SABR Style Guide
Introduction: What This Is and What This Isn’t
By Cecilia Tan, Publications Director
The SABR Style Guide is a reference that exists to guide SABR writers and editors in creating consistent content. Consistency is essential not only to avoid ambiguity in published materials, but for the sake of professionalism and quality. SABR members pride themselves on getting all the numbers right; this document will hopefully see to it they get all the letters and punctuation right, as well.
- Related link: Click here for La Guía de Estilo de Escritura de SABR— a Spanish-language translation of the SABR Style Guide
Why does SABR need a specific Style Guide all our own? Here are the two main reasons:
1) SABR is on the cutting edge of baseball research. We may be using terms and acronyms — as well as coining new words and expressions — that will not yet have reached mainstream dictionaries, style guides, or usage guides. We may even be correcting incorrect usages which have crept into other reference books.
2) Setting one standard reference for SABR publications settles any argument on which is definitive. There are many style guides and glossaries to choose from out there, and most are silent when it comes to baseball-specific terms and usage.
The two style guides most people tend to be familiar with (if they are familiar with any at all) are the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The AP Stylebook specifies some sports terminology and usage, for use by newspaper beat writers and their editors. (For example, they choose RBIs for the the plural of RBI because they consider RBI to be a formal term, requiring an “s” to pluralize it. For SABR purposes we chose RBIs over RBI for the plural for the sake of clarity and readability.) However, since most of the usage in the AP Stylebook is aimed at newspaper writers and the needs of the daily newspaper, it is NOT all appropriate for SABR publications. AP abbreviates all months, for example, to take up as little space as possible in a printed newspaper column. They not only eschew the “serial” comma, they discourage listing more than two items in any sentence. That rule obviously would not serve academic writing or historical research terribly well.
Readability is very important to SABR publications. To ensure maximum ease of comprehension on the part of the readers of any SABR journal or publication, despite the often intellectually challenging content, we stick with the Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago’s choices usually reflect improved readability and comprehension. Chicago (and SABR) emphasizes the serial comma to prevent the ambiguity that could come from such a sentence as “In his speech, Commissioner Landis thanked his parents, Ty Cobb and Effa Manley.” Inserting the comma after “Ty Cobb” removes the need for the brain to double back and re-parse the sentence as a simple list of three equal items, instead of potentially tripping up and assuming the clause that follows the single comma is a subordinate clause to “parents.”
Of course, there are many contradictory rules in punctuation and usage that can be argued. One of my predecessors decided that all dates should be given in the European style (13 April 1987) rather than “American” style (April 13, 1987). Both writers and readers (the vast majority of whom are from the United States) objected to this as something they were not used to. I believe the European date style caused more than its share of consternation among editors (who had to change all the incorrect instances) and proofreaders (some of whom could not believe that was the rule). In the end I asked myself (and others) what the rationale for using the European date format could be. The only rationale I heard that had any weight was that it removed one comma from bibliographic listings, which are already comma-heavy. Weighed against readers who found it annoying and difficult to parse, writers who found it unusual and difficult to remember, and editors who have better things to worry about, I decided we should return to American date format. Besides, the Chicago Manual of Style—which is our arbiter for nearly all non-baseball specific issues—uses the American style. If our aim is consistency, then conforming to Chicago is another excellent reason to return to American-style dates.
Another reason for updating the style guide now (2013 as I write this), is that over the past 10 years of the document’s evolution, inconsistencies within the document itself have crept in. Sharp-eyed users have pointed out places where this guide had contradicted itself. I hope we have excised those at this point, without introducing new ones.
One final bit of introduction before the material begins. If you are writing a paper for publication in a SABR journal or book, there are additional instructions for you regarding style of endnotes and bibliography/references to be found in SABR’s manuscript submission guidelines. Please check with the Publications Director for those (PubDir@sabr.org should reach whoever holds the position now and in the future).
HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
Generally speaking, we expect most users reaching this guide online will use the “search” or “find” function of their web browser to hit the word or usage they need. Trying to figure out if there is a comma after Ken Griffey’s name, before “Jr.” or “Sr.”? Do a search for any of the following and you’ll come to the relevant entry: junior, jr, senior, sr, or comma.
