The Definitive Guide to Read Baseball Scores

Baseball scoreboards are updated by the official scorer at each game.

To read a baseball scoreboard, start reading from left to right. The team’s name is located on the left with numbers one through nine listed out next to them, indicating each inning. 

Below those numbers, there are other numbers to show how many runs players score in each half-inning of the game. 

The rest of the article will explain in detail how to read every part of baseball scoreboards at a baseball game, one section at a time. 

Where are the team names located?

Team names are located on the left side of the scoreboard. The road team will be listed on top, and the home team will be listed on the bottom. 

This is one of the first things you will notice when you read a baseball scoreboard. Some scoreboards will have the teams listed as “visitor” and “home,” while some will have the actual two teams listed. 

Why is the home team listed below the visiting team?

The home team is listed below the visiting team because the home team bats last. This can be better understood a little later when we go over innings. 

Runs per inning

To the right of the team names, there is a long section of numbers. This is where the number of runs scored per inning goes.

Baseball games can be anywhere from three to nine innings long, depending on the league you’re watching. When looking at a scoreboard, this will most likely be the longest section. 

This is also one of the most important sections because it contains the basic information needed to know who is winning the game at any given moment.

Where are the innings located?

The number of the innings is listed in sequential order across the top of the list. They are numbered one through nine, with the first inning closest to the team name and the ninth inning at the other end.

Some boards go up to ten, leaving an extra space in case there is an extra inning played. Extra innings come into play if the teams are tied at the end of the ninth inning.

These numbers represent the individual innings of the game you are watching. Below those numbers are other numbers that represent the number of runs scored by that team within that individual inning. 

What is an inning?

In baseball, an inning is the unit of play. There are two halves of each inning, where one team bats, or plays offense, and the other team plays defense. 

The away team always bats in the first half, often called the top half, while the home team always bats in the second half, often called the bottom half.

Other functions of the inning section 

This section of baseball scoreboards also allows viewers to know what inning the game is currently in. The away team always bats for the first half-inning, then the home team. 

To read a baseball scoreboard and understand how far along the game is, you can use the scores listed for each inning. If there are numbers for the first inning but there is a blank space in the home team “2” column, and no numbers listed for innings after the 2 column, it means that it is the bottom of the second inning.

Once the offensive team scores three outs, they play defense for the next half-inning. Play swaps back and forth throughout the game every time a team scores three outs.

What does the “R” column mean?

The R on the baseball scoreboard stands for runs. Sometimes the scoreboard will actually say “Runs.”

This is used to show the total of how many runs each team scores. Every time there’s a run scored, the number increases for the team of the player who made it safely from third base to home plate.

What does the “H” column mean?

The H on the baseball scoreboard stands for hits. This shows all hits made by players on the team. 

This includes every hit: singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. Whenever a batter reaches first base, the number in this section increases.

What does the “E” column mean?

The “E” on the baseball scoreboard stands for errors. This is the number of errors that were given to the defense during the game, such as when a runner steals second base. 

It calculates the defensive errors of each team and is used to give viewers an idea of how well the defense of a team is doing during the game.

Defensive players are all those on the field, including the first baseman, second baseman, and third baseman. It also includes the outfielders: right fielder, left fielder, and center fielder. 

Does the scoreboard show the number of strikes, outs, and balls?

A common but not consistent part of baseball scoreboards is a section that shows how many balls, strikes, and outs there are. If a scoreboard has it, it would be found above or below the section that shows the runs scored each inning.

Unlike runs, balls and strikes are updated during each pitch when an offensive player is at bat. It lets viewers know what the current count is as the batter hits.

How many outs the team has are updated after the batter has either gotten out or makes a base hit, and will show how many outs there have been in the half-inning.

What does the “P” on the baseball scoreboard mean?

The “P” on a scoreboard stands for pitcher and will show the pitcher’s number, which can also be found on their jersey. This lets viewers know who is currently pitching.

This is the pitcher on the mound, who will usually play there for almost the entire game. This number only changes if there’s a pitching change and a new player takes the mound.

Does the scoreboard also have the number of the batter?

Some, but not all, scoreboards will have a section with the number the batter wears on their jersey. If a scoreboard has this, it is usually titled “At Bat.” 

The only function of this section is to show who is currently batting.

Are statistics shown on the baseball scoreboard?

In most major league scoreboards, they are! When scoreboards show this information you will see the order in which each player will be up to bat, along with the batting average for each one of them. 

When each player takes their turn, the baseball scoreboard will highlight them, showing the spectators additional stats from that day.

How is the batting order shown?

The batting order will be shown on a scoreboard with a “BA” next to the player’s name. As a certain baseball player goes up to plate, it will expand, showing more of their info.

“BA” stands for batting average, but you can also find “OBP,” on-base percentage, or “SLG,” slugging.  

How are stats for pitchers shown?

When a pitcher is up, it will show their number of innings pitched with an “IP,” runs with an “R,” earned runs with an “ER,” base on balls with a “BB,” and hits with an “H.” These are important to show and give viewers an idea of how the rest of the game is going to go with that specific pitcher.  

Do some scoreboards only have one stat?

Yes. If a scoreboard isn’t fancy, many times it will just have the win or loss number of the pitcher, and their record. In a game, only one pitcher is awarded this.

What statistics do in-depth scoreboards usually show?

The common stats that most scoreboards, in-depth ones at least, show are runs batted in, hits, stolen bases, and the kind of hit they had, such as single, double, triple, and home run.

What does Left On Base mean?

You may see this in some Major League baseball scoreboards. This is added and would sit to the right of the R, H, and E. 

This is a calculation of the total number of runners who are on the bases when the inning ends. This is an important number because it signifies how many points a team could have gotten if they did not get out.

Are there other lights on the board?

Yes, there are! Some scoreboards will have circular lights under the “H” and the “E.”

These light up when a hit is made and when there are errors committed. The best possible hit would be a hard hit ball to center field or left field, as it offers the best chance for the runner to get on base.

There may be other lights to bring attention to certain parts of the board, and depending on the league you are watching, some will have a screen showing different images or videos, but the lights that matter to the score are the ones under those letters!

Will some info be located on the screens?

Boards with screens may have some additional statistics on them. This depends on what they do not have room for on the actual scoreboard. 

Some teams with screens on their board will just play videos of the players, but they may have additional stats for keeping track of the current batter located there, too.

This completely depends on the team you are watching, and the league they are in. A simple, standard board will probably not have a screen.

Are there any new sections of a scoreboard?

Starting in 2018, a few Major League boards have added a section that says “MVR,” standing for mound visits remaining. This will be located to the right of R, H, and E. 

This shows the number of times a coach, manager, or teammate can make a mound visit to the pitcher. If they go above the number of mound visits remaining, they will get a pitching charge.

Generally, teams get five mound visits per game to keep the pace of the game running smoothly. This number will start at zero, and go up by one each time the pitcher is visited at the mound.

Final Thoughts

Baseball is a game of numbers. Arguably, numbers in baseball are more important than they are in any other sport. 

Statistics are everything, and viewers need to know them. This is why the system is so complex, and sometimes hard to read. 

When watching a game, learning to read these things will help you to understand exactly what is going on in the moment, and thus enjoy the game more. We recommend focusing on the basics first, such as the team names, innings, and the number of runs a team has had.