Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Scoring Self-Indulgence, pt. 2: Scoring Pitches and Strikeouts

When I score a game, I almost always keep a pitch-by-pitch record of the game, unless for some reason I have to juggle watching the game with some other task, and will not have the ability to accurately record each and every pitch. Even when I set out with this as my intention, I often find myself unconsciously scoring the pitches anyway.

My system for tracking pitches only records the basics--whether it is a ball or a strike, and any of the basic subgroups contained within those two categories (intentional balls/pitchouts, swinging strikes, called strikes, fouls). Some people attempt to keep track of pitch locations or pitch types; of course, Pitchf/x has rendered this even more of a chore than it was previously, and some people (hello, nice to meet you) just aren’t good enough at observing pitch locations and distinguishing pitch types to even attempt to put in this level of effort.

The final pitch of a plate appearance is not recorded separately--it is implied by whatever event follows. For example, if a batter draws a walk, I don’t record the fourth ball independently of noting the walk. If a pitch is hit into play, you’ll see a symbol for a base hit, or a groundout, or whatever the case may be. I don’t see any reason to waste another pencil stroke on spelling this out.

The left side of the empty scorebox is used to record balls; the right side is reserved for strikes, and the very top (and on the very rare occasions when necessary, the very bottom), with much smaller letters, is where two-strike fouls are recorded. The order of pitches in indicated by letters of the alphabet--the first pitch is “A”, the second pitch “B”, and so forth.

Balls usually don’t usually need any elaboration--intentional balls/pitchouts are the only common subcategory. I do not distinguish between the two; it is usually pretty obvious which is being employed if you consider the context of the plate appearance and the pitch sequence. An intentional ball of any stripe is simply circled.

The other, much less common alteration needed to balls is the automatic ball, on the rare occasion that the umpire makes that call. The symbol for this is simply a lower case “a” in front of the usual symbol. For example “aD” would indicate an automatic ball called on what would have been the fourth pitch.

There are more modifiers needed for strikes. Called strikes receive no alteration, while a left bracket “[“ is put around the outside of a foul and a left brace “{“ is put around the outside of a swinging strike. The foul symbol is not used with two-strike fouls, since by definition they could be nothing else. Another modifier I use which can be applied to strikes of all kinds (except two-strike fouls) is circling the letter, which is used in case of a bunt attempt.
A couple of examples will hopefully make this pretty clear:

The first pitch (A) is a garden variety ball. The second pitch (B) is a called strike. The pitcher is called for a rare automatic ball (aC) before what would have been the third pitch. The fourth pitch (albeit the third actually delivered) is a foul. The fifth pitch (E) is another foul. The sixth pitch (F) is a ball, and the seventh pitch (G) another foul. Finally, the batter flies to right on the eighth pitch, for which the pitch is not explicitly noted--the occurrence of a flyout is sufficient to demonstrate its existence.

In this plate appearance, the batter shows bunt on the first pitch (A) but takes a strike. The second pitch is a standard ball (B), but the third pitch is a pitchout (C). The batter swings and misses on the fourth pitch (D), and does it again on the fifth pitch for a strikeout.

The batter attempts to bunt the first pitch, but he bunts through it for a swinging strike (A). He attempts to bunt again on the second pitch, but this time he fouls it off (B). He then takes a ball (C), fouls off a pitch (D), and eventually grounds back to the box.

There are several different possible symbols for a strikeout that actually becomes an out in my system--a swinging strikeout, a called strikeout, a strikeout where the putout is something other than catcher unassisted, a strikeout on a missed bunt (that is a swinging strikeout on a bunt), and a strikeout on a two-strike foul bunt. In these examples, I will not include the pitch sequence, since that has already been explained and it would just clutter the scorebox and distract from the out itself.

This is a standard swinging strikeout. The solid dot is my universal symbol for an out; any time the batter-runner is retired at any point, the dot will appear somewhere within his scorebox. This makes it much easier to quickly see how many outs there are in the inning, and also eliminates some potential confusion in cases in which a certain code could indicate an out or could indicate something else.

And the inscrutable backwards K for a called third strike.

Sometimes the scoring on a strikeout is something other than the standard catcher unassisted. By far the most common is the catcher throwing to first for the out (23), although there are other possible and weird ways for this to occur.

This is the symbol I use for a foul bunt with a two-strike count, resulting in a strikeout. As I’ll show later, the squiggly line is my symbol for a bunt on a ball in play, so the symbol applied to that of the strikeout has a clear meaning.

If a bunt is attempted but missed for a third strike (that is, the batter offered but did not make any contact), then the brace that indicates a swing for a non-third strike is included in the symbol above to distinguish it from the more common third strike bunted foul.


  1. Pat, why the fouls marked in the top-left corner? Why not grouped with strikes?

  2. The first couple could go with strikes on the right side of the box, but after a few I'd run out of space. I also think it makes it easier to gauge the count since the markings on the side of the box are capped at 3-2, but of course it would also suffice to realize that >2 strikes must mean 2-strike fouls.

  3. how do you score a strikeout where the batter makes it to first safely?

  4. I use a K with a subscript WP or PB as appropriate:



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