Baseball scorekeeping is a shorthand method to record all the details of a baseball game. A game's official scorer will use this method, as will amateur scorers. The scorecard produced by the amateur scorer has no importance in the official record keeping of baseball statistics, but is done for enjoyment. Henry Chadwick and, to a lesser extent, MJ Kelly are responsible for defining the foundations of this shorthand in the late 1800s.
There is no definitive system for scoring a baseball game, but the foundations are fairly universal. Many fans make modifications to the systems to suit their own tastes: some scorekeepers use none of these symbols, and others use all of them.
- 1 The scorecard
- 2 Scoring the game
- 3 An Example Scorecard
- 4 Other scoring notations
- 5 Defensive positions
- 6 References
- 7 External links
One scorecard is used to record the offensive play of one team and the defensive play of the other, so at least two scorecards are needed to record one game, one for the visiting team and one for the home team. During the top of an inning, when the visiting team is at bat and the home team in the field, the offensive accomplishments of the visiting team (hits, runs, and outs) and the defensive accomplishments (outs and how they occurred) of the home team are both recorded on the visiting scorecard. In the bottom of the inning, the home offense and visiting defense is recorded on the home scorecard.
On the left side, there are columns to record player information: the names, positions, and uniform numbers of the players. In the center is the game information: a grid of cells used to mark actions during the game. At the right and bottom are areas to record game totals.
The location of a hit is noted by a line drawn in its direction, emanating from home plate. This is especially important to a coach who wishes to track a hitter's tendencies.
The players are listed in the batting order, with the defensive position either noted by the position number or 2-letter abbreviation (6 or SS for the shortstop and 8 or CF for the center fielder). Each player has a row that continues across the card.
In the discussion of the scorecard and scoring in general, the baseball rules will be referred to, but not necessarily explained. (Go to the baseball rules link for a detailed explanation of the rules of the game.)
The game information is recorded in a grid of cells. Each row is headed a batter, and each column is headed by an inning number. In each cell is a representation of a baseball diamond, often in light grey or dotted to allow a scorekeeper to fill in the basepaths as a runner advances. The bottom corner of the diamond represents home plate, the right corner is first base, the top corner is second base, and the left corner is third. It is on and around this diamond that notations are made to record what happens in a game.
At the far right and bottom of the typical scorecard has rows and/or columns for entering game totals. Other features of a scorecard may be a list of the players on each team's roster (as seen at the right margin of the exemplar card), the logo of the home team, etc. Some scorecards also have spaces for entering such variables as the weather, wind direction etc.
Scoring the game
Scoring a baseball game is done one at-bat at a time. Each cell in the game information contains the lifetime of an offensive player, from batter to runner, to an out, a run, or a stranded runner. While these notations follow a certain set of rules, the specific style varies from scorer to scorer. For example, one scorer may record a base hit with the notation 1B along the right-bottom edge of the diamond while another might use a single horizontal line. There are many variations, but the important things -- how outs were recorded, how runs were scored -- should be prominent when looking at a scorecard. Regardless of its specific notation or style, a scorecard is successful if it can be used to reconstruct the game's events.
When an out is recorded, the combination of defensive players executing that out is recorded. (Some scorekeepers write and circle the out that this player represents in the middle of the diamond.) For example:
- If a batter hits a ball on the ground to the shortstop, who throws the ball to the first baseman to force the first out, it would be noted on the scoresheet as 6-3, with 6 for the shortstop and 3 for the first baseman.
- If the next batter hits a ball to the center fielder who catches it on the fly for the second out, it would be noted as F8, with F for flyout and 8 for the center fielder.
- If the following batter strikes out, it would be noted as K, with the K being the standard notation for a strikeout. If the batter did not swing at the third strike, a "backwards K" is traditionally used. A slash should be drawn across the lower right corner to indicate the end of the inning.
- If in another inning, a baserunner is caught stealing second base, the basepath between first and second is filled-in halfway, then ended with a short stroke perpendicular to the basepath. It is then noted CS, with some scorers adding the uniform number or batting position of the batter to indicate when the runner was put out. Then the defensive combination of the put out, normally 2-4 or 2-6 for a catcher-to-second-base play, is written.
If a batter reaches first base, either due to a walk, a hit, or an error, the basepath from home to first base is drawn, and the method described in the lower-righthand corner. For example:
- If a batter gets a basehit, the basepath is drawn and 1B is written below.
- If a batter gets a walk, the basepath is drawn and BB is written below.
- If the batter reaches base because the first baseman dropped the throw from the shortstop, the basepath is drawn and E3 is written below.
- If the batter hits a triple however, the basepaths from home to first, first to second, and second to third are all drawn, and 3B is written in the upper lefthand corner. This change of position is done to indicate that the runner did not advance on another hit.
