O'Reilly logo

Baseball Hacks by Joseph Adler

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Make a Box Score from a Score Sheet

Create a box score to summarize player performance.

Although a score sheet [Hack #1] describes everything that happened during a game, it doesn’t tell you directly how each player performed. This hack explains how to use a score sheet to calculate a box score, a neat way to summarize how each player performed during a game.

Box scores are a traditional way to summarize baseball games, dating back to Chadwick in the 19th century. A box score captures a lot of information about the game. For each batter, it captures the number of at bats (AB), hits (H), runs (R), runs batted in (RBI), doubles (2B), home runs (HR), stolen bases (SB), and sacrifice hits (SH). For each pitcher, it includes the number of innings pitched, hits, runs, earned runs, walks, and strikeouts. It also includes notes on the number of players left on base; the winning, losing, and saving pitchers; and some other miscellaneous information.

As an example, here is the box score from the October 2, 1978 playoff game between the Yankees and the Red Sox:

	Game of 10/2/1978 -- New York at Boston (D)
	 New York          AB  R  H  RBI    Boston             AB  R  H  RBI
	Rivers M, cf        2  1  1    0    Burleson R, ss      4  1  1    0
	Blair P, ph-cf      1  0  1    0    Remy  J, 2b         4  1  2    0
	Munson T, c         5  0  1    1    Rice J, rf          5  0  1    1
	Piniella L, rf      4  0  1    0    Yastrzemski C, lf   5  2  2    2
	Jackson R, dh       4  1  1    1    Fisk C, c           3  0  1    0
	Nettles G, 3b       4  0  0    0    Lynn F, cf          4  0  1    1
	Chambliss C, 1b     4  1  1    0    Hobson B, dh        4  0  1    0
	White R, lf         3  1  1    0    Scott G, 1b         4  0  2    0
	Thomasson G, lf     0  0  0    0    Brohamer J, 3b      1  0  0    0
	Doyle B, 2b         2  0  0    0    Bailey B, ph        1  0  0    0
	Spencer J, ph       1  0  0    0    Duffy F, 3b         0  0  0    0
	Stanley F, 2b       1  0  0    0    Evans D, ph         1  0  0    0
	Dent B, ss          4  1  1    3
	                   -- -- --   --                       -- -- --   --
	                   35  5  8    5                       36  4 11    4

	New York      000 000 410 -- 5
	Boston        010 001 020 -- 4

	 New York         IP  H R ER BB SO
	Guidry R (W)      6.1 6 2  2  1  5
	Gossage R (S)     2.2 5 2  2  1  2

	 Boston            IP  H  R  ER  BB  SO
	Torrez M (L)      6.2  5  4   4   3   4
	Stanley B*        0.1  2  1   1   0   0
	Hassler A         1.2  1  0   0   0   2
	Drago D           0.1  0  0   0   0   0
	 * Pitched to 1 batter in 8th

	LOB -- New York 6, Boston 9
	2B  -- Rivers M, Scott G, Burleson R, Munson T, Remy J
	HR  -- Yastrzemski C, Dent B, Jackson R
	SB  -- Rivers M 2
	SH  -- Brohamer J, Remy J
	PB  -- Munson T
	T   -- 2:52
	A   -- 32925

To see how a box score is useful, let’s focus on a specific player: Bucky Dent. From the table on top, we can see that Bucky Dent had four at bats, scored one run, had one hit, and batted in three runs. Looking at the notes at the bottom, we see that he had one home run. The box score tells you that Bucky had a pretty good game, scoring three of the Yankees’ five runs. In fact, he did have a good game, breaking the heart of every Red Sox fan when he hit a home run over the Green Monster onto Lansdowne Street, sending the Yankees to the playoffs.

The Official Rules for Scoring

Major League Baseball has official rules on scoring the game and an official scorer for each game. The scorer sits in the press booth (near the radio announcers, the TV announcers, and the scoreboard operator) and writes a score sheet that is considered the official record of the game. It consists of player information, offensive statistics, fielding statistics, pitching statistics, and other miscellaneous information.

Player information

Player information is the most straightforward and consists of each player’s name, uniform number, defensive position, and lineup position.

Here are the offensive statistics that the scorer must record for each player:

At bats (AB)

The scorer needs to record the number of at bats for each player. Each time a player comes to the plate to bat, it is considered an official at bat if the ball is placed in play and results in a hit, out, error, or if the player strikes out. If the player reaches first base as a walk because a pitch hit him, because he hit a sacrifice fly, or because of the catcher’s interference or obstruction, it’s not considered an at bat.

