03 July 2009

How To Score A Baseball Game

In Two Easy Steps....
Okay, maybe more than just TWO steps. Because of my little hobby, I've been asked a few times what I mean by "scoring" a baseball game, and how it's done. Most people that regularly go to the ballpark probably know you can buy a program and you get a complementary scorecard filled with a grid of boxes that you're supposed to write on, but how many of you actually know HOW to keep score? Well, if you've ever been interested, see below!
Typically, I've found two main types of scorecards: cards for the casual fan, and cards for statisticians. The scorecard you get at the ballpark is a casual one. Places for players' names, numbers, and boxes to fill in what happens at that person's at-bat. This is a pretty typical scorecard you might find at a ballpark. The spaces on the far left are for names/numbers of players, the white boxes in the center are for plays during the game, and the right side is reserved for statistics (how many hits each player had, RBI, walks, etc.):

My scorecards are a bit more complicated, because I like to keep track of each pitch during the game, not just the end results of an at-bat. Here's a scan of my scorecard from 4/14/2009, the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. First, the away team (Cardinals):Then the Diamondbacks:At the top of each page is the score and number of innings (you'll notice that this game was won by the Diamondbacks 6-7 in ten innings) and the stadium in which the game was played (Chase Field). Below that are the gameday conditions: home team/visiting team, date, my name, start time of game, end time, time played, attendance, wind and weather. These don't really affect anything, but they're nice reminders of what it was like that day. This game was GORGEOUS at 85 degrees and overcast with a nice strong 15mph breeze coming from the west. And it was a typical game, attended by about the average 25,000 people.

At the bottom of the page there's a "SUMS" table, which shows the inning-by-inning accumulation of runs, hits, errors, and men left on base (LOB). For example, in the Diamondbacks' half of the 5th inning, they scored 2 runs, collected one hit, the opposing team made two errors, and the DBacks left one man on base. The last column in that grid is the accumulation of hits, runs, errors, and LOB for the whole game. The Cardinals scored 6 runs on 11 hits, the DBacks made no errors against them, and the Cards stranded 9 on base.

Below this, there are the stats for the game's pitchers. The pitcher's name goes in the first column, followed by spaces for whether he won/lost/held/saved the game, how many innings he pitched, hits allowed, runs allowed, earned runs allowed (a technical term for runs allowed that didn't happen because of errors), walks (bb = base on balls), strikeouts, hit batters, balks, wild pitches thrown, and total batters faced. In this game, Max Scherzer (of Arizona) pitched 5 innings, gave up 3 runs (all earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks, struck out one, and faced 22 batters.

Below that, there's spaces for catchers' statistics (passed balls, of which there are almost never any), and for the names of the four umpires for the game.

The middle of the scorecard's where it's all at. The first columns allow spaces for batters' numbers, their names, and their fielding positions. Each position on the field is given a number: 1 = pitcher, 2 = catcher, 3 = 1st baseman, 4 = 2nd baseman, 5 = 3rd baseman, 6 = shortstop, and 7/8/9 = left/center/right fielder respectively. The squares in the center serve to show how each of these nine players fared in each at-bat of the game. There are other symbols too, but the main ones when scoring a game are F#, #-#, L#, P#, and K or a backwards K.

F# means that the batter hit a ball to one of the outfielders who caught it in the air before it hit the ground, expressed as "flyout to the centerfielder" (or right fielder, or left fielder). Both L# and P# mean that the ball was hit to an infielder who caught it in the air before it hit the ground. L for lineout (a very sharply hit ball the went directly to the infielder) and P for pop-up (a softly hit ball or one that went straight up in the air before coming back down into the infield).

#-# means that two (or more) infielders were part of a play resulting in an out (or outs). When you hear an announcer mention a "6-4-3 double play" what he means is that the shortstop (position 6, remember) got the ball on the ground, threw it to the second baseman (#4) who got a runner from first base out, then threw the ball to the first baseman (#3) who got the batter who was running from home out. Rarely, a runner will get in what is known as a "rundown" where the fielders have "trapped" him between two bases. In these cases, you could have a single play that looks like this: 2-5-2-6-1-7-2. That would mean that the catcher fielded the ball, threw it to the 3rd baseman, who threw it back to the catcher, who threw it to the shortstop who was covering third base, who threw it to the pitcher covering home plate, who threw it back to the left fielder covering third base, who threw it back to the catcher covering home plate who finally (FINALLY!) tagged the runner out. The runner, meanwhile, is just doing wind sprints back and forth between 3rd base and home, trying not to get tagged! Confused yet?

Other important things to learn would be how to score hits, walks, and errors. The little diamond in the center of each square box is a representation of the base path. The right corner of the diamond represents 1st base, the top corner represents 2nd base, and so on. When someone hits a single, you draw a line between "home plate" and "first base" and write "1B" (meaning "single") next to it. A double would have "2B", and a home run would have "HR." On my scorecard, Conor Jackson (#34, pinch hitter - PH as a fielding position) hit a home run in the 8th inning. The dot in the center of his box means that he touched all four bases safely during his time as a batter and runner, and scored one run for the team. The three small dots in the upper right corner of his box mean that he got 3 RBI - Runs Batted In - because of his home run. Essentially, during his time at bat, three runs scored, including him because of the home run. Also, notice how when Jackson hit his homer, I filled in the lines around the diamond for all the other players who scored on the play, and I put the little number 34 between third and home for them? That tells me which player moved that runner to home.

Walks and errors are similarly easy: on a walk, instead of "1B" you write "BB" for bsae on balls - the batter was given first base because he got four balls from the pitcher while at bat. On error, you would write E#, the number being the position number of the player who committed the error (shortstop, 3rd base, and 2nd base generally have the most errors). Sometimes, a player will bat and hit a ground ball which would have put him out, but the defense throws the ball to put out a different runner instead, and the batter reaches first base safely. This is called a "fielder's choice" play, represented by FC on the scorecard. It's not a hit, statistics-wise, and it's not an out. It just means that the fielder who initially got the batted ball decided to get a runner who was closer to scoring a run out instead of the batter. It was the fielder's choice... get it?

Aside from that, ignore most of my other weird markings until you've gotten some practice. They're things that are either uninportant and just quirks I like to do on my scorecards or they're for rarer plays which you won't see every game. Good luck trying it out, and don't get discouraged if you make your own errors... I know I have to scribble out something every game I watch still! (Notice the scribbles on the final score of the game on the DBacks side of the scorecard? Um yeah....)

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