Everything you need to know about scoring

How to Score Slo-Pitch Softball, or Fast-Pitch, or Baseball for that matter

There are a number of scoring methods that can be used to score softball. Which one you use is entirely up to you. Many times the differences are mearly a matter of style, and not of accuracy or completeness.

That said, the fact is there is very little information you need to simply keep track of your offensive stats; if that is all you really intend to do with the score card. There is little need to know, when all is said and done, who hit who in, or moved a runner to what base, or where a base runner was eventually tagged or forced out.

It is important, however, to know who scored and who made out. This becomes increasingly important when confronted with an umpire who has lost either fingers or toes to some hideous wood-working accident and is having trouble counting how many outs have been recorded, or worse yet, the number of runs you have scored. Many times the league rules will state that if you "don't have a book" then whatever the umpire says goes.

So, even though I am an umpire with all 20 digits at my disposal, I have been known to make a mistake on very rare occasion, so my recommendation to you is... Keep A Book!

If only to keep track of runs scored and outs made; and contrary to some managers' belief, simply jotting tick marks down on a dry erase board with no regard to your roster is NOT a scoring method!

Alright, now that the preaching is out of the way, [stepping down off the soap box...] here are a few tips to scoring that will help you keep track of players' stats, enable you to also enjoy and/or have enough time to coach, and satisfy any umpire that might need a little reminder as to how many runs you've scored.

To do stats, we really only need to know one of two things about each at-bat:

  1. Did the batter get a hit or otherwise safely make it to first base?
  2. Did the batter make an out or cause another player to be put out?
Once we record the result of the at-bat we then ask one more question:
  1. Did the batter cause another player, or himself, to score a run?
With this information alone, we can easily and efficiently score any game for the purpose of keeping stats, and effectively keep track of runs scored and outs made.

Here is how you do it!

Please keep in mind that this is a scoring method of my own design, and is intended to be an alternative to the more traditional scoring methods of which their are numerous variations.

Playing PositionsIn short, I do not subscribe to any notion that one method is better than another. It is simply a preference, and I prefer this one. It's quick, easy, and accurately keeps track of offensive stats, runs scored and outs made.

First lets go over the positions as they are referred to later. Each position on the field has a corresponding number from 1 to 9 or in most cases in slo-pitch softball 10. The pitcher is 1 the catcher 2 and so on.

Here are some basic scoring notations:
1BBase Hit 1B RunBase Hit, Run Scored Later
1B OutBase Hit, 1st Out Made Later HR 2RBIHome Run, 2 RBI, Run Scored
6-3Out, SS to 1st, 1st Out SFSacrifice Fly, 1 RBI, 2nd Out
BBBase on Balls 2B RBIDouble, 1 RBI
FCFielders Choice 4-6-3Grounded Into Double Play (GIDP), 2nd to SS to 1st, 2nd Out, No RBI
KStrike Out, 1st Out K LookingStrike Out Looking, 3rd Out
E5Safe on Error by 3rd Baseman, Run Scored Later F8Fly Out to Left Center, 2nd Out

The previous examples are a sample of the various notations that can be used to score at-bats, runs scored and RBIs. If you have scored before using a traditional method, then many of the notations will no doubt look familiar. For example, a batter thrown out at first by the shortstop is shown as 6-3, and we place a 1,2 or 3 in the lower cirlce to designate which out it was. I will also put a slash mark though the whole diamond to designate that the batter is not on base and can therfore not score a run later. You will see why in a moment.

This is where my method differs from the more traditional methods. If the batter gets a base hit, instead of making the traditional mark along the lower right side of the diamond, we simply put 1B in the middle of the diamond. If this runner later scores, we simply circle the 1B. If he is later put out for any reason (e.g. forced out at 2nd, or tagged out at 3rd) we simply put a slash through the 1B and place a 1, 2 or 3 in the lower circle to designate which out it was.

The slash becomes an important part of the notation because it clearly defines batters/runners that are no longer on base and therefore have NOT scored and/or CANNOT score as opposed to those boxes that have either been circled (run scored,) or have neither a circle nor a slash which designates that the runner was left on base (LOB) at the end of the inning.

So here are the basic steps to scoring:

  1. Record the outcome of the batter's at-bat in the center of the diamond
  2. Circle any previous runners that came home to score as a result of the batters at-bat
  3. Record those runs as RBIs for the batter
  4. Slash out any runners/batter that were put out during the play

Here is a nice matrix of scoring notations and some final thoughts!

Here is a list of possible scoring notations.

