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Learning How to Keep Score in Baseball

August 5, 2013

Keeping score of a baseball game is a great way to stay involved in the game.  It makes you pay attention to details that sometimes go unnoticed.  If you are scoring for a youth team that you are coaching, you can spot tendencies and see who has done what earlier in the game.


The score sheet may look intimidating at first.  

They usually consist of 9 or more rows with the following items: a box where a player’s name, number, and position are recorded; 9 diamonds (1 for each inning); and a box for a batters totals.  The box for a player’s information usually has enough room for 2 or 3 players, which allows for substitutions throughout the game.


The diamond is a square that is turned on to one corner.


The corners represent the bases and are used to record how far a batter goes.  For every base that the batter reaches, a line is drawn on the diamond.  For instance, if a batter hits a double, the line between home plate and first base as well as the line between first base and second base will be darkened.


In order to keep track of the defense, numbers are used to identify the different positions.  This makes it easier to describe what happens on the field in such a small box.  The positions are numbered as follows:

1 – Pitcher
2 – Catcher
3 – First Base
4 – Second Base
5 – Third Base
6 – Shortstop
7 – Left Field
8 – Center Field
9 – Right Field
10 – Short Field (softball)

Most score books will have have a visual reference to these numbers.  If not, it may help you at first to write it down and have it handy.  After scoring just a couple of games it will become second nature.



Each row on the score card represents a position in the batting order.  Most baseball games have 9 batters in the lineup.  There are softball leagues and youth leagues that have more than 9 batters, so there are score books that accommodate that.  The players should be entered in to the score book according to the batting order.


When a batter gets a hit, it needs to be recorded on the score card.  The hit is usually recorded in the middle of the diamond with the following abbreviations: 1B for a single, 2B for a double, 3B for a triple, and HR for a home run.

To keep track of where the runners are, the lines of the diamond are darkened.  So if a hitter gets a double, a 2B is written above and to the right of the diamond and the line between home and first and the line between first and second are darkened.


If the next hitter gets a single and the runner on second advances to third, the line between second and third is darkened, as well as the line between home and first for the hitter.



When a runner scores, all of the lines of the diamond are darkened.  Additionally, to provide more clarity, the box is usually filled in to make it more obvious that the runner scored.  This will make it easier to count them at the end of the inning.



Sometimes a batter will reach base or a runner will advance because of a fielder’s error.  If the error is the reason that the batter reached base, it will be recorded where a base hit would normally be recorded.  There will be a notice on the scoreboard or an announcement about the official scoring of a play.  For instance, if the batter hits the ball to the second baseman, and the second baseman bobbles the ball allowing the hitter to reach safely, there will be an official indication that there was an error by the second baseman.  On the scorecard, it would be recorded as E-4, which is error by position 4, the second baseman.


If a runner advances because of an error, then the error is marked between the bases that the runner would have been without the error and the base that the runner advanced to.  So if a batter hits the ball to right field for a single, and then the right fielder mishandles the ball allowing the runner to advance to second, the single would be recorded with a 1B and there would be an E-9 by the base path between first and second.



Most outs will use the number of the fielder(s) making the out.  For instance, if a batter hits a ground ball to the third baseman who then throws to first base for the out, it will be recorded as 5-3.


A fly ball that is caught by the center fielder can either be marked as 8 or F8.


Other common outs include pop-ups (P) and line outs (L).  Fly balls, pop-ups, and line outs can use their letters and the position number or just the position number.  The difference is the amount of detail that is recorded.

Strikeouts are marked with a K.  Some scorers will differentiate whether or not the batter swings at strike 3 by using a backwards K if the batter did not swing.


If a runner is thrown out, the line between the bases is drawn half way, and a small perpendicular line ends it.  Then the fielders responsible are marked next to that line.  For instance, if there is a runner on first and the batter hits the ball to right field and the right fielder throws the runner out at third, the line from first to second on the runner’s diamond would be filled in.  Then the line between second and third would be darkened half way with a perpendicular line ending it.  Finally, 9-5 would be written next to that line, signifying that the right fielder (9) threw the runner out at third and that the third baseman (5) was the one who made the tag.


Had the shortstop made the tag for some reason, it would read 9-6.

The other important item to put on the score card regarding outs is which out it was.  This can be done by writing it down below and to the right of the diamond and circling it.  For instance, if the first batter of the inning grounds out to the second baseman, 4-3 would be written in the diamond and then a 1 with a circle around it would be written to the right and below the diamond.

4-3 1 out


When a batter causes a run to score, they are credited with a run batted in (RBI).  This can happen by getting a hit that allows a run to score, hitting a home run, or getting a walk with the bases loaded.  This is usually marked along the first base line.



When a player comes in to the game as a substitute, they are put in the score book according to the batting order slot that they will occupy.  Their name should go on one of the lines below the player that they are replacing.  Also, there should be a mark that signifies when the sub came in to the game.  Some people put a line on the right side of the box representing the last inning before the sub came in.  Others put the inning number that the sub came in next to their name.  The important thing is that it is clear when the sub comes in.



There are two places where totals are added up, at the bottom and on the right.  On the bottom, batting statistics for each inning are added up.  Common statistics found here are runs, hits, errors, and how many runners are left on base.


On the right side, batting statistics for each hitter are added up at the end of the game.  These stats usually include at bats, hits, runs, and runs batted in.  There should be 2 or 3 lines for each spot in the batting order to allow for adding up the stats for the subs.



These are the basics of keeping score in a baseball game.  There are more things to keep track of, like stolen bases, wild pitches, the number of pitches, balls and strikes, and more.  But the basics should give you a good start.  The most important thing is to be able to tell what happened by looking at the score book.

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