Keeping Score 101

Figure 1 — A numbered diagram to help you remember which positions carry which number designations.

Fans of baseball have always had a hunger for a codified method of evaluating a player’s performance on the field, making scorekeeping a necessity. Scorekeeping is the backbone from which all baseball stats, from simple counting stats to complex sabremetrics, are born. Many methods to keeping score have evolved over the life of the sport, but there are some universal elements that a new scorekeeper can keep in mind.

The foundation to keeping score on a scorecard is being familiar with the shorthand used by scorekeepers. Players are designed by a numbering system, not abbreviations like “SS” for shortstop or “1B” for first basemen. This is to prevent confusion with other common abbreviations, like calling a single a “1B”. Figure 1 shows an illustration of the numbering system to help you remember which positions have which number designation. Many people are confused by the shortstop being labeled as 6, breaking up the counterclockwise numbering system of the infield. It is unknown how the habit of labeling the shortstop this was developed, but some have argued that shortstops were considered an evolution of a short fielder, and thus not a real member of the infield.

Figure 1 — A numbered diagram to help you remember which positions carry which number designations.

After the position numbers are memorized, it is crucial to learn the abbreviations for the plays that happen on the baseball field. Figure 2 is a chart containing the most common abbreviations used in scorekeeping. There is shorthand for hitting, defensive and baserunning plays, and some habits, such as using an exclamation point to note an exceptional defensive play have made there way into the scorekeeping vocabulary. You can peruse the Eephus League scorekeeping section to see a variety of plays and outcomes illustrated in scorecard form. Once you have become familiar with the shorthand used in scorekeeping, you can familiarize yourself with the scorecard itself.

Scorecard Overview

Figure 1 — A numbered diagram to help you remember which positions carry which number designations.

Scorecard designs vary as much as the shorthand systems used to note what goes on the in the of play. For this example, we will use the simple design that the Eephus League scorecard uses. Figure 3 is an overview of the basic scorecard. The first column (Labeled “1″ in the image) is for listing the numerical position of each player in the 9 man lineup, and the second is for their name. The following 10 columns are for the 9 innings of a game, plus an extra for the instances when a game goes to extra innings. The columns at the end of the card are for player by player game total tallies for things for at bats, hits and walks. Scorecards will also have columns for tallying pitching stats as well as the inning by inning numbers.

On the scorecard grid, there is a square for every player in every inning. When the game starts, you’ll start with the top left square, and as the inning goes on, you will move vertically down the column until there are three outs, and the inning ends for that team. Many scorekeepers will put a diagonal slash in the lower right corner of the last batter in an inning to indicate that was the last out. Then you will flip the scorebook over and score the bottom half on the inning.

Filling in the Diamonds

Figure 1 — A numbered diagram to help you remember which positions carry which number designations.

When keeping score, there is a box with a diamond inside that allows you to mark the undertakings of each player in the lineup each inning. If a player reaches a base, a line is drawn along the perimeter of the diamond to the last base he reached. If he touches all four bases and scores, the diamond is often filled in. Figure 4 illustrates several different plays and how they would be noted on a scorecard. Many scorekeepers like to draw an arrow to the part of the field a base hit was struck to. You could also designate this information using shorthand, by noting the portion of the field the ball landed in in the upper left corner. A double to left field would be noted “2B-7”.

If a ballplayer does not reach base, the method in which he created an out is noted as well. A strikeout is noted by a “K”, and fly outs are designated by an “F”, then the position of the player who caught the ball. A fly out to center field would be noted as an “F8”. Ground outs are noted in order of the players who touched the ball. For example, in a ground out to third base, the third baseman fields the ball, then throws to the first baseman for the force out. This would be written as “5-3”. Plays that create multiple outs can also be designated this way, such as a “6-4-3” double play, which is fielded by the shortstop, tossed to the second baseman for the force at second, then thrown to the first baseman for the second force out.

Figure 1 — A numbered diagram to help you remember which positions carry which number designations.

“The world is divided into two kinds of baseball fans: those who keep score at the ballgame... and those who have never made the leap.”

Paul Dickson

When the third out is made, a diagonal slash is place at the bottom right corner to aid in reading the scorecard after the game. Figure 5 is an example of the actions of the first 5 players in the lineup over all nine innings. As you can see, a completed scorecard is a visually rich document and can very very illustrative and informative.

One of the best things about scorekeeping is developing your own system of notation, so don’t feel like you have to score the same way shown here. You will find a list of commonly used scorekeeping abbreviations on the previous page. You can combine these outcome abbreviations with the position numbers to record any event on the field.

Most scorecards have space for fans to tally up the hit and run totals by inning and the final score, as well as columns for common pitching stats, such as batters faced or strikeouts. The Eephus League scorebook also allows fans to note the date, ballpark and home and away teams. Scorekeeping can be a very fulfilling experience and is an excellent way to learn more about the game of baseball and study the habits of the players on your favorite team. With a well kept scorecard, you can know which players have a penchant for striking out or which tend to pull the ball. A scorecard is a treasure trove of information just begging to be analyzed, so do yourself a favor and pick up a scorebook and start keeping score!