Baseball Scoresheets

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Philosophy of Scoring

This page will discuss my philosophy of scoring and hopefully that will provide some insights into why I use the type of scoresheet that I do and why I like certain designs and dislike others.

First of all, the reason I keep score is primarily because it keeps my mind engaged on the baseball game. My mind tends to wander all over the place, but scorekeeping helps keep the focus where it needs to be. Well, at least it used to. It is kind of a catch-22, but by scoring every game I watch, listen to, or attend in order to pay attention, scoring has kind of become second nature and I can actually keep score without really paying attention to the game. I have been keeping score off the radio before and had somebody ask me the score and the inning and such, and been frozen for a few seconds as I scramble to read it off of the scorecard. The only thing that I tend to miss is substitutions. But I can get all of the game action without paying close attention.

Anyway, in addition to keeping my focus, I also keep score so that I can have a permanent record/memento of the game, and so that while the game is in process I can get all the information I want to know. As time has gone on, broadcasters and scoreboards have gotten better at giving more information, things like pitch counts, where in the past you were on your own if you wanted to know that information. However, they may not give it to you when you want it or in the format that you want it, so like anything, if you want it done right, do it yourself.

Then there is the question of what I am looking for in a scoresheet design. I like to have both teams on one piece of paper so that I can see the entire game at once. I also like the traditional 9x9 grid even though this does waste a whole lot of space as numerous critics have said. But if you learned how to score using it, it is tough to break away. Also, the 9x9 format allows you to see each inning as a self contained unit much more clearly then an alternative format like Project Scoresheet.

Now a word on Project Scoresheet. I don't like the method, despite its being endorsed by many sabermetric icons including Bill James and invented by Craig Wright. I don't doubt that the method is the best for entering games into the computer, because it maintains a true sequence of events. But if you are not inputting things into the computer, you have to do a heck of a lot of backtracking in order to keep up with what is going on.

I guess I should include a quick description of the Project Scoresheet system so those who aren't familiar with have some clue what I'm talking about (visit David Cortesi's site from my links page for a complete description of the method).

There are 54 scoreboxes, which works out as six for each batter(easily enough for most 9 inning games and contrasted with 81 boxes in the 9x9 grid). Each box is divided into three parts horizontally. In the first part, you are supposed to record events that happen before the catalyst event(the catalyst event is usually the fate of the batter, be it a strikeout or a home run or a walk, etc.). This includes steals, wild pitches, balks, etc. The middle line is where you put down the catalyst event(in varying degrees of detail; the most advanced includes hit location and trajectory codes that are admittedly very good in describing precisely what happened). The bottom line is then reserved for movement of baserunners(including the batter) after the catalyst. One of the great advantages of the Project Scoresheet system is that each box is numbered 1-54, so you can just put the box number to note when a substitution occurs(although I use a two digit code to similarly label each box in a conventional grid; for example, "3-5" means the #3 hitter's box in the fifth inning).

One of the purported advantages of the PS method is to eliminate "bracktracking". In the conventional system, if the leadoff guy gets on base, and the number two hitter bunts him to second, you have to record the sacrifice in the #2 hitter's box and then go back to the leadoff man's box and note his advancement to second base. This is considered backtracking because you are going back to a box you already wrote in. It is true that the PS method eliminates this kind of backtracking, giving a linear sequence where you move from line to line within the box and then to the next box without going back. But it only eliminates the "written" backtracking. It causes a whole lot of "following" backtracking if you attempt to recreate the game for yourself at a later time. It does not record who the runner on base is, only that the runner on first advances to third. So you have to go back and see who that runner was, which gets considerably nasty if he already had been advanced from his original base in a previous plate appearance.

Also, the traditional scoresheet may be more difficult to read sequentially after the fact, but it provides a much better snapshot of the situation at the moment. For example, you can glance down and quickly see that there are runners at the corners, one out, and who the runners are. PS takes "visual" backtracking though your sheet to gauge the current situation.

Anyway, the PS method replaces one type of backtracking with another that I find worse. Some people swear by it. There is no right or wrong way to keep score, so more power to them, but that is not my choice.

Another alternative system is the "situational" system developed by Alex Reisner. Reisner recognized the backtracking present in PS, along with the traditional objections to 9x9, and sought to make a system that gave the best of both worlds. I must admit that I have never scored a game using Reisner's system as he described it. Instead, I came up with my own approach to it that may or may not have completely bastardized his idea. But I will say that I agree that Mr. Reisner's system has much less backtracking then PS and is preferable to PS. I do not prefer it to 9x9, but it's a little know alternative that a lot of people would probably enjoy if they were exposed to it (so please visit the Links page).

Another thing I don't like is the columns many scorecards have for AB-H-R-RBI or similar type things. I can tell that a guy is 1-3 with a walk, a run scored, and 2 RBI just by glancing at his scoreboxes. I don't need a space to write that down; I'd rather devote more space to recording the data necessary to generate the stat lines. I like to track pitch counts, but I find a little cranny to record them in rather then devote a lot of space to it. Ditto even for inning line scores.

Then there is the issue of diamonds or crosses or other ways of breaking up the scorebox into bases. I generally dislike these. There are certain situations when they are a godsend. For instance, in a fast moving game like rec league slow pitch softball, you don't really care if it's a hit or an error, or whether the guy stopped at second and then was advanced home when the next batter got a hit--you just want to keep an accurate score. So the diamonds are visually easy to verify and nice and simple. But generally, I use a scorebox which in my head I break into four parts. One reason is that if the guy does not reach base, I don't like writing the out over the diamond. A cross type thing where each box for each base is made is even worse because you give up the visual appeal of the diamond. My favorite approach, if I want diamonds, is to print very small, very light dots in the scorebox and then trace these as you go. They are small and light enough that you can pretty much ignore them and write over them if the batter doesn't get on base, and it eliminates the visual problem of the printed diamond completing the circuit from home and back even if the runner never makes it back home. I have a couple of scoresheets available for download on this site that follows this approach.

Below are a pair of PDF documents that attempt to document my scoring system. Again, I will stress that it is nothing special, but this is how I do it. It is not a comprehensive documentation; there are some things that I intended to include but did not, and will hopefully get around to at a later time, particularly on how to record substitutions and pitching changes.

Part One

Part Two

Here is a sample game that I have scored using my style and one of the scoresheets available for download here. I will eventually be adding a walkthrough of this game to go along with the scoresheet.

Sample scoresheet