Whenever you go to a baseball game, you will inevitably see a giant scoreboard in the outfield that contains an endless supply of information. There are lots of numbers, letters, and statistics, and each of those items has its own unique meaning. With all this information being thrown your way, how do you read a baseball scoreboard?
Baseball scoreboards are read from left to right, with the name of the teams listed to the far left. Numbers one through nine indicates each inning and the numbers below show how many runs were scored in each inning. R, H, and E show how many runs, hits, and errors occurred during the entire game.
Although most baseball scoreboards contain the same basic information, not all scoreboards are the same. So let’s dive into more details on common sections found on baseball scoreboards as well as some uncommon sections.
Four Common Sections on All Baseball Scoreboards
As you’ll see from some examples in this article, not all baseball scoreboards look the same. In addition to not looking the same, they also don’t contain the exact same information, but there are four common sections found on almost every single baseball scoreboard.
Names of Each Team
One of the very first things you’ll notice on a scoreboard is the name of the teams who are playing. These names are listed out towards the left-hand side of the scoreboard, with the visiting team listed on top and the home team listed on the bottom.
The reason that the home team is always listed below the visiting team is that the home team always bats last. So when we look towards the next section of the scoreboard, which is innings, we will understand when a game is in the top of an inning or the bottom of an inning.
Also, depending on the type of scoreboard being used and the type of league you’re playing in, the name of the teams will either be “Visitor” and “Home”, the actual names of each team, or (for some Major League scoreboards) simply use the team’s logo.
Number of Runs Scored Per Inning
The long section of numbers directly to the right of each team name is the number of runs scored per inning. Depending on which league you’re in, baseball games will be anywhere from three to nine innings long, so this section of the scoreboard is typically the longest in length.
To read this section of the scoreboard, you must first look at the sequential numbers across the top, typically going from 1 to 9. Each of these numbers represents the individual inning of a game.
Directly below each inning, there are also numbers – one number listed for the visiting team and one number listed for the home team. Each one of these numbers indicates how many runs a team scored during that half-inning.
If you take the photo above as an example, you’ll notice a “3” listed for the home team underneath the number “8”. This means that the home team scored three runs in the 8th inning.
In addition to showing how many runs were scored per half-inning, this section can also show spectators what inning the game is currently in. If a half-inning has not yet started, then this section is completely blank from the scoreboard.
So if we again take the photo above as an example, we can see there is a blank space for the home team under the “9” column. This means that the bottom of the ninth inning has not yet started.
In fact, this scoreboard is letting spectators know the game has ended. Because the home team is up after the top half of the ninth inning, they do not get another at-bat. Therefore, fans looking at this scoreboard can conclude that the home team won the game 4-0.
Runs, Hits, and Errors
Moving right to the number of runs scored per inning, we see three additional columns labeled R, H, and E. What do these letters on a baseball scoreboard mean?
On a baseball scoreboard, R stands for Runs and calculates how many total runs have been scored by each team during the game. As the game progresses and more runs are scored, this number will also increase to reflect the total number of runs scored.
On that same scoreboard, H stands for Hits and it calculates all hits received by all members of the team for the duration of the game. This number includes all singles, doubles, triples, and home runs.
The E on a baseball scoreboard stands for Errors and is the number of errors awarded to the defense during the duration of the game. This number calculates all the defensive errors per team and gives spectators a general idea of how well a team is doing defensively.
Balls, Strikes, and Outs
Another very common section of any baseball scoreboard is a place to display the number of balls, strikes, and outs for each half-inning. This section will either be found directly above or below the section that displays the total number of runs scored per inning.
The balls and strikes are updated during each pitch of an at-bat and will let spectators know what the current count is on the batter.
The number of outs will be updated after each offensive player is retired and it will let spectators know how many outs have been acquired so far in this half-inning.
Other Common Stats on a Baseball Scoreboard
Number of the Pitcher
Some baseball scoreboards will have a section labeled “P”. What does the P stand for on a baseball scoreboard?
On a baseball scoreboard, “P” generally means “Pitcher” and the number displayed will be the jersey number of the pitcher. This number is simply to let fans know what number is currently pitching for each team.
Number of the Batter
Many baseball scoreboards have a section dedicated to displaying the jersey number of the current batter. This section is usually titled something like “At Bat” and it’s purpose is to let fans know who is up to bat.
In addition to the other items discussed in this article, most Major League baseball scoreboards will also include batting statistics for each player.
Typically, you’ll see a batting order that shows the batting average for each person for the current season. When that player comes up to bat, the scoreboard will then highlight that player and show additional batting statistics on what that player has achieved today.
These additional statistics usually include things like runs batted in, stolen bases, how many hits they’ve achieved today, and what type of hits those were (single double, triple, home run).
Additional Lights When the Play Results in a Hit or Error
Sometimes during the course of a game, it can be difficult to tell whether a hard hit ball is a base hit or if it was an error. Routine plays that are bobbled by the defense are obviously errors, but what about those hard-hit, non-routine plays where the player didn’t quite field it cleanly?
To help fans understand what the ruling on the field is, some scoreboards will have an additional “H” and “E”, but there will be circular lights underneath these letters. These letters also indicate “Hit” and “Error” but these are used to let all fans and players know if the ruling on the field is a hit or an error.
Left On Base (LOB)
In the past few years, some Major League teams have added one additional acronym to the scoreboard that sits directly to the right of R, H, and E. This acronym is LOB and it stands for Left On Base.
On baseball scoreboards, the Left on Base stat calculates the total number of runners who were left on base at the end of each inning. This number is a grand total of all runners who were left stranded for the duration of the game.