The game of baseball hasn’t changed much since it was first played.
However, the way we follow the match and keep score has significantly evolved over the last century.
Baseball scoreboards came a long way from operators updating the score with chalk or hanging numbered sheets of paper.
Today, Major League franchises are routinely spending millions of dollars on gigantic HD LED scoreboards.
These huge screens provide a seemingly endless supply of information on the ballgame in progress,
They help the fans follow the entire action on the field rather than just a few key stats.
The modern scoreboards are so filled with data that regular spectators often feel confused.
Sometimes, even the hardcore fans wonder how to read a baseball scoreboard.
To make things clearer, I’ll break down all the key information that appears on the board during the game.
Basic Baseball Scoreboard
Baseball scoreboards come in all types and sizes, containing various amounts of information.
Still, a couple of key sections can be found on all of them.
From recreational and Minor League ballparks to MLB state-of-the-art stadiums, every scoreboard lists teams, innings, runs, hits and errors.
Starting from the left, the first things on a scoreboard are the names of the teams playing.
Traditionally, the road team is on the top while the home team is listed below.
This positioning is not arbitrary. As the home team always bats last, their name is at the bottom.
This way, even a casual glance at the scoreboard can tell whether the game is currently in the top or the bottom of an inning.
Often, the scoreboard doesn’t display the actual names of the team playing.
Sometimes, especially with more rudimentary scoreboards, the teams are listed only as “Visitor” and “Home”.
In some cases, the team names are replaced with their logos.
Runs Per Inning
Going further right from team names, the next item on the scoreboard are runs scored per inning.
This is usually the longest section of the baseball scoreboard, with up to 10 fields for each team.
Depending on the league and the number of innings in the game, it can be shorter.
On top of this section, you’ll see sequential numbers, from 1 to 10, each standing for an individual inning.
Below the number representing the individual inning are two fields, one for the visitors, and one for the home team.
This is where a number of runs in that particular half-inning for each team is displayed.
So, for example, if a number 2 is listed for the visiting team under the number 6, it means that the visitors have scored 2 runs in the 6th inning.
Besides information on runs per inning, this section also tells fans what inning is the game currently in.
If the half-inning is yet to be played, the corresponding field is empty.
This is different from the field displaying the number “0” which tells us that, while the half-inning has been played, the team has not scored.
So, to use another example, if the top field under the number 4 is filled, and the bottom is still blank, that means that the bottom of the fourth inning is yet to start.
Next to the Runs per Inning, is a column marked with the letter “R”.
It stands for Runs, and the two fields below the letter show how many runs each team has scored in the game so far.
It is basically a sum of the runs for each inning in the previous section.
As the game moves on and more runs are scored, these numbers will change to reflect the current number.
The numbers in this section after the end of the 9th inning are the final score of the game.
To the right of the “R” section is the column marked with the letter “H”, standing for Hits.
It shows the number of hits received by a visiting or home team during the course of the game.
Every time a batter reaches at least first base in their at-bat (unless it’s on an error of fielder’s choice) the number in this field increases.
This section records all singles, doubles, triples, and home runs.
The letter “E” on the far right of the basic scoreboard stands for errors.
This section records the number of errors committed by the home or visiting defense during the game.
Every mistake that should have resulted in an out is counted here. The total number of errors for each team is displayed in their corresponding field below the letter “E”.
The numbers in this section provide fans with a pretty good understanding of the defensive performance of each team.
Balls, Strikes, and Outs
Most scoreboards also feature a section detailing the number of Balls, Strikes, and Outs for the half-inning currently being played.
This information is usually displayed right above or below the Run per Innings section.
Balls and Strikes fields provide information on the current count on the batter. The number in the corresponding field is updated after each pitch of an at-bat.
The field showing the number of Outs is updated every time a batter or a baserunner is retired.
The number indicates how many outs have been credited to the defense during the current half-inning.
Additional Information on Baseball Scoreboard
Besides the basic information mentioned above, some scoreboards feature various additional stats and game data.
Below is the explanation on how to read a baseball scoreboard with these extra sections.
“P” (Pitcher) and “At Bat” (Batter Numbers)
Some scoreboards feature information on who’s currently pitching and batting. The pitcher and batters are ordinarily represented by their jersey numbers.
The scoreboard section showing who’s at the pitcher’s mound is commonly marked with the letter “P”.
The batter’s jersey number is usually displayed in the section titled “At Bat” or something similar.
“H” (Hit) and “E” (Error Lights)
Sometimes, fans can’t be sure what the result of the play was. It’s often difficult to tell from the stands whether a hard hit ball has resulted in a base hit or an error.
For this reason, some scoreboards feature letters “H” and “E” with circular lights beneath them. Of, course, these letters stand for Hit and Error.
After the ruling on the field is made, the corresponding bulb will light up, helping the spectators figure out the result of the play.
Batting and Pitching Statistics For Individual Players
The more advanced the scoreboard, the more in-depth statistics will be on display.
Most of the scoreboards in the MLB now offer spectators individual statistics for each batter and pitcher currently on the field.
Modern scoreboards often provide information on the whole batting order with batting averages marked with “BA” next to each player’s name.
As a certain player steps up to the plate, the scoreboard will show more of his individual statistics.
These can include his achievements in the current game, such as runs (R), runs batted in (RBI), or hits (H).
Often, the scoreboard will also display his seasonal stats, such as batting average (BA), on-base percentage (OBP), or slugging (SLG).
Likewise, the scoreboard also can show the pitcher’s stats.
These usually include innings pitched (IP), hits (H), runs (R), earned runs (ER), and base on balls (BB) among others.
And, just like with batters, the scoreboard can show season-long stats for the pitchers, like wins and losses taken (W-L) and earned run average (ERA).
“LOB” (Left on Base)
Baseball scoreboards can feature an additional section, next to R, H, and E fields. This section is marked with “LOB” which stands for Left on Base.
It indicates how many runners are stranded when the final out of the half-inning has been recorded.
The number in the LOB field tells the total of all runners left on base during the game.
“MVR” (Mound Visits Remaining)
MVR is the latest stat to be added to the scoreboards. Introduced by MLB in 2018, it stands for Mound Visits Remaining.
The MVR column is commonly placed on the far right end of the scoreboard.
The MVR counts the mound visits by a manager, pitching coach, or teammate. Per MLB rules, each team is allowed five visits to the mound, not counting a pitching change.
The teams are granted one more visit for every extra inning played. The violation of this rule by a manager will result in a forced pitching change.
A player exceeding the allowed number of visits risks a potential ejection.
At the start of the game, the MVR counter is set to zero. With every mound visit, it increases by one, providing fans with a clear idea of how many more visits a team can afford.
More than any other sport, baseball is a numbers game. It’s hard to find a competition where statistics matter more than in a baseball game.
The baseball scoring system is complex and includes many details.
So, learning how to read a baseball scoreboard can significantly enhance your viewing experience and improve your understanding of what’s going on in the field.
Trying to figure out what each number means while at the ballgame can be tiring and overwhelming.
The full grasp of every stat shown on the scoreboard will allow you to take them in without too much thinking and concentrate on the game.