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Breaking Down the Box Score

At quick glance, a box score is intended to help people gauge player and team performance. However, at another glance, a box score can be rather overwhelming to a casual fan or parent that isn't as familiar with the sport. It doesn't have to be though!
In fact, once a person picks up a few of the definitions, box scores can feel simple and informative. In this article, we'll begin to explain the value of the box score and provide some definitions for better understanding them.

Coaches are usually the ones tasked with trying to explain box scores to players, but parents and fans need a resource too. 

When asked how he would explain a box score to someone new to the game, Seymour (Wisconsin) varsity baseball coach Curt Jefson said, "I would start by explaining what the symbols are: K represents a strikeout and BB represents a walk. That would be the bachelor’s degree, so to speak. If you want to get the masters and start understanding OPS and all that other stuff, boy, then you’ve really got to get into it. It's sort of its own language, but it's something you can learn.”

The term strikeout was actually coined by Henry Chadwick, a journalist who made the first box score in 1859.

Chadwick used the letter “K” since it is the last letter in the word “struck.” He didn’t use the letter “S” because that was already being used for “sacrifice,” as in sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly.

A forward K means a strikeout swinging, while a backward K symbolizes a strikeout where the hitter is caught looking and doesn’t swing at the pitch.

The strikeout is one of many categories a person needs to understand in order to read a box score. 

“To me, the way to learn it is to keep score,” Jefson said. “Take an inning and just talk about the positions and where they’re located. One’s the pitcher, two’s the catcher, and so on and so forth. Explain the fly ball vs. a groundout vs. a strikeout vs. a double play. If I were to start it with a novice, it would be to watch a few innings and score a few innings and explain it as you go.”

A box score will show each player who competed in a game and in the order that they hit. Across from each player’s name it traditionally will read: AB (how many at-bats the player had), R (how many runs the player scored), H (how many hits the player had), RBI (how many runs the player drove in), BB (how many walks, or bases on balls, the player had), SO (how many strikeouts the player had), LOB (how many runners were left on base by the hitter) and AVG (the player’s batting average for the season).

More modern box scores could include OBP (on-base percentage; how often a player reached base) and SLG (a player’s slugging percentage, which is calculated from total bases divided by at-bats) along with other measures to show how a player is doing at the plate.

Underneath the offensive chart for hitters, a box score will also include if any players collected any doubles (represented by 2B), triples (3B), home runs (HR), RBI, two-out RBI (drove in any runs with two out), stolen bases (SB) and team LOB (how many players the team left on base). 

A parent can look at the box score and dig into a player’s game a little further. Say, a player goes 1-for-4 at the plate with one double, one run scored, one RBI and two strikeouts, that’s easily recognizable. However, that might not tell the full story. 

“This is what we try to do as coaches too and educate our own kids is that you may have been 1-for-4, but you might have had a great day at the plate if you hit the ball hard,” Jefson said. “That 1-for-4 could have been a terrible day and you struck out three times and hit a little squibber into the outfield. So I think for parents to understand those stats, I think you take the meaning away from it as to what’s emphasized by the program that your son’s in.”

Taking a look at a box score should give someone a good sense of what happened in a game.

In Understanding the box score part 2 we'll break down even more and highlight how you can find what you're looking for in the GameChanger box score.

From GameChanger and Greg Bates

Baseball, Softball, Softball Fan Corner, Baseball Fan Corner