There is, of course, no single correct way to use a reference like this. If you’ve never considered before whether home run is one word or two (I assure you it is two), or whether a home-run derby should have a hyphen (in generic terms it should, in reference to the old television program or current MLB competition Home Run Derby, it should not), you might want to peruse all the terms here to see what usage might surprise you. (And any term not found here, the fallback reference is Dickson’s Baseball Dictionary, however note Dickson’s is descriptive/all-inclusive, and this guide is meant to be prescriptive.)
Spoken language is always morphing and changing. The language of baseball evolves from a spoken vernacular used by players, coaches, and broadcasters, but it is our job as editors to fix what orthodoxy we can into the written expression of those words and phrases. Once upon a time “base ball” was two words. These days it is one. Home run is two words, and I expect it to remain two words throughout my lifetime, if this guide is used as intended.
Suggestions for changes, additions, arguments in favor of or against usage, et cetera are welcomed via email at PubDir@sabr.org.
Note: This style guide evolved from many sources, drawing initially on an ongoing document created by John Thorn and Richard Puff, which was later updated by Jim Charlton with the help of: John Payne, Mark Alvarez, Scott Flatow, Clay Dreslough, Len Levin, Skip McAfee, and Norman Macht. Bill Nowlin then incorporated some information from style sheets provided by the Boston Globe, The Sporting News, the University of Nebraska Press, and SABR’s BioProject style sheet, and considering comments from Mark Armour, Jim Charlton, Fred Ivor-Campbell, Len Levin, Norman Macht, Cecilia Tan, Rod Nelson, and Nick Frankovitch. Any style sheet should be considered a work in progress.
Spellings of words follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. Style rules follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. Grammar rules follow Words into Type, 3rd edition.
Abbreviations for baseball terms do not require periods. These abbreviations also are acceptable within a sentence. Do not start a sentence with an abbreviation. Spell out terms if there is any possibility of confusion arising from the use of an abbreviation or if the use of too many abbreviations has turned your paragraph into alphabet soup.
1B, 2B, 3B Spell out single, double, triple. Do not use 1B, 2B, 3B in text. For positions, spell out first base/baseman, second, third. Abbreviations are acceptable in tables and charts.
AA is acceptable for nineteenth-century American Association
AL (not A.L.), NL, FL for major leagues
AS should be spelled out for the All-Star Game.
BA, not B.A., for batting average. Should be spelled out in an article unless the term appears often. In that case BA can be used.
BBWAA is alternatively used for Baseball Writers Association of America.
CWS for College World Series.
DH should not be used as an abbreviation for doubleheader. It is acceptable as an abbreviation for designated hitter.
ERA, not E.R.A.
FL for Federal League is acceptable
Spell out left-hander, right-hander. Do not use LH or LHP, RH or RHP.
HR should be spelled out home run in text, except in certain situations where multiple abbreviations are called for. Plural is HRs. Homer is equally acceptable for home run.
HBP is acceptable for hit by a pitched ball. Plural is HBPs.
IP is acceptable but spelling out is preferred for innings pitched.
IPHR is acceptable for inside the park home runs if the term is repeated a number of times within an article.
LCS is acceptable for League Championship Series. NLCS and ALCS are acceptable.
LOHR should be spelled out as leadoff home runs, unless it occurs often in the article.
LP do not use for “losing pitcher” except in tables/charts.
MGR should not be used for manager.
MLB for Major League Baseball is acceptable.
ML do not use for Major League Baseball or as a replacement for “major league” or “the major leagues.” Spell out.
OBP for on-base percentage.
PCL for Pacific Coast League, but spell out all other minor leagues, except AA for American Association.
RBIs (note plural, for clarity’s sake), not R.B.I.’s and not RBI.
RH is acceptable in tables and lists for right-handed pitcher. LH is acceptable for left-handed pitcher in tables and lists. Otherwise, please spell out the words. RHP/LHP are not acceptable. Righty and lefty are okay, though a bit slangy.
SLG is preferable for slugging average.
Shutout is SHO, not SO, which can be confused with strikeout.
Strikeout. The preferred abbreviation is K, not SO.
SS, 2B, 3B, OF, RF, P, C for positions should be spelled out in text, abbreviated in tables, charts, or lists.
Co. is okay for Company
the Big Red Machine. Not The Big Red Machine
Names of teams: Boston Red Sox. Use uppercase.
Organized Ball. Uppercase.
vs. is preferable to versus.
WS is acceptable for World Series. For the first time used in an article it should be spelled out as World Series.
