Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scoring Self-Indulgence, pt. 7: Field Locations and Ball Trajectories

When the ball is put into play, I track its location using a set of field location codes. What I use is not nearly as intricate as the system developed by Project Scoresheet and used or altered by STATS and subsequent data compilers. The entire exercise is inherently subject to error, and it is next to impossible to make accurate determinations about whether balls are hit within the borders of zones when it close. And one’s perspective can certainly skew judgment even in cases where the location or trajectory appear to be clear. Still, I find it a useful thing to record, recognizing the biases inherent and the particular fallibility of my judgment.

For the infield, I do not break the zones up at all. Everything on the infield is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, corresponding to the fielder closest to the play (although often in practice this winds up being the fielder that makes or attempts to make the play, regardless of where the ball was actually hit). I do use combinations for balls that are truly in between--64 would be a ball right up the middle, perhaps a bit to the left of second base, while 46 would be just to the right of second base; 13, 15, 23 and 25 (or the reverse) are often helpful for bunts that are in between the area of responsibility for the two positions. Other than that, the location codes stay simple.

If the ball is hit where you’d expect it to be hit given the outcome of the play as seen on the scoresheet, I make no redundant location note. A “63” does not need a note explaining that the ball was hit in the vicinity of the shortstop unless something out of the ordinary happened. If there is something that needs to be noted, I tack the location on as a subscript.

Suppose for instance that there is a popup on the pitcher’s mound; generally, the pitcher will move out of the way and let a real infielder take it. If it is the third baseman, the scoring would look like this:

In the outfield, I use divide things up more extensively. In terms of depth, there is “S” for shallow, “D” for deep and “W” for warning track/wall. Medium depth is the default if none of the other options is listed, but could be indicated by “M” if one was so inclined.

From left to right, I have 7l (left field line; written with a cursive “l”, which makes it much easier to distinguish on the scoresheet), 7 (left), 78 (left-center), 87 (center-left), 8 (center), 89 (center-right), 98 (right-center), 9 (right), and 9l (right field line, again with the cursive). This diagram is poorly drawn, but should give you the gist of it:

The difference between center-right(left) and right-center is razor thin to begin with, and I’m positive that I’m biased by the identity of the fielder who makes the play. That is, I’m much more likely to record the location of a ball as “89” if the center fielder makes the play; if the right fielder makes the play, it’s more likely to go down as “98”.

Let me offer a few examples of flyouts scored using this system, which hopefully will be sufficient for anyone who actually cares (and I know full well that no one does) to understand. A flyball caught by the centerfielder in medium deep center would simply be “8”. But suppose he made the play in shallow center:

A catch made by the right fielder on the warning track along the right field line would be:

A catch made in deep center-left by the left fielder:

A foul fly caught by the left fielder in deep left:

Hopefully, those examples are sufficient to allow one to figure out the many possible combinations themselves. The other element that needs to be added before completing the scoring of hits is the ball trajectory. The biases here are even worse than those for hit location, but as long as you remember it’s just one observation from a particular vantage point, I don’t see what the harm is in taking a stab at this on your scoresheet.

For hits, I combine the location code with a trajectory code. The basic trajectory categories are: bunt (seen earlier with outs), chop (seen earlier, and only used on infield hits), flyball, groundball, and line drive. An infield hit is always assumed to be a groundball unless otherwise noted; an outfield hit is always assumed to be a flyball unless otherwise noted. Using default trajectory types helps to remove some of the clutter that otherwise would be present on the sheet.

The trajectory for a hit is generally noted above or below the field location of the hit. The symbol for a bunt is a squiggly line below; for a chop, a “v” shape below; for a flyball, an arch above; for a groundball, a straight line below; and for a line drive, a straight line above. This is best shown through some examples. First, examples of infield hits, where a groundball is assumed unless otherwise noted. Thus, the following play is a groundball single to the first baseman:

The next example is single on a ball chopped to third base. I use the chop symbol sparingly; if a ball is a tweener between a chop and a grounder, I go with the latter description:

This is a bunt single right in front of the plate to the catcher:

This is a line drive hit to the pitcher; picture the pitcher knocking the ball down but having no play (it’s better than picturing Herb Score or Willie Blair):

A flyball infield hit (remember, I do not distinguish between a flyball and a popup) can happen when the ball drops between fielders and no error is assigned; this one drops on the pitchers’ mound:

Scoring outfield hits is a little more involved because there is a wider variety of locations and a greater diversity of trajectories. Again, if there is no trajectory included for an outfield hit, it is assumed to be a flyball, so this is a flyball single to medium left, along/near the line:

Here is a flyball single to shallow center-right:

There is no need to use any depth modifiers for groundball hits to the outfield. This one is a classic grounder right up the middle:

A line drive single to left-center:

A flyball double to the warning track or wall down the left field line:

A line drive double to deep center:

A flyball triple to deep right-center:

I usually don’t use any trajectory codes on home runs--they are generally considered to be flyballs, but some real laser beams get a line drive tag. This one is hit down the right field line:

Of course, inside-the-park home runs provide more fodder for location codes. A flyball off the wall in deep center-left that ends up a homer:


  1. Great post. I love seeing different scoring methods. I don't score every game I watch but I usually do on the weekends. I use more of a project scoresheet approach but usually don't put hit locations, just who fielded it.

    Do you have any plans to start posting on Weekly Scoresheet again? Keep up the great work.

  2. I will eventually post on Weekly Scoresheet again; I've stopped simply because my scanner broke, and I really wasn't using it for anything other than scanning scoresheets, leaving me without any motivation to replace it. I could scan some at work but that would be a hassle, so for now it's dormant. Eventually the printer will break and I'll have to get a new one.

    In the mean time, if anyone would like to have a sample of their scorecard posted on Weekly Scoresheet, they can feel free to email me.


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