What Just Happened?
At every game offensive and defensive statistics are kept by the official scorer. They score the game and those rulings account for the team and player statistics.
Some teams may include a Scorecard with the program. It is a miniature version of the official scorer’s book and it allows you to keep your own tabs on both teams’ progress through a single game. It is a great way to stay engaged in every pitch and to help you learn the game better.
When the official scorer is done with their version, those rulings become a player’s game statistics. They are added to, and averaged with, their statistics from all their previous games.
Some of the most common referenced statistics are listed below, but there are dozens more. These numbers help teams compare players across a league.
BA – Batting Average
RBI – Runs Batted In
ERA – Earned Run Average
The cumulative statistics are then used by the player’s own team to make strategic decisions such as offensive line up and whether to intentionally walk an opposing batter. A team will also look at the opposing team’s statistics to determine the best defensive players to use in a particular match up.
For example, let’s say team A is playing team C tomorrow. They can start either a right-handed pitcher or a left-handed pitcher. Team A might reference the statistics of team C to determine how well the usual starting line-up of team C does against either type of pitcher. If they find that the team struggles significantly against a lefty then they may decide to start their lefty instead of their righty.
During the games, teams keep a scorecard themselves on the bench. The teams use the information to help them remember where a particular player tends to hit to throughout the game in order to prepare their defensive players.
They also use the scorecard to help track the number of pitches thrown by their “starter” or first pitcher in the game. This is important because, generally, a pitcher’s arm starts to tire between 100-120 pitches. Knowing how many times they have thrown the ball allows time for a backup person, also known as a relief pitcher, to get warmed up and into the game.
Today we’ll go over just some basics of a scorecard. They should allow you to score most general plays in a game. In a future session we’ll provide additional plays and details that are more one-play specific.
Completing the Lineup
Every scorecard has two sides, one for each team. The basic game information can be completed before the game begins. This includes day, date, field information and start time.
The lineup is generally read during the game-opening announcements however, the order in which the players bat may not be. Therefore, you might want to make a note of which players are in the game on your program and then mark them in the proper order they appear on the scorecard their first time at bat.
When adding a player to the scorecard, it is important to leave a blank space between their name and the next player listed. This allows for substitution players to be added in the later innings of a game. Most scorecards are pre-designed for this to occur naturally.
At the top of the scorecard you will see columns numbered 1-10. Each column represents an inning in the game. Let’s say, for example, the first batter in the lineup is the 2nd baseman. When s/he bats, they may only be involved in innings 1/3/7. In that case you would leave the columns 2,4,5,6,8,9 empty on their line in the scorecard.
It doesn’t happen often but on occasion, the batters go through the complete lineup once and begin again in a single inning. In those instances, you simply mark the columns new at the top based on the proper inning from that point forward. This, as well as extra innings, is why the additional column is provided.
When one player is substituted for another, you place a VERTICAL line between the innings for which the substitution is made. For example, let’s say the short stop gets injured and replaced in the 3rd inning. You would then darken the vertical line between columns 3/4. This indicates where one player’s statistics stop and another’s begin.
As you may have noted by now, it appears that, for each team you are only “recording” the offensive player’s personal statistics. However, as you keep score, you will see that you are also recording both a team’s and individual player’s defensive statistics as well. These will get described in more detail the further into the scoring process we go but, for now, let’s concentrate on the batsmen.
Each time a player steps to the plate any number of things can happen, but the general pattern is, a few balls and a few strikes are thrown then the player either gets a hit, gets struck out or reaches base in some other way, such as being hit by the pitch or walked.
There are some general markings created to help you abbreviate these scoring processes. You will notice that, in every column and on every row, you have a few different pictures. To the left are two rows of boxes. These boxes represent balls and strikes. The top row allows you to tally, or check off, each ball. The second row is for strikes. As you can see, there is one less box for each than there are allowed for in an at-bat. That’s because, once you get to the last of the allowed throws, then the player is either given the base or called out. There are abbreviations written on the scorecard for each of those instances.
BB = A batter is walked
K = Struck out Swinging
Backwards K = Struck out Looking
When a batter is walked, then the letters: BB are placed in the scorecard on the right side of the bottom part of the diamond.
When a batter strikes out, there are two different ways you can mark the play. If they swing at the final pitch then a K is used. If they do not swing at the final pitch then a K is written backwards. Either version is written in the middle of the diamond you see to the right of the squares.
The out is then recorded on the bottom right corner of the square for their time at-bat using a 1,2 or 3, depending on which out they are for the inning. This helps you keep track of the outs as the inning progresses. This will be important in more advanced lessons so it’s a good habit to start straight away.
The diamond to the right is used to mark a batter’s progress through the bases. The bottom middle point is home plate and the player progresses in a counter-clockwise position around from there until they return home.
For example, when a player walks you fill in, or draw, the line between the bottom middle to the far right. This indicates successful movement from home plate to first base. You then write BB on the outside of the line you’ve created.