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1B *Base HitBatter safely reached first base.
2B *DoubleBatter safely reached second base w/o an error. If a batter is thrown out at second trying to "leg-out" a double, the play should be scored a 1B and an out.
3B *TripleBatter safely reached third base w/o an error. If a batter is thrown out at third trying to "leg-out" a triple, the play should be scored a 2B and an out.
HR *Home RunBatter safely reached home w/o an error. If the batter is thrown out at home trying to "leg-out" a home run, the play should be scored a 3B and an out. Always circle a HR and credit at least 1 RBI.
BB *Base on BallsA Base on Balls does NOT count as an At-Bat for the batter, and therefore does not affect the player's Batting Average. It does however favorably affect the player's On Base Percentage.
SF[n] *Sacrifice Fly to fielder [n]Score a Sacrifice Fly if a run scores as a direct result of the batter's caught fly ball. A run scoring on an error should not be scored a sacrifice fly. A Sacrifice Fly does NOT count as an at bat for the batter, and therefore does not affect the player's Batting Average. It does however adversely affect the player's On Base Percentage
SH[n-n] *Sacrifice Hit (Bunt)Score a Sacrifice Hit if any base-runner safely advances at least one base as a direct result of the batter bunting, and in the scorekeeper's opinion, the batter deliberately sacrificed his at-bat to advance the runner. This is one of the harder subjective rulings to make. Whether or not a run scored or even if the batter makes it safely to first by way of a fielder’s choice or error or even no action by the defense at all, should not change the score. The key question is whether or not the batter deliberately sacrificed his at-bat. A Sacrifice Hit does NOT count as an at bat for the batter, and therefore does not affect the player's Batting Average. It also does not affect the player's On Base Percentage.
FCFielder's ChoiceThis is probably the most confusing option of all. Score a fielder's choice if an out was made on a preceding runner as a direct result of the batter's at-bat. However, if all runners safely advance one base and the batter reaches 1st safely, then this becomes complicated. It is up to the scorekeeper to decide if an attempt (or choice) by a fielder to try and retire a preceding runner by force, gave up a guaranteed out of the batter at 1st. Just because a fielder makes a “bad choice” does not mean it is necessarily an error, although for this scoring method, it makes no difference since we aren’t keeping defensive stats. The question is, would the batter have been out, in the opinion of the scorekeeper, if the fielder had simply thrown to 1st? More on scorekeeping integrity below.
E[n]Error on fielder [n]Batter reached first base by an error. (e.g. E5 is an error on the third baseman.) A player reaching base by error can receive an RBI if there were less than 2 outs, and a run scored as a result of the batters's at bat, and in the score keepers opinion the run would have scored even if there was no error.
KStrike Out This is the traditional notation for a srike out. Make the K backword for a Strike Out looking.
F[n]Fly Out to fielder [n]Ball caught in the air by fielder [n].
P[n]Pop Out to fielder [n]You can just as well use F[n] for this. Bottom-line, the ball was caught in the air.
L[n]Line Out to fielder [n]You can just as well use F[n] for this. Bottom-line, the ball was caught in the air.
[n]-[p]Ground outFielded by fielder [n] and thrown to fielder [p]. Fielder [p] is most often 1st base (e.g. 5-3 3rd base to 1st base)
[n]-[q]-[p]Multiple TouchesThis is a common notation for a Douple Play (e.g. 6-4-3, SS to 2nd base to 1st base,) but it is used any time multiple players touch the ball on the way to an out.
GIDPGrounded into double playThis is my method for denoting a double play. I simply put GIDP for the batter and cross out the other runner that was put out.
NH *No HitTo make life really easy, I will sometimes simply replace all notations above that don't have an * with NH to denote that the batter did not get a hit or otherwise reach first base safely. In the end, it really doesn't matter how the batter got out or even how they got to first if they did not get a hit, walk or sacrifice.

Final Thoughts
First a word on the interesting problem confronting managers of COED softball. How does one make out a batting order, especially, when you have a un-even number of guys and gals to work with. Well, since we have already discussed the fact earlier that it is rather irrelivent who hit who in, or over or around, then we realize that putting the entire lineup in order is un-necessary, and in fact many coed softball managers have figured this out for themselves. Simply put your lead-off hitter at the top of the score sheet, and then add each player of the same gender in order below them. When you are out of players of that gender, continue down the page with the the other gender. So for example, if you have 6 guys and 5 gals, and your leadoff batter is a guy, then you will have 6 guys at the top of the page followed by 5 gals at the bottom of the page. If your league rules have you simply batting boy-girl-boy-girl, you can see how having an uneven number of guys and gals can become a problem. With this method, the guys just need to remember which guy they follow and the girls, which girl they follow, and that's it.

The problem is that these same managers are still trying to use a standard scoring method with this lineup. But, when we stop to think of what information we really need to keep in order to do our stats, and satisfy those pesky umpires, it really becomes quite easy, even with this funky batting order.

And last, a word on scoring integrity. This is not so much an issue of ethics as, in the end, nobody but you will know if your batting average is legit or not. If you really want to keep stats, my advice is to be honest and show the tough love. If you score a FC or an E, then so be it: score a FC or an E and stick by your decision. Don't let the batter argue the point. If they don't like the method you are using, or your scoring decisions, then offer to let them do it. Sometimes it sucks to be the one to lower a teammate's batting average or slugging percentage, but integrity should rule here, and consensus usually comes out on your side anyway. In the end, it is usually a pain in the butt to keep score AND play at the same time, but most players will agree, it's nice to see their name and stats in lights (or on the Internet), even if they suck.

Happy Scoring,

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