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Friday, September 07, 2012

Baseball Prose: The (Subjective) Art Of Keeping Score

Hat tip to Diane Firstman for this one.

I score minor league games for Baseball Info Solutions. BIS sends along a suggested way of keeping score, that I don’t use because (a) I’ve been scoring games for years using Retrosheet notation and (b) BIS’s system requires extra writing, especially when tracking pitches, which seems to me to be unnecessarily time-consuming. But I have no doubt that if I had never scored a game before, and started to work for BIS today, I’d use that system and be happy with it.

Like any curious-minded individual with too much free time, I decided to conduct an experiment. I sent a list of questions, a blank scorecard, and a link to an MLB Gameday/box score to 10 people, and asked them to score the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning of the game I’d scored for the stranger at Wrigley Field.

The participants were of varying backgrounds and skillsets, but none are professional scorekeepers. Their scoring experience ranged from six months to 25 years, though the average participant had eight years of scoring under his/her belt. Once I received all of the scorecards, I printed them and pinned them up around my office, all in a column, so I could review the results.

And then I laughed. A lot.

Of the 10 scorecards, there was only one that closely mirrored how I keep score, and I recognized the handwriting immediately: It was the scorecard of my best friend and frequent baseball seat-mate. The rest were incredibly different.

Mike Emeigh Posted: September 07, 2012 at 12:29 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: statistics

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   1. BDC Posted: September 07, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4229399)
Very interesting. I would imagine anyone who scores games frequently has an idiosyncratic system. I still like the old Project Scoresheet cards, but mine have lots of quirky entries – in particular, scoring the base hits as $ d T HR in order to avoid confusion between S and 5 or D and O. I like to give the DH the number Ø.
   2. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 07, 2012 at 01:16 PM (#4229443)
I like having other people score an inning in my book if we're at a game together. I've got a handful of Primates over the years
   3. Greg Franklin Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4229511)
Thanks for the article, Mike. That was a fun piece, and an amusing conclusion to the experiment.

Does anyone have a quick visual comparison of PS versus BIS vs Retrosheet notation? I started using the classic 70s-era diamond grid box, then moved on to the PS worksheet style included with an old Bill James text. No clue what BIS or Retrosheet look like.
   4. dave h Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:10 PM (#4229516)
That's a nice idea in #2. I don't keep book at all my games but I like to do it once in a while, always hoping the game will be remarkable in some way (I did it for every Pedro game I went to, hoping that would be his no-hitter).

It's interesting that he asked everyone how they learned to keep score. I honestly have no idea.
   5. Bunny Vincennes Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4229545)
My wife and I score every game we attend, I've got the Bob Carpenter version, but she likes to buy the ballpark scorecard. Its funny when we look back on them and can tell the half inning that one of us scored for each other (which rarely happens, we don't leave our seats much). The notes and comments in the margin make for a rich personal history of the two of us. I love scoring the game with my wife, and it results in a lot less "WNL" than it used to in my single days.
   6. TerpNats Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4229550)
I don't keep book at all my games but I like to do it once in a while, always hoping the game will be remarkable in some way (I did it for every Pedro game I went to, hoping that would be his no-hitter).
I do it for just about every game I attend -- and that includes David Cone's perfect game of July 18, 1999, my greatest baseball thrill until the Nationals arrived (and with more thrills yet to come).

I use the corner for each base format (home lower left, 1st base lower right, etc.), putting where the ball was hit or scoring decision inside the box. If the box has enough space, I mark balls at the top, strikes at the bottom (alas, the Yankees' program that day didn't provide enough room for doing that, unfortunate because Cone never went to a three-ball count on any batter).
   7. Bunny Vincennes Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4229558)
My wife marks the pitches the same way Terp, I don't, but I do record pitches thrown in total.
   8. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 07, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4229610)
I've never kept score at a no-hitter--though Daniel Cabrera came without two outs of it, once--but I do have an unassisted triple play in my scorebook, which is pretty good.
   9. TerpNats Posted: September 07, 2012 at 04:10 PM (#4229664)
I've never kept score at a no-hitter--though Daniel Cabrera came without two outs of it, once--but I do have an unassisted triple play in my scorebook, which is pretty good.
Which game? Not to play "can you top this," but I have one to my credit as well -- Randy Velarde at Yankee Stadium, Memorial Day 2000.
   10. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 07, 2012 at 04:23 PM (#4229680)
I have neither a no hitter nor an unassisted triple play in my scorebooks. I was at the Mussina game at Fenway in 2001 but that's as close as I've come.
   11. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 07, 2012 at 04:36 PM (#4229690)
God, I never want to have to score a no-hitter. I don't need the distraction.
   12. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 07, 2012 at 04:36 PM (#4229691)
And my "can you top this" is probably the 30-3 game.
   13. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: September 07, 2012 at 04:45 PM (#4229698)
I have a few games that went past 16 innings, that's always a challenge.

my favorite card is my oldest daughter's first game, a triple play and a walk off HR (the Prince Fielder bowling pins celebration in extras).
   14. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 07, 2012 at 04:50 PM (#4229708)
Which game? Not to play "can you top this," but I have one to my credit as well -- Randy Velarde at Yankee Stadium, Memorial Day 2000.
Eric Bruntlett's in August '09 at CitiField, which ended the game and is, I believe, still the last one to happen.