Runs scored (R)

This statistic refers to each time a player crosses home and scores a run.

Safe hits (H)

This is the number of times the ball is put in play and the player successfully reaches a base without making any outs, and without the opponent committing any errors. (It’s still possible for there to be an out on the play, if the batter or another base runner tries to run too far.)

Runs batted in (RBI)

Each time a run is scored as the result of a player putting a ball in play (or reaching a base through a walk or by being hit by a pitch), the player is credited with an RBI.

Doubles (D), triples (T), home runs (HR), and total bases (TB)

The scorer needs to count the number of bases safely reached on each hit, tabulating the number of doubles, triples, and home runs. The scorer is also required to count the number of total bases reached by a player: a single counts for one base, a double for two, a triple for three, and a home run for four.

Stolen bases (SB)

Each time a player successfully steals a base, the scorer is required to note this. (The rules also require the scorer to note when a batter is caught stealing [CS], which is for defensive statistics. We’ll get to that shortly.)

Sacrifice bunts (SAC), sacrifice flies (SF), and sacrifice hits (SH)

The scorer also needs to note each time a player puts a ball in play that makes an out but advances at least one runner (possibly allowing the runner on third base to score).

Base on balls (BB), intentional base on balls (IBB), and hit by pitch (HBP)

The scorer also needs to tabulate the number of times a batter reaches a base by walking.

Strikeouts (K)

Finally, the scorer needs to count the number of strikeouts per batter.

The mandatory fielding statistics are as follows:

Putouts (PO)

This refers to each time a defensive player catches a fly ball, beats a player to a base on a force while holding a ball, or tags a player out. (The catcher is awarded the putout when a batter strikes out.)

Assists (A)

This refers to each time a player fields a ball and throws it to another defender who gets an out.

Errors (E)

According to the official rules, “An error shall be charged for each misplay (fumble, muff, or wild throw), which prolongs the time at bat of a batter, or which prolongs the life of a runner, or which permits a runner to advance one or more bases.” (In practice, errors are somewhat subjective.)

Double plays (DP) and triple plays (TP)

The scorer is required to record each time a double or triple play is made, the player who hit into the play, and the fielders who made the play.

Passed balls (PB)

When a ball gets away from the catcher and a base runner advances, the catcher can be charged with a passed ball. (If the scorer thinks it’s the pitcher’s fault, it might be called a wild pitch.)

Required pitching statistics include the following:

Innings pitched (IP)

For each pitcher, the scorer is required to record the number of innings pitched, including parts of innings. Really, this is equivalent to the number of outs pitched.

Batters faced (BFP)

The scorer needs to count the total number of batters faced by a pitcher.

At bats (ABA)

The scorer also needs to record the number of official at bats against a pitcher (see the description of at bats earlier in this section).

Hits allowed (HA), runs allowed (RA), sacrifice hits allowed (SHA), sacrifice flies allowed (SFA), total bases allowed (TBA), base on balls allowed (BBA), intentional base on balls allowed (IBBA), batters hit by pitch (HBPA), and strikeouts allowed (KA)

Each of these is pretty straightforward: every time a batter is credited with a statistic (such as a hit), the pitcher is credited with a statistic (such as a hit allowed).

Earned runs (ER)

The idea of earned runs is to separate a pitcher’s performance from the fielders’ performance. Here is how this works. First, a batter can earn a run only if the scoring runner reached base while the pitcher was pitching. (This means that relief pitchers can’t get earned runs from inherited runners.) Second, the pitcher is not charged with runs scored due to passed balls, errors, or interferences. To determine the number of earned runs, the scorer tries to figure out what would have happened in an inning if there had been no errors, passed balls, or interference calls. Let’s consider a simple example. Suppose a pitcher strikes out the first two batters in an inning, and the third batter hits a triple. Next, suppose the fourth batter hits a ground ball to the first base side and reaches first base on error, and the runner on third scores. Now, suppose the pitcher strikes out the fifth batter. Without the error, the runner on third would not have scored. Therefore, the pitcher is not credited with an earned run, but with one run. (The difference between the two is the number of unearned runs.)

Wild pitches (WP)

A pitcher is credited with a wild pitch when the pitcher throws a pitch very different from the pitch expected by the catcher, and the catcher fails to field the ball. (If the scorer thinks it’s the catcher’s fault, it’s called a passed ball [PB].)

