How To Read A Baseball Scoreboard And Understand The Game Better

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Baseball scoreboards, on the surface, can look incredibly complicated with all the numbers, letters, and statistics, especially if you’re new to the sport. However, the scoreboard becomes easily readable with some prior knowledge. Let me explain.

Baseball scoreboards should be read from left to right. Typically the team’s names are on the far left, N.1-N.9 represents each inning, and the numbers below represent how many runs were scored per inningR – RunsH – HitsE – Errors.

Although most scoreboards show the same information, not all are alike, so let’s dive deeper.

Six Common Sections On All Baseball Scoreboards

Baseball scoreboards can differ from one another, and size, placement, and sometimes the information layout can be different. This depends entirely on the venue.

Yet, some primary sections can be found on them, no matter the venue.

Team Names

Starting from the far left, the first thing you’ll often see on a scoreboard is the names of the teams that are playing. Traditionally the visiting team is listed on top, and the home team on the bottom, and this is because the home team always bats last.

However, Major league scoreboards simply use the team’s logo to represent the teams.

Number Of Runs Scored Per Inning

You’ll see a long section of numbers just right of the team names. This is the runs scored per innings. Typically the longest part of the scoreboard, with anywhere between 3 to 9 innings long.

To read this scoreboard section, you must look at the sequential numbers from 1-9. Each of these represents the individual innings of the game.

Just below each inning, there are different numbers. This is where the number of half-innings for each team is shown.

So, for example, if the number 4 is listed for the visiting team and just under it the number 6, it means the visitors scored four runs, and the home team scored six runs. This section also shows you what inning the game is in.

Another example is if there is a blank space under the 4 column, this would mean that the bottom of the fourth inning has not started.

Runs (R)

On a baseball scoreboard, you’ll also see letters. R stands for Runs and is just next to the runs per innings section.

R calculates how many total runs have been scored by both teams. The total will increase as more runs are scored. The numbers in this section represent the game’s final score once the 9th inning has ended.

Hits (H)

H stands for Hits, and it’s just to the right of the “R.” It represents the number of hits received by visiting/home team. All singles, doubles, triples, and home runs contribute to this number.

Errors (E)

E stands for Errors on the far right. It represents the number of errors awarded to the visiting or home defense. Mistakes that should have caused an out are added to this number.

This number also gives a good indication to fans of how well the defense team is doing.

Balls, strikes, and outs

Most scoreboards commonly include a place to display the number of balls, strikes, and outs for every half-inning. This information is found right above or below the run per innings section.

Balls and strikes are updated during each pitch of an at-bat. This will let fans know what the current count is on the batter.

Additional Stats On A Baseball Scoreboard

Pitcher and Batter Numbers

Baseball scoreboards can also provide information on the current pitchers and batters. This is done by displaying their jersey number next to a P (pitcher) or a B (batter).

Batting Statistics

Typically found in Major League baseball scoreboards, statistics will be displayed for each batting player.

This will include the batting average for each player in the current season. The scoreboard will update as different players begin to bat, showing what that player has achieved in that recent game.

This is usually displayed as “BA” beside the player’s name.

Pitching Statistics

Similarly, the pitchers get the same treatment. Their stats usually include H (hits), runs ®, and BB (base on balls).

The scoreboard will show the statistics for that pitcher in that current season, just like the batters, along with wins and losses taken and ERA (earned run average).

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LOB (Left on Base)

Typically found on Major League scoreboards, next to R, H, and E is marked LOB, which means Left on Base.

Left on Base state stands for the total number of runners stranded or left on base at the end of an inning. The number is the total of runners left stranded during the game.

MVR (Mound Visits Remaining)

Introduced in 2018, MVR is the latest section to be added to the scoreboard in years, and MVR stands for Mound Visits Remaining.

MVR is the total number of visits made by a teammate, manager, coach, or pitching coach who can visit the pitcher on the mound without any change. Each team gets five visits per game, which was introduced to speed up the game’s pace.

At the start of the game, the stat will be at 0 and updated according to every mound visit. Teams are granted an additional visit for every extra inning, and exceeding five visits can risk an ejection/penalty.

How Baseball Scoreboards Are Operated

This depends entirely on the game’s level and how advanced the scoring system is. Typically scoreboards are operated via computer, with a specialized keypad that connects to the scoreboard. The scorekeeper operates this system and is usually positioned in the press area/box.

In Major League Baseball, it’s common to see the scoring system controlled by a mobile phone connected via Bluetooth/Wi-Fi, requiring a staff member trained to operate the system.

History of Baseball Scoreboards

It’s safe to say Baseball scoreboards have come an incredibly long way since the birth of the game in the 18th century.

Historically baseball was scored by hand with paper and pen. Then later was recorded using score sheets, but both methods were ineffective, time-consuming, and highly confusing.

Modern-day Scoreboards are now electronic with bright LED screens, which has made it a hell of a lot better for the game and, more importantly, fans so they can now keep track of what’s going on, which has undoubtedly increased fan retention and viewership over the years.

Baseball Scoreboards Are Not The Official Score

Although the scoreboards are reasonably accurate, they are not considered the official/ending score of the game.

Each baseball game at most levels often hires someone to keep the official scorebook. This person is responsible for disputes over game scores and all the scoreboard data (outs, strikes, balls, etc.)

Umpires are commonly responsible for keeping score of balls, strikes, and outs using a simple clicker device they hold throughout the game.

At the end of every game, they consult with the official scorebook to reinstate the accuracy of the game’s result.

This is an essential aspect of following live scoring in baseball. It can be something as small as a missed ball by one of the staff to confuse and test the reliability of the results for the game. This is an intelligent system designed to increase the games’ accuracy.

The Final Inning

At the roots of Baseball, it’s a numbers game, so you must know how to interpret all of these numbers accordingly.

Especially given that Baseball has one of the most complicated scoring systems.

Not only will you be able to keep up with games, but it will also improve your overall experience and love for watching and even playing/competing in baseball.

Michael Specter
Michael Specter
Mike holds a Degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Minnesota and has held managerial and baseball head coaching roles at the college level.