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Baseball 101: The Anatomy of Scorekeeping

6+4+3=2. The math checks out.

Baseball 101 is an ongoing series from The Good Phight’s Allie Foster that breaks down some of the multifaceted aspects of baseball for those fans who might not be as familiar with the ins and outs of the game. In this fourth edition, she explains how scorekeeping works. You can read other entries here.

When I was a really little kid, one of my favorite things about going to Phillies games was getting a scorecard and keeping track of everything that happened. Mostly I liked it because I could get a prize from guest services if I kept score through the seventh inning. My parents used it as a way to keep me interested in the game and away from the play areas, but as I got older it became something I genuinely enjoyed doing—the prize was just icing on the cake.

Keeping score can be confusing, though, especially when you’re just starting to learn. There are many different ways to keep score, and most scorers find that they have certain practices or techniques that are unique to them. The basics, however, are generally the same.

The first thing to understand is that each position has a designated number. Don’t confuse this with a jersey number, this number doesn’t change no matter who is playing the position. In the American League and most minor leagues, teams also have a designated hitter, who isn’t assigned a number and instead is simply referred to as DH.

  1. Pitcher
  2. Catcher
  3. First Base
  4. Second Base
  5. Third Base
  6. Short Stop
  7. Left Field
  8. Center Field
  9. Right Field

The number system is designed to help easily call plays, regardless of who is on the field. For example, calling “E-3” is a lot simpler than scorekeepers trying to remember who exactly is playing first base and committed the error.

In addition to the number system, scorekeeping also uses a lot of symbols and abbreviations. Here are some of the most commonly used abbreviations:

  • Single: S or a single line
  • Double: D or a double line
  • Triple: T or a triple line
  • Home Run: HR or a quadruple line
  • Walk: BB
  • Intentional Walk: IBB

[BB Stands for “base on balls”]

  • Strikeout: K
  • Called out on strikes: Ʞ

[The difference between a strikeout and being called out on strikes is if the batter swings on the third strike or not. If he swings, it’s a strikeout. If he doesn’t swing, he’s called out on strikes.]

  • Sacrifice: SH or SAC
  • Sacrifice Fly: SF
  • Passed Ball: PB
  • Wild Pitch: WP

[If you aren’t sure of the difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball, you can read about it here.]

  • Balk: BK
  • Fielder’s Choice: FC
  • Hit by Pitch: HP or HBP
  • Stolen Base: SB
  • Caught Stealing: CS
  • Double Play: DP
  • Triple Play: TP
  • Unassisted: U
  • Error: E
  • Bunt: B
  • Fly out: F
  • Line out: L
  • Pop up: P
  • Ground Out: G
  • Run(s) Batted In: RBI

Once you know these basics, scorecards become a lot easier to read, regardless of an individual scorekeeper’s techniques. No matter what else gets written down, if you see “F7” you know that the batter flied out to the left fielder, or if you see “6-4-3 DP” you know that the batter grounded into a double play that went from the short stop to the second baseman to the first baseman.

When I score, I always start with the question “What did the batter do?” This gives me the first (and sometimes only) part of what I write down: Did he walk, strike out, single, ground out, or something else?

After I answer that question, I determine if there were any defending players involved. If he popped up or flied out, who did the ball go to? If he grounded out, were multiple players involved? The last thing I ask is if the batter had any affect on another base runner. Did his fly ball to center field allow a runner on third to score? Did the fielder choose to get him out at first base, allowing a runner to advance from second to third? Did the batter’s double advance a runner or score a run? Answering these questions will give you what you need to write down.

Like I said earlier, every scorer has their own techniques and methods for how they write all this information down on the score sheet. Personally, I like to draw the diamond when a player gets on base. For example, if Odubel Herrera hits a double I like to draw a line from home, through first, to second and end the line with a dot. If someone advances him to third, I’ll draw a line from second to third and end with an open circle and if he scores, I’ll complete the diamond.

I’ll put a D in the center of the diamond to indicate he hit a double, and I’ll mark the RBI down for the player who hit him in. If a player goes from first to third on a hit, I’ll draw the line through second and put the open circle at third. I also don’t use G for ground outs; I assume that if there’s just a number (or two), that’s what it is. I’ve included an example below of how I would have kept score of the Phillies’ opening night game against the Atlanta Braves.

Some people will keep track of pitch counts by including balls and strikes for each batter, or use different symbols to signify different outcomes of the at bat. In the end, what you write down and how you write it is completely up to you. There’s no wrong way to keep score, especially if you’re just doing it for your own records or entertainment. Some techniques are more common than others, but part of the beauty of keeping score of a baseball game is finding what you like to do.

Score card