When a runner advances due to a following batter, it can be noted by the batting position or the uniform number of the batter that advanced the runner. This kind of information is not always included by amateur scorers, and there is a lot of variation in notation. For example:
- If a runner on first is advanced to third base after the 4th batter, number 22, hits a single, either a 4 or 22 could be written in the upper lefthand corner.
- If a runner steals second while the 7th batter, number 32, is up to bat, SB followed by either a 7 or 32 could be written in the upper righthand corner.
In order to score a run, a runner must touch all 4 bases and cross all four basepaths, so the scorer draws a complete diamond and, usually, fills it in. By filling it in, it's easier to see the runs scored.
Ending an Inning
When the offensive team has made three outs, a slash is drawn diagonally across the lower right corner of the cell of the third out.
When a substitution is made, a vertical line is drawn after the last at-bat for previous player, and the new player's name and number is written in the second line of the Player Information section. A notation of PH or PR should be made for pinch hit and pinch run situations.
Batting around and Extra innings
After the ninth batter has batted, the record of the first batter should be noted in the same column. However, if more than nine batters bat in a single inning, the next column will be needed. Draw a diagonal line across the lower left hand corner, to indicate that the original column is being extended.
There are extra columns on a scoresheet that can be used if a game goes to extra innings, but if a game requires more columns, another scorecard will be needed for each team.
Some scorers also track balls, strikes, and foul balls during an at-bat, using a B for each ball, an S for each strike, and an F for each foul with two strikes.
After each half-inning, the total number of hits and runs can be noted at the bottom of the column. After the game, totals can be added up for each team and each batter.
An Example Scorecard
For illustrative purposes, a sample filled-in score card is shown below. Many other examples of completed and blank scorecards can be found online.
Using this example scorecard, let's examine the Milwaukee Brewers' 1st inning of play:
- Leadoff hitter, #10 Ron Belliard (the Brewers' 2nd baseman) grounds the ball to the Giants' 3rd baseman (5), who fields the ball and throws it to 1st base (3) for the out. Thus the play is recorded as "5-3."
- The notation ("3-2") in the lower right corner of the "Belliard:Inning 1 cell" indicates the pitch count at the time Belliard put the ball into play (3 balls, 2 strikes; a statistic that this particular scorekeeper got tired of keeping track of after the first inning).
- There are a couple of widely used forms for keeping track of ball and strikes. One of the easiest formats is to use two rows, the first for balls and the second for strikes. As the pitches are delivered a B, S, or F records (respectively) balls, strikes, and two-strike foul balls. (Some pre-printed scoresheets have dedicated boxes that can be checked off for balls and strikes.) In the case of Belliard's at bat, the 3-2 count could have this appearance:
- 2nd (2nd spot or 2nd hole) batter, #9 Marquis Grissom (the Brewers' Center Fielder) on a 2-ball, 2-strike count grounds out 5-3 (3rd baseman to 1st baseman).
- 3rd batter, #5 Geoff Jenkins (the Brewers' Left Fielder) grounds the ball to the 1st baseman (3) who takes the ball to the base himself for an unassisted put out (3U).
One hard and fast rule of baseball scorekeeping is that every out and every time a baserunner advances must be recorded. The scoring can get a little more complicated when a batter who has reached base, is then "moved up" (i.e. advanced a base or bases) by the actions of a hitter behind him, or as is the case in the Giants' first inning by his own subsequent actions. Let's examine the Giants' first inning:
- Leadoff hitter, #7 Marvin Benard (the Giants' Center Fielder) hits a fly ball that is caught by the right fielder (9) for an out. Other scorekeepers might abbreviate this out using "F9" for fly out to right field.
- 2nd batter, #32 Bill Mueller (the Giants' 3rd baseman) hits a single, i.e., he hits the ball into play and makes it safely to first base. This is denoted by the single line running from "home" to "1st" next to the diamond in that cell. Commonly, scorekeepers will place some abbreviation, such as "1B-7", to designate a single hit to left field. In addition, many scorekeepers also place a line across the diamond to show the actual path of the baseball on the field.
- 3rd batter, #25 Barry Bonds (the Giants' Left Fielder; editor's note: yes, the scorekeeper was aware at the time that Bonds was playing left field, but accidentally put RF on his card) strikes out (K) on a 1-ball, 2-strike count (the 1-3 notation was this particular scorekeeper's method of indicating that Bonds struck out "looking", a practice the scorer has now become too lazy to continue). However, at some point during Bonds' at-bat, Bill Mueller, the runner on 1st base, stole 2nd base. His advancement was recorded in "his" cell by writing the notation "SB" next to the upper-right edge of the diamond.
- 4th batter (clean-up hitter), #21 Jeff Kent (the Giants' 2nd baseman) hit a fly ball that was caught by the Brewers' Right Fielder (9) for the 3rd and final out of the inning. Bill Mueller was stranded on 2nd base.
