How Does Baseball Scoring Work?

Baseball has a long tradition of keeping score that dates back to the early days of the sport in the 19th century. Fans have been handwriting the plays and progress of baseball games in scorebooks for generations. Keeping score by hand enables fans to follow the game closely and capture the key moments and statistics as they unfold.

At its core, baseball scoring allows fans to record every pitch, hit, run, and out that occurs during the game. This record of the game in the scorebook becomes the historical archive of that baseball contest.

The basic concepts of scoring involve marking down each plate appearance for every batter, tracking their progress around the bases, and recording key pitching stats. There are specific notation systems used for balls, strikes, fouls, walks, strikeouts, doubles, triples, home runs, and more. By learning the shorthand abbreviations for common plays in baseball, fans can quickly jot down each play as it happens using a scorecard or scorebook.

Scoring a game also requires tracking outs, runs scored, team scores, and innings played. With some practice, fans can become adept at scoring and enjoy revisiting their scorebooks to relive memorable games.

The Scorebook

Decoding the Scoreboard

The baseball scorebook is used to record all of the details of a game as it unfolds.

There are several key sections in a standard scorebook layout:

  • Team Info – Across the top of the scorebook are spaces to record basic game info like the date, location, teams playing, etc. This helps identify the specifics of the game after the fact.

  • Lineup – There is a spot near the top to write out the starting lineup for each team. This lists all of the players in their batting order.

  • Batter’s Box – Each batter has a box to record their at-bats over the course of the game. This tracks details like the count, how the at-bat ended, runners on base, runs scored, etc.

  • Pitching – There is a separate chart for tracking pitching. It logs details like innings pitched, pitch count, runs allowed, etc. for all pitchers used in the game.

  • Scoreboard – Along the edges of the pages there are places to calculate the running score after each half-inning. This keeps a tally of the total runs, hits, and errors for each team.

The scorebook captures all of the key events over the course of a baseball game. The standard layout allows anyone looking back at the book to reconstruct the game’s narrative.

Scoring Batters

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The basic way to score each batter’s plate appearance is to draw a simple diamond shape with the lower right corner representing first base. As the batter reaches each base, fill in the corresponding corner of the diamond. For example, a single would be marked with the first base corner filled in, a double with the first and second base corners filled in, etc.

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To record an out, draw a circle. Strikeouts are recorded with a backwards K in the box. Walks are noted with BB for “base on balls”.

Other common notations include:

  • Sacrifice hits (sacrificing an out to advance a runner): SH
  • Sacrifice flies (out that allows a runner to score): SF
  • Ground into double play: GDP
  • Reached on error: E
  • Hit by pitch: HBP

For more advanced plays like double plays, note the order the outs happened by numbering them. For example, a 5-4-3 double play would be notated with “5-4-3.” This tells you the third baseman fielded it, threw to second, who threw to first.

Scoring Runners

Baseball Run Strategy

The movement of runners around the bases is tracked using a simple line notation. As a runner advances from base to base, a line is drawn connecting their start and end positions to show their progression.

When a runner scores a run, a large solid dot is placed on home plate. The player who batted them in is credited with an RBI (run batted in). This is notated by adding a mark in the RBI column next to their name on the lineup.

Some common situations when tracking runners include:

  • Ground outs: If a batter hits a ground out, a dotted line is drawn from their start base to the base they end at after the out.
  • Stolen bases: A straight line is drawn from the initial base to the stolen base.
  • Doubles/Triples: A curved line tracks the runner’s advance from 1st to 2nd base, or 2nd to 3rd.
  • Scoring from 3rd: An open dotted line is drawn from 3rd base to home plate when a run scores.

The scorekeeper diligently tracks each runner’s movement using the line notation system. This creates a visual representation of the baserunning that took place during the game.


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Pitching is a key part of the game that must be accurately recorded in the scorebook. Pitch counts, strikes, balls, pitching changes, and earned/unearned runs are all important details to track.

The scorekeeper records each pitch as it is thrown. Strikes are marked with an “S” and balls are marked with a “B.” When a batter gets a hit or reaches base, the pitch count is circled to indicate the end of the at-bat. The total pitch count is recorded next to the pitcher’s name.

When the pitcher is removed from the game, a diagonal line is drawn across the box with the pitcher’s name and number to show they have left the game. The new pitcher’s name and number is recorded, along with the pitch count starting over from zero.

Runs are marked as earned (ER) or unearned (UER). An unearned run occurs when a runner reaches base or scores due to a fielding error, not the pitcher’s throw. The scorekeeper must determine whether runs allowed are earned or unearned based on errors recorded in the scorebook. This impacts the pitcher’s ERA statistics.

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Common Abbreviations

Read Baseball Scoreboard

Baseball scorekeeping uses a system of abbreviations and symbols to capture the events of a game efficiently.

Here are some of the most common abbreviations used:

  • K: Strikeout. This is used when the batter strikes out and records an out.

  • BB: Base on balls, or a walk. This is when the batter earns a free pass to first base after four pitches out of the strike zone.

  • HBP: Hit by pitch. The batter is awarded first base after being struck by a pitch.