WP is not acceptable for winning pitcher, and LP is not acceptable for losing pitcher, except in lists or tables.
Abbreviations for Sabermetrics
SABR acronyms for formulae: (These need to be simply defined with guidelines on when the definition needs to be stated)
For addresses, the postal-code form for states may be used in text: Charlotte, NC. The two halves of California are capitalized: Southern California, Northern California. But when referring to states outside the context of an address, see the entry STATES in part 2.
Though always preferable to spell out country names in order to avoid confusion, one may use with discretion the two-letter abbreviations for countries set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Examples of these are:
A complete list can be found online by clicking here.
An s should be added after the apostrophe in a proper name ending in the letter s when it would be sounded in speech.
Jones’s, but not Matthews’
Mays’s but not Mays’
An s should always be added after the apostrophe in a proper name ending in x or z:
[Exception: plural names ending in x, e.g. Red Sox’, not Red Sox’s, though Boston’s is a preferable construction.]
Years. These should be given full as in 1967, 1932. Those following the first full year can take an apostrophe within the same phrase. EX: “In 1967, ‘69, and ’73 the Mets competed for the title.” For centuries and decades, the preferred usage is eighteenth century, nineteenth century, 1930s, 1950s.
Do not use an apostrophe at the end of a team’s nickname when using the nickname to identify the team’s personnel, except when the word “the” precedes the team nickname.
Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., not Reds’ outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.
the Reds’ Ken Griffey Jr.
Also note that the plural form of a team name (Yankees, Cubs) does not need an apostrophe or a possessive form, nor a singular form, to be used as an adjective. EX: “a Yankees outfielder” not “a Yankee outfielder”, “the sorrow of Cubs fans” not “the sorrow of Cub fans.”
Please note that there is a difference between bibliographic references and endnote references. If using numbered notes within the text of an article, use the endnotes punctuation and style found in the Chicago Manual of Style and detailed in this style guide under Endnotes. If using a list of bibliographic references at the end, use the bibliography style found in Chicago as well. A quick guide:
Bibliographies should conform to the following style of punctuation:
Books: Author (last name, first name). Title. City: publisher, year.
Lowenfish, Lee. The Imperfect Diamond: A History of Baseball’s Labor Wars. New York: Da Capo Press, 1991.
Chapters: Author (last name, first name). “Title of Article.” In Author of Book, Title of Book. City: publisher, year, pages.
James, Bill. “Musings of a Statistician.” In George Will, Baseball: The Game. New York: Doubleday, 2006.
Stengel, Casey. “Musings of a Manager.” In In the Dugout: An Anthology of Ballplayers’ Writings, ed. Douglass Wallop. Boston: Beacon Press, 1950.
For periodicals: Author (last name, first name). “Title of article.” Periodical Title volume, number [if available] (date): pages.
Chamberlain, Ryan. “Boxing and Baseball in the Nineteenth Century.” National Pastime 1, no. 1 (1982): 28–37.
For multiple authors: first author (last name, first name). Subsequent authors (first name last name). Separate all elements by commas.
Gammons, Peter, and Terry Pluto.
Do not number the bibliography citations. They should be in alphabetical order by author. If there is no clear author, as in many large encyclopedias, list by title. Anonymous works may be listed under “Anonymous.”
An Internet Web address should be given in lightface roman text: www.mlb.com
When giving a person’s birth and death dates, do so as follows:
Taffy Wright (1911–81)
If a person is still alive, set as follows: Marty Pattin (b. 1943)
Following a colon, the first word is capitalized if it begins what by itself stands as a grammatically complete sentence. If the phrase following the colon is not a full sentence, the first word is never capitalized, unless it is a proper noun.
We couldn’t believe it: The catcher legged out an inside-the-park home run.
The question is: Who ranks on the all-time consecutive-hits list?
The team was racked by injuries: hamstrings, a broken finger, a Tommy John surgery.
Titles are not capitalized unless they are used as part of the person’s name. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn is a title, but the commissioner Bowie Kuhn (lowercase). The only President capped all the time is the President of the United States, not those of a team or league.
Captain, manager, coach, and umpire are all lower case.
captain Derek Jeter
manager Tommy Lasorda
Use capitalization for full terms.
American League, National League, American League East, Organized Ball, Deadball Era, Negro League, Class A, Class B
For generic terms, use lowercase.
the league, the pennant in the West (note the exception: the Association for clarity)
Caps should be used for the World Series and the Series, but not world championship. Games in the World Series are uppercase: e.g., Game Three.