Balks (BK)

A balk is officially defined as “an illegal act by the pitcher with a runner or runners on base, entitling all runners to advance one base.” Basically, a balk is a “fake” of some type. A pitcher is required to pitch from one of two positions (called “the windup” or “the set”), stand in the right spot on the pitcher’s mound facing the batter, and throw the ball toward the catcher. If a pitcher pretends that he is going to do one thing but does something else, it counts as a balk.

The scorer also must record a variety of miscellaneous information:

Winning pitcher (W) and losing pitcher (L)

The scorer needs to credit the winning and losing pitcher for each team. At the end of the game, there is a winning team and a losing team. At some point in the game (maybe the first at bat in the first inning, maybe the second at bat in the fifth inning, maybe the last at bat in the game), the winning team took the lead and kept it through the end of the game. At that point in the game, the current pitcher for the winning team is credited with the win, and the current pitcher for the losing team is credited with the loss. (There is an exception to this rule. If the winning team takes and holds the lead at some time in the first five innings, but the starting pitcher leaves the game before the end of the first five innings, the starting pitcher might not be credited with the win. The scorer can give the win to the relieving pitcher whom he believes was most effective.)

Left on base (LOB)

This refers to the number of base runners left on base at the end of each inning by each team.

Line score

The scorer is required to record the number of runs scored in each inning by each team during the game.


The scorer must record the name of the home plate umpire, first base umpire, second base umpire, and third base umpire.


Finally, the scorer is required to note the start and end times of the game, deducting any weather (or other) delays.

Some decisions the scorer makes are not subjective, such as strikeouts and home runs. But sometimes the scorer needs to make a judgment call. For example, suppose a batter hits a ball hard to the third base side and runs hard for first base. The third baseman dives to get the ball and makes a low throw to the first baseman. The first baseman takes his foot off the base, stretching to catch the ball, just as the batter reaches the base. Is this play an error on the third baseman, or is it a single? This is the decision of the scorer; if he feels it was exceptionally difficult for the third baseman to make that play, he might score it as a single. But if he feels the third baseman just made a bad throw, he might score it as an error.


You can find a complete description of scorer rules on the official MLB web site, at http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/official_info/official_rules/official_scorer_10.jsp.

We’ll come back to a lot of these statistics later in this book. These are the basic counts in all the databases in this book, and they are the building blocks for all the formulas.

Calculating a Box Score from a Score Sheet

Once you’ve filled out a score sheet [Hack #1] , you’ve done most of the hard work and are ready to calculate the box score. Here are the steps to follow.

Step 1: Draw columns for names, at bats, runs, hits, and anything else.

First, draw a set of columns for player names and any statistics you want to count. You should draw separate boxes for each team’s batters (to capture batting statistics) and for each team’s pitchers (to capture pitching statistics).

Step 2: Copy the batters’ names.

Start by copying the names of the batters from the score sheet onto another piece of paper. Copy all of the names from the left side of the score sheet, including players who were substituted out of the game.

Step 3: Count statistics for each batter.

You’ll notice that you can read the statistics for each player off of the diamond charts to the right of their names on the score sheet. For each player, count the number of times each statistic occurs. For example, to count the number of at bats, you should look at all the diagrams for a player’s at bats. (Remember, when you took notes, you marked when substitutions occurred!) Each time a player came to the plate, and the plate appearance ended in a ball in play, a home run, or a strikeout, count that as an at bat. Write the total in the appropriate column.

Step 4: Count statistics for each pitcher.

Just like you did with batters, count the statistics for each pitcher: innings pitched, batters faced, earned runs, strikeouts, etc. Copy these numbers into the appropriate column for each player.

Step 5: Prove the box score.

Finally, it’s a good idea to check your work. If you’re familiar with double-entry accounting, you’ll notice that baseball scoring uses the same method. Each hit is recorded in two places: it’s credited to a batter and charged to a pitcher. At the end of a game, the scorer is required to “prove” the correctness of a score sheet by making sure all of these things add up.

To prove a box score using the official rules, make sure the following things are equal for each team:

  • At bats (AB) + walks (BB) + hit batsmen (HBP) + sacrifice bunts (SAC) + sacrifice flies (SF) + batters awarded base on interference and obstruction

  • Runs scored + players left on base + opposing team’s putouts

You can also check that other statistics add up. For example, the total number of hits scored by a team should equal the total number of hits allowed by the opposing team.

Hacking the Hack

It takes a lot of work to calculate a box score by hand, and I’ll admit that I don’t do this very often. Instead, I usually use the codes shown in “Keep Score, Project Scoresheet–Style” [Hack #3] , and then run the BGAME program described in “Make Box Scores or Database Tables from Play-by-Play Data with Retrosheet Tools” [Hack #15] .

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required