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Posts from — June 2017

Tasks for youth baseball scorekeepers

There are three distinct tasks that baseball scorekeepers perform:

  1. Base charting
  2. Judgement of errors
  3. Compilation of statistics

Base charting is the act of recording plays as they happen, on the players/innings grid of the scorecard. It is, by far, the most important part of scorekeeping for youth baseball.

It is the scorekeeper’s responsibility to judge whether a particular play is counted as a Hit or an Error or a Fielder’s Choice, and in the case of a batter reaching a base beyond first, whether it is some combination of these. The scorekeeper determines whether a run is an Earned or Unearned run, which can include a reconstruction of the way an inning would have proceeded had an error not taken place. The scorekeeper also decides between a passed ball and a wild pitch, and whether a baserunner advances on a steal or defensive indifference.

In leagues where statistics are important, where statistics feed into salary negotiations, or where scouts for professional teams look over them, these judgements are tremendously important. In youth baseball, this is not the case. Assigning errors is of little use, and it is complicated by the often terrible field conditions on which youth games take place. It is really not fair to charge a fielder with an error when the ball takes a strange bounce on a stray rock on the field. And what should define “ordinary effort”–the benchmark by which errors are determined–when youth games have such a wide range of skill?

The compilation of statistics is to be done after the game is over–confusingly, not all instructions point this out. Most commercial scorecards have separate columns for recording player statistics, after the columns for innings. Typically, these include At-Bats, Hits, Runs, Runs Batted In, and Errors. These are a subset of the 18 separate statistics that the official scorer is required to provide to the league, as defined by Rule 9 of the Official Baseball Rules1

In a youth game, statistics may be useful to a coach, but they also may be a distraction. It may be useful to have a count of a player’s total plate appearances, if a coach wants to organize the batting order to give players as close to equal chances at bat as possible. The coach of my son’s travel team didn’t want any statistics, with the occasional exception of pitch counts. But in any case, the compilation of statistics is done after the game, and since the numbers will end up on a computer one way or another, one might as well start that way. That is to say, in a youth scoresheet, I’d rather devote extra space to clearer base charting than to the post-game compilation of statistics.

Back to base charting. In the best-case scenario, nobody needs to ask the scorekeeper anything throughout the entire game. But questions do arise, and by far, the most important thing a scorekeeper keeps track of in a youth game is the score. The coaches and umpire usually know the score, but it isn’t the umpire’s job to know the score. You need to know the score in a close game, of course, but also in a blowout, to determine whether a mercy rule applies. A scorekeeper should adopt a system that allows the immediate recall and announcement of the score at any time, without needing to tally up runs.

It is the umpire’s job to keep track of balls and strikes, and of outs and innings. Very rarely, an umpire has asked me as a scorekeeper to verify the count. More commonly, but still rarely, a scorekeeper will verify the number of outs, when, for example, a coach and the umpire disagree. When I’ve needed to do this, I give a brief narrative summary: “lead-off batter was number 53, who struck out. Number 6 walked, number 8 hit a double, number 9 grounded out to short, number 9 walked, number 13 struck out.” Umpires and coaches alike are often unsure of the inning, and will ask the scorekeeper where the game is.

For any aspect of the game, the clearer one’s scorebook is, the better evidence one can supply to bolster one’s version of the game, even in the face of rules that give preference to the home team scorebook. I’ve had a case where, as the visiting team scorekeeper I kept a full scorebook, while the home team just used tally marks to record runs; the umpire trusted my book. Fortunately, in the end, it was a decisive win for our team, so it didn’t matter much.

Finally, the scorekeeper is a check on the batting order. Despite rules that say to give an umpire a copy of the lineup, most youth umpires don’t want a copy and don’t check for inconsistencies.2 A travel team usually knows its batting order, even if it changes from game to game, but on rare occasion I’ve seen the wrong batter on-deck and alerted the coach.

  1. formerly, Rule 10, before the 2015 reorganization of the rulebook. Most publications about scoring, having being written before 2015, refer to it as Rule 10. []
  2. Catching out-of-order batters is the opposing team’s responsibility anyways. []

June 15, 2017   No Comments