Learn to Keep Score at a Baseball Game

You’ve all seen attendees at a baseball game jotting furiously in their scorebooks, eager to mark down every ball, every strike, and every putout. To the casual observer, a scorebook looks like a lot of numbers and random letters, but as a fan of baseball, I think it is a vital component of understanding the game.

Basic Terminology

First off, we need to understand some of the basic terminology used when keeping score. You should first understand how to accurately label all the positions on the field. The defensive players are numbered 1-9 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

Score is kept on a per-batter basis. When a batter steps up to the plate, a new record must be created. All plays that happen during those players at bat are recorded in the “square” of that player. You will need to keep track of statistics separately for each batter and each inning.

Recording an Out

Next you need to know how to record an out because that happens a lot more than hits or walks. An out is recorded in two stages. First, you need to identify whether the putout was made by a catch, tag, force, or strikeout. Catches are usually indicated in one of three ways, Popup (P), Fly out (F), or lineout (L). For example, if a batter lined out to second base, you would mark their at bat with an (L-4). If they popped out to the catcher, you would mark down a (P-2).

Strikeouts are indicated with a K (or a backwards K). The forward facing K indicates that the batter swung and missed at strike three, a backwards K indicates that the batter was called out by looking at strike three.

Tags and force outs are recorded in the same way. The numbers are written down in the order of the players who touch the ball. So a score mark of 6-3 indicates that the batter grounded out to shortstop and was forced out at first base. A double play would be written down in the order that the players touched the ball. A 4-6-3 is a ground ball to second base, throw to the shortstop, and then to the first baseman.

Reaching Base Safely

Before we learn how to mark down tag-outs, lets first learn how to signal that a batter reached base safely. There are a few ways to reach base including a hit by pitch (HBP), walk (BB), single (1B), Double (2B), Triple (3B), Home Run (HR), or Error (E). Depending on the level of detail you wish to keep in your book, you can mark down where the hits landed (i.e. 1B to left), or you can simply indicate that a hit was achieved. For each base that is safely reached, the line of the base path is darkened. When a run is scored, the entire box should be shaded in.

If the runner reached base as a result of an error, you would indicate which player made the error. For example, if the first baseman let the ball bounce off their glove and allowed the base runner to reach safely, you would indicate that the batter reached base on an E-3.

Special Circumstances

A tag out is indicated in the same way. If a batter singles to left and is thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, the play would be marked down as 7-4. The batter would still get credit for a single, but instead of darkening his line all the way to second base, you would stop it between first and second and indicate that the left fielder threw him out at second.

There is a lot that one could keep track of during the course of a baseball game, but hopefully these basics can get you started on accurately keeping a baseball scorebook. As you get more experience, you can come up with your own twists and easy ways to keep track of the game’s events. Eventually you will be able to look at a baseball scorebook and know exactly what happened during the course of the game. You can visualize every hit, every strikeout and every putout – just like you were there.

This is just a basic set of guidelines for beginners. Later on in the year, once you all get more comfortable keeping stats, I will provide a more in depth guide for keeping score and how to analyze the statistics to stay ahead of your opponents.

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.