Sunday, April 22, 2007

Keeping Score

With another season underway, it’s time to resume my favorite baseball-related activity: scorekeeping. I have written about scoring before here, but it is one of my favorite non-technical baseball subjects (although it is still in the pocket protector area of interests, I guess), and so I may revisit it occasionally.

Scorekeeping is an intensely personal art--everybody has their own style, their own system, their own scoresheet, and oftentimes what one person finds normal and preferable is seen by another as bizarre and unwieldy. I could go on and on about critiquing others’ scoring methods, and I may some time, but it always must be with the caveat that those critiques would be solely opinion. There is no right or wrong way to keep score, as long as you accurately record the events of the game.

Anyway, since scorekeeping is a personal thing, I suppose I should give some personal background on it. I was always a nerdy kid--heck, when I was six or seven I made index cards with facts about the planets and their moons (stuff like distance from the sun, mass, etc.). I probably didn’t understand half of it but it gives you the idea that when baseball caught my fancy, it was a natural progression to become involved in statistics and scorekeeping. My dad taught me how to score so that I could do his team’s softball games when I was nine. Shortly after that I started scoring big league games--I remember scoring one of the games of the World Series in 1995, maybe Game Six, only to see my Indians lose the game. I erased all of the markings on the scoresheet (I never score in anything but pencil), but history shows that the result of the game still stands nonetheless.

At that time I was using blanks from the softball scorebook, which were fairly standard sporting goods fare with diamonds in blue ink. However, in spring training of 1996, not wanting to use up all of the pages of the scorebook, and not having immediate access to a copier, I began keeping score on looseleaf pages of notebook paper, which I kept in a three-ring binder, drawing a diamond each time a batter came up and writing the name of the pitcher and hitter for every plate appearance. It was also around this time that I got a baseball book for kids out of the library which had a section on how to keep score; I have no idea what the name of the book was, but I did adopt at least some of the system. The main thing, that I still use to this day, was the use of a horizontal line for a single (-, although a little longer), two for a double (=), three for a triple, and four for a homer.

For my birthday that year I got a couple of brand new scorebooks. I used one of them to score four Indians games in April and May, but I apparently stopped and went back to the copies for reasons I don’t recall. It wasn’t until 1997 that I began scoring in earnest again, this time with a green ink diamond scorebook (“What’s the Score” brand), a book that I still use when I am willing to put up with the diamond and wanting to take a book to a ballgame instead of a loose sheet on a clipboard. “What’s the Score” is better then many of the other sporting goods fare scorebooks because they don’t have too much crap cluttering the scoreboxes. I absolutely cannot stand the multiple choice options for reaching base (S, D, T, HR, W printed down the side of the box), or scoreboxes with the fielding position numbers (1, 2, 3, …, 9) superimposed over the diamond as if I’m too stupid to remember them from play to play.

Anyway, I scored 24 games in that book, plus some others on a sheet I made myself in a text editor on the computer (it was DOS Brief I do believe). That was an ill-fated attempt at applying some of the Project Scoresheet ideas, namely not having a scorebox for every batter in every inning and being able to quickly account for substitutes through use of the numbered boxes. Luckily I did not fall into using the PS system, despite the fact that at the time I was reading a lot of Bill James and he was an advocate of that system. The PS claims to eliminate much “backtracking”, and in some ways it does, but it introduces even bigger problems IMO. More on that some other time.

Over the winter of 1998 I worked out a new design in Brief, which with more then a few modifications I still use as my primary scorecard. I often come up with new designs, that I make into fruition with Excel or Photoshop, but I’ve never re-invented the scorecard wheel, or even tried to. Most of my new ideas are just different incarnations of the same old same old.

Anyway, that’s my personal scorekeeping background, as if you cared.


  1. Are the bigger problesm you refer to is that now you can't tell if Tim Raines scored or not, or even if he was erased on a force, and someone else scored, etc?

  2. The new post expounds on what I was getting at, but you've got the right idea. It's a pain in the butt to try to keep track of the current location and identities of baserunners.


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