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Baseball 101 - Reading a Box Score

My predecessor Mona McKenzie posted this back in 2009 and I think it's a good introduction to the arcane art of reading the box score, so we're going to revisit it.

When I was a boy my daily newspaper (The Evening Bulletin, then read by "nearly everybody" in Philadelphia) printed box scores that were quite minimalist in comparison to what gets printed today: AB, R, H, BI for each player; no batting averages recalculated daily (you got those on Sunday); not much detail at all. For pitchers, simply IP, R, ER, H, K, BB I don't recall seeing ERA and never anything like a "hold" or "save", just a win or a loss. Here's what Mona wrote and it's still good:

How many of you pick up the newspaper, turn to the “Sports” section, flip to the baseball scores and try to decipher those abbreviations and companion numbers located in the box score? I know it took me while to figure everything out, since it kinda reminded me of reading the stock market page. The box score should not be confused with the scorecard, which has different abbreviations and you track player / team performance. If you are still wondering how to read a box score, let’s have a brief tutorial.

First, let’s go over the main abbreviations and what they mean. Generally, the box score has a heading to tell you the final score, followed by a written recap. Next, each team’s statistics are broken down by how each player performs in the following categories:

AB = At Bat. The number of times the player had an opportunity to hit during the game.
R = Runs Scored. The number of runs the player scored during the game.
H = Hits. The number of hits a player obtains during the game.
BI = Runs Batted In. The number of runners who score based upon a player’s hit.
BB = Bases on Balls. The number of times the pitcher walks a batter.
SO = Strike Out. The number of times at bat the player swings and misses three balls
AVG = Batting Average.

The above statistics are broken down by player and totaled for the team. Each player position has an abbreviation and correlates with their position on the field:

1b = First Baseman
2b = Second Baseman
ss = Shortstop
3b = Third Baseman
rf = Right Fielder
cf = Center Fielder
lf = Left Fielder
c = Catcher
p = Pitcher
dh = Designated Hitter. American League play only – when a player bats but does not take the field. This player normally bats for the pitcher.

Pitchers often have their own set self-explanatory statistics which fans, and the scorekeeper, will track:

IP = Innings Pitched
WP = Wild Pitch
SO = Strikeouts
H = Hits Given Up
ER = Earned Run
ERA = Earned Run Average
BB = Base on Balls (Walks)
HBP = Hit by Pitcher
NP = Number of Pitches
BLK = Balk. This is a deceptive pitching move where a pitcher attempts to make opposing players believe he is going to throw the ball but does not, in order to try to throw out a player who is on base. If a pitcher is accused of a balk, the player(s) on base are allowed to move forward one base.

There are many miscellaneous categories which may be covered in a box score, depending upon what happened in the game. Some stats are attributed to players, others to teams. These abbreviations are as follows:

LOB = Runners Left on Base
ER = Earned Run
E = Error
IBB = Intentional Base on Balls
FC = Fielder’s Choice
DP = Double Play
TP = Triple Play

Batters and runners in play (sometimes catchers too) may have some of the following items attributed to their play:

1b = single
2b = double
3b = triple
HR = Home Run
CS = Caught Stealing
I = Interference
LD = Line Drive
PB = Passed Ball
SH = Sacrifice Hit
SF = Sacrifice Fly
PR = Pinch Runner
PH = Pinch Hit
FO = Force Out
F = Fly Out
G = Ground Out
SB = Stolen Base

Finally, the box score may wrap up with general statistics which could lead to great trivia questions:

A = Attendance
T = Time of Game (how long the game lasted)
WP = Winning Pitcher
LP = Losing Pitcher
U= Umpire

These were just a few common abbreviations you may see in the newspaper or on sports channel scroll which gives you an idea of the kind of game your favorite player or team had. Get to know these terms and you’ll be able to remember the game on another level. Have fun!

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