Monday, June 28, 2010

Keeping Score With L.L. Bean

In The Joy of Keeping Score, Paul Dickson describes a number of novel scorekeeping systems that have been developed over the years. One, to which he gives particular attention because of the notoriety of the developer, is a system devised by L.L. Bean, and published in 1954 in a scorebook billed as "L.L. Bean's Simplified Baseball Scoring".

Unfortunately, all that I know about this system is taken from Dickson's book. It's hard to track down a copy of a scorebook from 1954--it's not the kind of book that is usually available from libraries, and while I'm sure one pops up on EBay from time-to-time, my interest is not up to the hassle and resources that would be required to acquire one. In any event, Dickson describes enough of Bean's system (including reprinting one of Bean's example games) to implement at least a crude approximation of it.

Bean was right; his system is simple. It doesn't allow for tracking the process of runners around the bases and in some cases it doesn't identify the specific fielders involved in recording an out, or even making an error. A walk is simply "W", an error "E". A hit is a line with a dot on the end in the direction of the hit, and numbers (2, 3, 4) to indicate the number of bases it was worth. This is the only place where numbers appear in the scoring.

The main symbol for an out is a circle. Groundouts are marked with a line in the direction of the baseman who made the play. A groundout to third thus has a line drawn from the center of the circle to a west compass direction. A groundout to first is the opposite; groundouts to the middle infielders have lines that intersect the circle near the top.

Flyouts are indicated by solid dots around the circle, so a fly to center is marked with a dot above the circle, centered. Flies to left and right have dots off to the side, while a popup to pitcher would have a dot directly in the center of the circle. The boundaries of the circle sort of represent the boundaries of the infield.

That covers most outs; strikeouts are marked with a small, unfilled dot in the center of the circle, while double plays just have a capital "D" in the center of the circle.

The cover of Bean's scorebook brags that it is "especially adapted for night scoring". This is a wonderful anachronism; apparently in the early days of night baseball, L.L. Bean felt that the light was not bright enough to take down detailed notes on a game. I wonder if this was a personal idiosyncrasy, or a common complaint of 1950s baseball fans.

Bean's system really doesn't do much for me, personally, but scorekeeping is an intensely personal pursuit, and it might be something that interests others. It's a visual system, and a pretty decent one at that; the little pictures with circles, lines, and dots that you draw for outs do a pretty good job of representing the play. The sheet is not cluttered with all manner of numbers and letters as a Project Scoresheet scoresheet or a detailed traditional scoresheet will be.

On the other hand, it just leaves out to many details for my taste, even to use on occasion as a lark. I can't bring myself to just ignore whether a groundout to first was unassisted or whether it was a 3-1. I can't just mark down a double play without noting whether it was 363, 543, or unassisted by the first baseman on a line drive, and I can't go without noting how runners advance around the bases.

So I worked up a compromise system, using Bean's symbols, and used it to score a spring training game between Boston and Minnesota (I've actually been using it on rare occasions for a couple years now, but this is the game I scored to serve as the example here). I marked the number of bases on a hit as I normally do, by using the appropriate number of dashes (one for a single, three for a triple, etc.), but in order to avoid letters or numbers I marked the location of the hit with a solid dot. If the dot is on the left side of the dash, the hit was to left; on the right side, to right. If the dot was on the dash, it was a line drive; below the line for a groundball and above the line for a flyball. For extra base hits, the line drive dot is worked in between the lines--there's no reason to draw the dot over a line when you already have multiple lines. Infield singles are marked by a "+" with a dot in one of the quadrants formed indicating the direction the ball was hit (lower right = first base, upper right = second base, upper left = shortstop, lower left = third base, bottom = catcher, middle = pitcher).

I marked outfield and middle infield foulouts with a "`" mark and line drive outs with a dash rather than a solid dot. Infield foulouts to catcher, first, and third are marked by drawing the appropriate solid dot on the outside of the circle rather than on the border of the circle. Any sort of out made on the bases was so indicated, but circled so that the circle stands as the universal symbol of an out throughout the scoresheet.

I stuck with K and backwards K for strikeouts, but written within the universal out circle. For groundouts with unusual or unimplied putout/assist strings (like 31 or 41), I marked them as one would mark a normal groundout to the initiating fielder, then put the numerical clarification inside the circle. If a sacrifice was credited on a play, I also noted this inside the circle.

Here is the sheet, and the written description for each plate appearance for each lineup slot which can serve as a key:

BOS #1: fly to left, strikeout swinging, infield single to first, fly to right, strikeout swinging
BOS #2: strikeout swinging, flyball single to center, groundball single to left, fly to center
BOS #3: fly to right, groundball single to left, line drive single to left, flyball double to right
BOS #4: strikeout swinging, popup to short, 363 double play, groundout to first (unassisted)
BOS #5: groundout to short, line drive double to right, flyball single to left, groundout to short
BOS #6: fly to right, fly to left, fly to center, strikeout looking
BOS #7: strikeout swinging, hit batter, foul pop to short, strikeout swinging
BOS #8: line drive to short, fielding error by shortstop, strikeout swinging, grounder to short
BOS #9: strikeout swinging (completed 23), walk, flyball single to center, infield single to second

MIN #1: walk, groundout to short, walk, groundout to short, strikeout swinging
MIN #2: flyball double to right, fly to right, 163 double play, fly to center, fly to right
MIN #3: walk, fly to right, walk, fly to left, groundout to first (unassisted)
MIN #4: fly to center, walk, walk, fly to center
MIN #5: line drive double to left, flyball single to right, sacrifice fly to left, groundout to short
MIN #6: line drive to third, groundout to second, walk, fly to left
MIN #7: foul pop to catcher, flyball single to right, strikeout swinging, fly to center
MIN #8: strikeout looking, pop to short, strikeout swinging, fly to center
MIN #9: fly to right, walk, foul pop to first, fly to center

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