EDIT: I had a 13-inning game in Baltimore, which I just looked up and apparently featured the third career game of Joey Bats. And the penultimate game black, left handed Bobby J. Jones career. How about that.
   15. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:00 PM (#4229714)
My all time favorite scorekeeping moment came when I was a kid. I started keeping score because I liked to look at the scoresheets my mother kept when I played little league (my father coached, she kept score). Well, from time to time I would take a notebook piece of paper and draw a grid on it and start keeping score of games I was watching on TV. One night I did this...and kept doing it...and kept doing it...the Sox and Mariners played 20 innings that night. My parents let an 11 year old me stay up until midnight watching and the game was called (don't remember if it was rain or curfew).

The next night we happened to have tickets so I went with my father and they resumed the game (Joe Simpson tripled to drive in the go ahead run for the Mariners). When I pulled out my notebook pages to resume keeping score the people sitting around us loved it.

I had clearly learned to keep score before that but I always remember spending 5 hours keeping score while watching on TV then going the next night when I think about keeping score.
   16. Bunny Vincennes Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:00 PM (#4229715)
I've seen upwards of 1000 baseball games, and I've never scored a no hitter. That would be one clean scorebook mehthinks.
   17. villageidiom Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:37 PM (#4229740)
Jose, I love that story.

When I kept score when I was younger, I would use the corners of the box as bases. Now I impose an invisible diamond in the center of the box. Along the right-hand side of the box, going from top to bottom, I record each pitch:

- ball
. strike looking
o strike swinging
x contact

If anything of note happens on a pitch, like a stolen base, I put a > next to the mark for the pitch.

Let's take the top of the 5th from this game. Suzuki's box would look something like this:
---------------------------
|          
SB           - |
|         .             
|
|          .            
|
|           .           - |
|            .          - |
|            /--        
|
|           /             |
|          /              |
|         /               |
--------------------------- 


(Using the dash for a single, like the old "warshroom" guy from TFA.)

And Jeter's would look like this:
---------------------------
|                       . |
|     .   |             
|
|      .  |           > . |
|       . |               |
|       / |               |
|      /  |               |
|     /   |               |
|                         |
|                         |
--------------------------- 


With the > to denote that Suzuki stole on that pitch.
For a while I used an F to denote a foul ball, but then it occurred to me a foul ball is simply a ball made contact with, followed by more pitches. The mere fact that I've recorded more pitches afterward distinguishes a foul from a ball in play; I just need to note that contact was made.

I have found it interesting to see as a game goes on how many swings and misses a pitcher is getting, or how few swings a team has taken. OTOH, I have found it that much harder to run to the concession stand without missing anything. My crowning achievement for that was in Toronto last year. I was able to run to the concession stand after the third out, get some Chinese food, and get back to my seat before the next pitch. I was also able to keep score of every pitch, while eating with chopsticks.

EDIT: Damnit, backslashes aren't showing up inside the code tags. Alas, periods will have to do.
   18. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4229743)
I like that system VI. I like to count pitches so on my scorecard I have blocks for balls and strikes and simply write in the pitch numbers. I may try your system next time, I like the detail it provides.
   19. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: September 07, 2012 at 08:29 PM (#4229807)
I scored every game I ever went to, until I started bringing my daughter. Difficult to keep score and parent.

I've never gotten the no-hitter either, but I did get to score Mike Mussina's 8 1/3 perfect innings against Cleveland in 1997.

I learned how to score from some scorebook I got when I was about 8, and I've used that method ever since, except for adding in the keeping of balls and strikes to the method.
   20. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 07, 2012 at 10:39 PM (#4229863)
Difficult to keep score and parent.


Was at my 2 y.o. nephew's first game earlier this season. My brother bought a scorecard and asked me to score the game so his kid would have it to keep. He would rather have done it himself, of course, but he knew that wasn't going to work. My sister-in-law was all pissed off afterwards because I "hogged" the scorebook. She thought he bought it so the kid could scribble on the pictures.

The guy in the next seat was keeping score on a hand-drawn card on a legal pad. Nothing fancy or all that personalized, but still pretty cool that he took the time to draw out his own grid with a pen and ruler like that. Not like he was all that old or anything either. He did admit to sometimes letting his wife print cards out from the internet for him.
   21. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 07, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4229870)
When I was in middle school, I drafted scorecards with a ruler and pen, then made 162 photocopies at the school so I could score all the games while listening on the radio.
   22. dave h Posted: September 08, 2012 at 12:50 AM (#4229985)
Since I don't keep score all the time, I don't bring a scorebook, and instead like to make my own scorecard - something with some weight behind it so you can write on it easily. The first time I went to a game with my now-wife, before we left I spray-mounted a scoresheet on each side of some card stock and cut it to size. I think she thought that was cute.

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