  • WP: Wild pitch. The pitcher throws a pitch so errant that the catcher cannot control it, allowing runners to potentially advance.

  • PB: Passed ball. The catcher fails to control a pitch that should have been caught or contained, allowing runners to potentially advance.

  • E: Error. A fielder misplays a batted or thrown ball, allowing runners to reach base or advance. The number of the fielder who committed the error follows the E.

  • FC: Fielder’s choice. A fielder handles a batted ball but is unable to put out the lead runner, instead retiring a different runner.

  • B: Bunt. The batter bunts the ball into play.

  • S: Sacrifice. The batter advances a runner with an out. Could be a sacrifice bunt (SH), fly (SF), or hit (SH).

  • GDP: Ground into double play. The batter hits into a double play.

  • F: Fly out. The batter hits a fly ball that’s caught for an out.

  • L: Line out. The batter hits a line drive that’s caught for an out.

  • PO: Pop out. The batter pops a ball up in the infield that’s caught for an out.

For fielding positions, numbers are used: Pitcher (1), Catcher (2), First Base (3), Second Base (4), Third Base (5), Shortstop (6), Left Field (7), Center Field (8), and Right Field (9).

Scoring Special Plays

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There are many special plays and situations that can occur during a baseball game that require unique scoring notations. Here are some of the most common:

Stolen Bases

When a runner successfully steals a base, it is recorded by placing a slashed line in the running line for that player.

For example:


This indicates the runner has stolen second base. If the runner is thrown out trying to steal, a dotted line is used instead.

Wild Pitches and Passed Balls

These are noted by placing a WP (Wild Pitch) or PB (Passed Ball) in the lower section of the box score where the count is kept. A wild pitch is charged against the pitcher, while a passed ball is charged against the catcher. Both allow any runners on base to potentially advance.


When a fielder makes an error, the scorekeeper records it with a E and the fielder’s position number. For example, E3 indicates the third baseman made an error. The specific type of error is usually noted as well, like E6 (throw) for a throwing error made by the shortstop.

Fielder’s Choice

This occurs when a fielder opts to try and put out a different runner than the one who hit the ball. It’s scored by noting FC at the plate appearance for the batter. The fielder is given an assist, not a putout.

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Sacrifice Flies

When a batter hits a fly ball that allows a runner to tag up and score, it’s recorded as a sacrifice fly (SF). The batter is credited with an RBI but not charged with an at-bat.

Hit Batsmen

When a pitch hits a batter, it’s recorded as HP (hit by pitch) in their plate appearance box. The batter is awarded first base automatically.

There are many other special scoring situations, but these cover some of the most common occurrences in a baseball game. The scorekeeper needs to understand the official rules fully to know how to notate every play correctly.

Reading a Scorebook

Scorebook for Baseball

To understand the events that occurred in a baseball game, you need to be able to interpret the markings and notations in a completed scorebook. This involves knowing what the numbers, letters, and symbols represent.

The scorebook allows you to identify details like:

  • The order of batters in each team’s lineup
  • The outcome of each at-bat (hit, walk, strikeout, etc.)
  • Base runners and their movements
  • Pitching substitutions
  • Defensive plays resulting in outs
  • The score at the end of each inning

For example, looking at a scorebook you can tell that player #3 hit a double in the first inning by seeing “3” in the batting order spot and “2B” marked in that at-bat. Or you may see “WP” for a wild pitch and then “1-3” indicating the runner advanced from first to third base.

The scorekeeper uses a system of shorthand notations, abbreviations, and symbols that succinctly describe the essential events in the game. By becoming familiar with common baseball scoring terminology and notation, you can develop the ability to “read” a scorebook recap and visualize how the game unfolded.[1]

Scoring Summary

Baseball scoring tracks the progress of the game using numbers, abbreviated letters, and symbols to indicate what happens with each batter and runner. The scorekeeper records details about each at-bat, including how the batter reached base or was put out, which runners advanced or scored, and any fielding plays.

Some key concepts covered in baseball scoring include:

  • Using a scorebook and notation system to record the game action accurately

  • Scoring batters with numbers indicating how they reached base, or letters noting how they were put out

  • Marking how runners advance around the bases, driven in on RBIs, or are left on base

  • Abbreviations for common plays like walks, strikeouts, fly outs, ground outs, etc.

  • Special notations for sacrifices, stolen bases, wild pitches, passed balls, errors, and more

  • Calculating batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored and other stats from the scorebook

  • Understanding the flow and nuances of baseball scoring to follow the game’s progress

In summary, baseball scoring is a complex system for tracking details of the game as it unfolds. Mastering the shorthand notation and abbreviations allows scorekeepers to produce an accurate historical record of each game’s events and statistics.

Adrian Cook
Adrian Cook

Hello, I'm Adrian Cook, and I am the author of I have a deep-rooted connection to baseball as I was once an avid player of the sport. Baseball has always held a special place in my heart, and my personal experiences as a player have shaped my understanding and love for the game. Having been on the field, I intimately understand the intricacies, challenges, and joys that come with playing baseball. It is this firsthand experience that allows me to bring a unique perspective to the content I create.

Baseball Basics, Rules, Strategies, and Legends
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