I love keeping track of minutia. I used to have complicated spreadsheets of everything I ate, not for health or weight-loss reasons, but just because I like to do that kind of thing. So, obviously, baseball is right up my alley, and probably psychologically healthier for me than charting the number of potato chips versus carrot sticks I’ve eaten this month.
Those of you who do not obsessively follow the New York Mets, or their SNY broadcasting team, may not know that Keith Hernandez, of first base, Seinfeld, and Just For Men fame, is just about as statistically obsessed as I am. He keeps a infamously complicated scorecard, and is basically my hero when it comes to the analytical aspect of baseball fandom.
I was a bit intimidated to do a scorecard live, cause it seems like there’s a lot to do, even if you don’t keep track of each player’s batting stance and preferred dugout sports drink, so I decided to score an old game available in the archives of my MLB.tv subscription. I happened to have a Rockies scorecard that I picked up in the Denver airport, so I picked a Mets-Rockies game from May, and had at it.
As you can (maybe) see, I didn’t finish the game, I got distracted, and this had already taken nearly three hours. The Mets lost, anyways. The funny pink bits in the lineup are pieces of gaffe tape that I put over the lineups, because I originally forgot to skip boxes when filling it out. I couldn’t find any whiteout, and of course I did all this in pen.
I don’t want to go through the game play-by-play, but rather to look at the notation require to do one of these things. The basic plays, like a fly-out to center field (F8), or a walk (BB) are pretty universal, but beyond that, there is a lot of room for interpretation. I took some time to look at this website, and of course, the advice of Keith Hernandez, and his scorecards in the back of the Pure Baseball book I mentioned earlier.
I decided to keep track of all the pitches in each at bat, numbering them in the balls/strikes columns by the number of said pitch in the at bat. By that I mean, if the count is 1-2 after the first three pitches, and the batter fouls off the next two pitches, the following ball is noted as “6” in the ball column, rather than “4,” to indicate that two pitches were thrown between the third and sixth “counting” pitches. And I put a little dot down to note each 2-strike foul ball. You can see this in CarGo’s at-bat in the first inning (page 2, 3rd box in the 1st column), there is no “4,” because the 4th pitch was a two-strike foul ball.
That is super-nerdy, and requires paying a lot of attention. I have not tried this out during a live game, and I am a little nervous to do so, especially since I tend to watch baseball socially. Otherwise, you can see some variation in my scoring notations, as I try to figure out what I like. I decided that I like drawing the little line (see Ike Davis in the 4th and 6th innings) that shows where the ball was hit. But, with those two singles, you can also see the difference as I decide where to write the “1B” on the diamond. It makes sense to write it outside, if you fill in the entire diamond when a player eventually scores a run, but I feel that wastes valuable note-making space.
There’s still a lot more work to do in order to make this easy for myself while I do it, and easy to put together after the fact. I like the idea of different colored highlighters for different pitchers, or to annotate other aspects of the game that the traditional scoring glosses over.
I’m gonna keep working on this, and maybe I’ll show you some of my work. But, as always, it’s not about showing off, or trying to teach or preach. It’s about me loving baseball, and wanting to be as involved as my neurotic, obsessive-compulsive personality can be. And feelings, and tampons and other lady-things.