If that player progresses further, then each time they go to a new base, you fill in the line. Should they make it all the way home, you color in the diamond to indicated their run.
Each time a player progresses, you also indicate how they got to the base. For example, if they arrive safely on 2nd by stealing, then you would mark SB over the line you’ve drawn between 2nd and 3rd base.
Should they arrive at 1st by being hit by the pitch, then you will mark that line HBP. If they are intentionally walked, then you would mark IBB. Aside from a walk or a hit, here are a few unique ways, players can progress through the bases, they include:
B = Balk
PB = Pass Ball
WP = Wild Pitch
E = Error
FC = Fielder’s Choice
These are all indications of some sort of fielding decision or error on the part of the defense. A balk is a “false start” by the pitcher. They are unique and rare and will be called by the umpire.
A pass ball happens when the catcher fails to catch the ball and it goes past them, allowing for a runner to advance.
A wild pitch is another way an error of sorts is recorded against the pitcher. It indicates a completed pitch that was uncatchable as delivered.
An error is a mistake made by a fielder. It can indicate anything from a ball not caught when it hit their glove to other missed, basic plays. Recording errors is tricky business and something we’ll handle in further detail in another lesson. For now, just watch the scoreboard and listen to the announcer when you don’t understand what has happened. They’ll generally fill you in if an error has occurred. They will also tell you which player is “charged” with the error. This is where you write in the player’s position on the field alongside the E. For example, if the error was committed by the 2nd baseman, you would mark E4 because, as we learned in the Defensive Player Positions article, the 2nd base position is given the number 4.
The finally marker is a fielder’s choice and, as the name implies, the fielder had options in terms of which runner to throw out. They chose one over the other. The person they do not get out, they advance to the next base because of that choice alone, and therefore a FC is given to their advancement.
Here’s where things feel complicated but they actually become quite simple once you get in the swing of things.
First, remember we talked a bit ago about advancing to a base on a steal? Most stolen bases attempts end in failure. So, how do you mark that on the scorecard? Whenever someone is tagged out between bases, the line between those bases is drawn halfway with a vertical line at the end so you can see the stop in forward motion. When that advancement ends because of a stolen base attempt, you write CS for caught stealing.
For the rest of the scoring options let’s walk through some scenarios together.
When a player gets a hit you will fill in their progress on the base path of the diamond with darkened lines. You will also mark, in the center of the diamond
1B - Single
2B - double
3B - triple
HR – home run
Some scorers, especially those on a team’s bench, also draw a dotted line that begins at home plate and ends where the ball landed in the field of play. Over the course of a game, this helps the team track where to position their defensive players in the field to help keep that player from reaching base safely in their next at-bat. Teams face one another more than once throughout the year so having this data compiled over the course of a season is really helpful.
If a player’s at bat results in a score for their team, for example they drive in the previous batter, then they are awarded an RBI, run batted in. That is an especially important statistic to keep for batters when they are put out in the progress of the play.
Many times, with no outs on the board you’ll see a player “pop up” way out in the outfield and high in the air, this is scored a SAC or sacrifice when a runner scores. They are, literally, sacrificing their own opportunity to score in order to give the other players a chance to advance. The official scorer will reward them in their overall batting average as a result and we’ll explain that in a more advanced lesson. For now, just be sure to mark it.
The majority of the time batters will not advance to the base on a ball that is hit. That’s just the statistics of the game. The way you score these outs is by referencing the numbers of the position players involved in putting the player out.
For example, the two most common putouts you’ll record will be 5-3 and 6-3. That’s because most hitting situations are right-handed batters against right-handed pitching and that leads to a lot of balls that land between the shortstop and third baseman.
If the third baseman grabs the ball and tosses it to the first baseman for the out then you record 5-3. Some people also like to use the letters PO, for put out. In this instance you simple write 5-3 in the middle of the diamond and record the out number in the bottom right corner of the scoring box.
In the case of a double play out, where you are recording the second out, then you need to add the progress of the ball. Let’s say, for example, there is a runner on first. The third baseman throws the ball to the second baseman who then throws it to first for the second out.
The out for the runner is scored with a half-line ending in a vertical line between 1st and 2nd base on their diamond and the numbers 5-4 are recorded on their base path. You will also mark their out on the bottom right side of the box in order so if it is the first out of the inning, you would put a 1 there.
In the box for the batter, you mark the middle of the diamond and include the ball’s full progression. In this case you will put 5-4-3. You then record a 2 at the bottom right corner of the box where you are keeping their outs for the inning.
At the bottom of some score sheets you’ll see tally boxes for runs and hits per inning as well as errors and LOB or left on base. This indicates how many runners were “left stranded” on the base without getting the chance to make it all the way home before the inning ended.
Some cards also include an area for you to keep pitching statistics but we’ll save that for a more advanced lesson down the line.
Now you know how to score at least 80% of the plays that will occur in any baseball game. Get your scorecard and have fun trying your hand at scoring this weekend!