Stranded baserunners might be notated as being "LOB" (Left On Base) for that inning, with a number from 1-3 likely at the bottom of the inning column. For example, if two runners are left on base after the 3rd out, the scorekeeper might note "LOB:2", then at the end of the game calculate a total number of LOB for the game.
For a more complicated inning, let us examine the bottom half of the 5th inning:
- 5th batter, #6 J.T. Snow (the #5 hitter in the Giants' lineup and coincidentally the son of LA Rams Pro-Bowl wide-receiver Jack Snow) advances to first base on a walk (base-on-balls; BB).
- 6th batter, #23 Ellis Burks (the Giants' Right Fielder) grounds out 5-3 (3rd baseman to 1st baseman), but in the process, advances J.T. Snow to second base.
- 7th batter, #25 Rich Aurilia (the Giants' shortstop) flies out to the center fielder (8) for the second out of the inning.
- 8th batter, #29 Bobby Estalella (the Giants' catcher) draws a walk (BB) to advance to first base. J.T. Snow remains at 2nd base.
- 9th batter, #48 Russ Ortiz (the Giants' starting pitcher) hits a single (diagonal single line drawn next to the lower-right side of the diamond). J.T. Snow advances to home on that single (the diagonal line drawn next to the lower left side of the diamond in Snow's "cell") to score the game's only run. Ortiz is given credit for an RBI (run batted in), denoted by the "R" written in the bottom left corner of his cell (incorrectly, I might add, since "R" indicates a 'run scored' and would more appropriately been noted in JT Snow's cell. RBI could have been used, or a circled number representing the number of runs scored by that batter in that at-bat. The scorekeeper believes that he failed to add the BI because he was trying to prevent mustard from dripping on his shirt at the moment the run was scored. Some scorecards have a specific place to note RBI's). Bobby Estalella advances from 1st to 3rd base on Ortiz's single (the diagonal line drawn next to the upper left side of the diamond in Estalella's "cell").
- Leadoff hitter, Marvin Bernard, up for the third time in this game, draws a walk (BB). Ortiz advances to 2nd base on that walk (the BB written on the "1st to 2nd" portion of the diamond in his "cell".
- 2nd hitter, Bill Mueller advances to second on fielder's choice (defensive indiference). In this case, Marvin Bernard was "forced out" at 3rd base (surmised because it was the 2nd baseman who made the put-out). But since the shortstop "chose" to get the out at 3rd base instead, it is a Fielder's Choice. Since this was the final out of the inning, no baserunners advanced.
Other scoring notations
Here are other notations to indicate offensive or defensive events on a baseball scorecard -- note that individual scorekeepers will almost certainly use only a subset of these.
|1B or ""||Single (1B is also the abbreviation for the first baseman)|
|2B or ""||Double (2B is also the abbreviation for the second baseman)|
|3B or ""||Triple (3B is also the abbreviation for the third baseman)|
|colored-in diamond||Run Scored. Some scorers use a colored-in diamond to signify a home run, and a run scored is just a complete diamond|
|AB||At bat (i.e. a plate appearance, excluding walks)|
|AD or 2B(GR)||Automatic or ground-rule double|
|BB or W||Base on Balls (Walk)|
|ERA||Earned Run Average|
|GWRBI||Game winning RBI|
|H||Hit or (for a pitcher) Hold|
|HBP, HP, or HB||Hit by Pitch or Hit Batter|
|HR or ""||Home Run|
|I or CI or I2||Defensive (or Catcher's) Interference|
|IW or IBB||Intentional Walk (Intentional Base on Balls)|
|Kb||Strikeout on 3rd strike foul bunt|
|Kc or File:Reverse K.gif||Strikeout Called ("Looking")|
|Kd3||Strikeout with Dropped 3rd Strike (the batter may try to advance to first)|
|LD or L||Line Drive (Liner)|
|LOB||Left On Base|
|OBB||Out of Batter's Box|
|OBS or OB||Obstruction|
|RBI||Runs Batted In|
|S, SH or Sac||Sacrifice Hit (or bunt)|
|SFC||Sacrifice Fielder's Choice|
|TP||Triple Play (very rare)|
|WW||Wasn't Watching (Phil Rizzuto's notation for when the scorer's attention is distracted from the game)|
There are nine fielding positions in baseball, each with an associated number (from 1 to 9) used to score putouts.
|N/A||DH||Designated Hitter (Not a defensive position, so does not have a Position Number.)|
Jacobs, Greg, The Everything Kids Baseball Book, 4th edition, chapter 8. Adams Media 2006.
- Guide to Scoring Baseball, a play by play tutorial demonstrating the scoring of the 1998 game when Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris's single season home run record.
- Baseball Scorecards, several free scorecards in PDF format.
- The Baseball Scorecard, a comprehensive baseball scoring site.
- Statistics for Amateur Baseball Leagues, a free web-based service.
- Scorepad, Commercial scorecard software for palm devices.
- Turbostats scorekeeper, Scorecard software for palm devices.