
I found the Wikipedia article on this subject most distressing. It begins reasonably enough by saying:
According to prescriptive grammar, "fewer" should be used (instead of "less") with nouns for countable objects and concepts (discretely quantifiable nouns or count nouns). According to this rule, "less" should only be used with a grammatically singular noun (including mass nouns).
However, the article immediately goes on to discount this view by referring to “descriptive grammarians”, “common usage of today and the past”, and “a personal preference expressed by a grammarian in 1770.” The real dagger to my heart though is this:
An extreme application of the prescriptivist rule can be seen in the examples "there is less flour in this canister" and "there are fewer cups (grains, pounds, bags, etc.) of flour in this canister", which are based on the reasoning that flour is uncountable whereas the unit used to measure the flour (cup etc.) is countable. Nevertheless, even most prescriptivists accept the most common usage "there are less cups of flour in this canister" and prescribe the rule addition that "less" should be used with units of measurement (other examples: "less than 10 pounds/dollars"). Prescriptivists would however consider only "fewer cups of coffee" to be correct in a sentence such as "there are fewer cups of coffee on the table now", where the cups are countable separate objects, although most people now and in the past use "less" even in such cases.
Really? If so, then apparently I am an “extreme” prescriptivist rather than merely one of “most prescriptivists” because I consider “less cups” just plain wrong whether I’m talking about cups of flour or cups of coffee.
The article did catch me out on another example in the above paragraph - “less than 10 pounds/dollars” - as well as on this:
In addition, "less" is recommended in front of counting nouns that denote distance, amount, or time. For example, "we go on holiday in fewer than four weeks" and "he can run the 100m in fewer than ten seconds" are not advised.
I would say “I have less than ten dollars”, “I go on vacation in less than four weeks”, and “I can run the 100 meter in less than 2 hours”. I can argue that in these instances the apparent count nouns (dollars, weeks, hours) are stand-ins for (I think) mass nouns (money and time) and thus I could rewrite these sentences as:
I have less money than ten dollars.
I go on vacation is less time than four weeks.
I can run the 100 meter dash in less time than two hours.
I would never say them quite that way, of course, but I would say:
How much money do I have? Less than ten dollars.
How long [a time] before I go on vacation? Less than four weeks.
What is my time for the 100 meter dash? Less than two hours.
As I say, I can argue this and I think there’s some validity to that argument but I may just be reverse engineering what sounds right to me so it fits with my extreme prescriptivism. After all, if someone asked, “How many weeks until you go on vacation?” I’m not entirely sure I’d say “Fewer than four” rather than “Less than four” - at least not every time.
All that said, however, saves and run are very definitely countable, as are most other measurements in baseball; it’s hard to derive statistics from non-countable actions, events, and occurences. Baseball can have fewer of lots of things: hits, runs, errors, saves, innings pitched, stolen bases, singles, doubles, triples, home runs, runs scored, runs scored against, at bats, bases on balls, grand slams, strike outs (looking and swinging), foul balls, runners in scoring position, caught stealing (or perhaps “caughts stealing” or “caught stealings”), balks, blown saves, earned runs, double plays, double plays induced, double plays hit into, day games, night games, away games, home games, free agents, intentional bases on balls, inherited runners, losses, wins, games ahead, games behind, tickets sold, and fans in attendance. Less, not so much.
Standard disclaimer for a post dealing with grammar: Somewhere in this post there is almost certainly at least one egregious grammar error. Also, I know I use commas oddly especially in relation to quotation marks. Consider it part of my ineffable charm.