When naming awards, always capitalize the word Award.
Most Valuable Player Award (not Most Valuable Player award)
Cy Young Award
Rookie of the Year Award
A.M. and P.M. are set in small caps with periods.
Derivations of the South are capitalized: Southerner, Southern. The same is true of the North, East, and South.
grapefruit and cactus leagues are lowercase.
Lowercase spring training.
Lowercase winter meetings.
All-Star player, All-Star, All-Star Game are capitalized, especially when referring to MLB’s All-Star Game or All-Star selections. The word player is not capped. A generic all-star game or all-star selection is lowercase.
Opening Day (of season) is capitalized. The opening day of a series is not.
A 12-inning 7–6 loss
His 10th-inning two-run homer
A 7–5, 14-inning loss (use comma only when two numerals otherwise abut)
It is preferable to set off a score by a comma. The Tigers beat the A’s, 9–8. Defeated the Dodgers, 12–2, on May 17.
The serial comma is always used. This includes phrases in which three items are joined by “and” as well as “or,” EX: “An out could be made at first, second, or third base.” “Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, and Joe Tinker are an immortal double-play combination.”
One cent . . . nine cents
10 cents . . . 99 cents
One dollar . . . nine dollars
$10, $11, . . .
$1 million, $2 million
Best avoided everywhere.
Months are spelled out. There is no comma between a month and the year. There is also no apostrophe for a full decade, but is one for the abbreviation of a decade.
September, not Sept.
(1993/8/14), not (8-14-93)
May 2, 1970; May 2 (with no year); May 1970. “On May 2, 1970, it rained on the parade.” Commas surround the year. But when only the month and year are given, the commas are not used: “In May 1970 seven games were rained out.” Commas are not used when only a year is given in a prepositional phrase: “In 1927 no one knew how well the Yankees were going to do.”
Use endnotes, not footnotes, because all notes should be listed at the end of the article (not on each individual page of a document). All notes should be represented by superscript numbers in the text, and footnotes should all be listed at the end of the article. Numbers must be used consecutively and each number can be used only once.
Inclusive page numbers should be connected by an en dash, not a hyphen.
All titles should be in set in title case, not sentence case. Endnote citations should conform to the following style of punctuation:
-Be sure to italicize book titles, major newspapers, and journals/magazines.
-Do not use the abbreviations “pp.” “pg.” p.” et cetera for page numbers. Page numbers when given should be preceded by a comma and be indicated merely by the number.
-Use American style dates month, day, year. (i.e. April 17, 1967). Note no “th” on the number of the day. This is true in text writing as well, i.e. you would write “Opening Day was on April 4 at the big ballpark.” not “April 4th” No “nd” or “rd” either. No ordinals on dates.
-End each note with a period.
For books: Author (first name, last name, Title (city of publication: publisher, year), page numbers.
Lee Lowenfish, The Imperfect Diamond: A History of Baseball’s Labor Wars (New York: Da Capo Press, 1991), 14–19.
For periodicals or journals: Author (first name, last name) “Title of Article,” Periodical volume, number [if available] (date): page numbers.
Ryan Chamberlain, “Boxing and Baseball in the Nineteenth Century,” The National Pastime 1, no. 1 (1982): 28–37.
Trent McCotter, “Hitting Streaks Don’t Obey Your Rules,” The Baseball Research Journal 37 (2008): 62-70.
Mark Feinsand, “A-Rod to Skip HR Derby,” New York Daily News, June 30, 2008.
if not bylined:
“Selig Announces Format Change,” Washington Post, May 30, 1996.
Joe Torre, telephone interview, May 8, 2007.
Websites: When possible cite as if from a newspaper or magazine, but include the full URL to the article. “Date accessed” may also be added.
In headings, capitalize the first word, the last word, and all other words except:
articles (a, an, and the)
prepositions (e.g., in, about) up to six letters
coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor)
Adjectives consisting of two separate words are connected by a hyphen
Adjectives and nouns consisting of two terms at least one of which is itself compound are connected by an en dash
Los Angeles–San Diego game
first baseman–third baseman
A general rule for compounds is to connect with a hyphen or en dash if it’s not a noun:
the first-place Cubs (but “finished in first place”)
hit a career-high .320
full- or part-time outfielder
Avoid such awkward phrases as “NL-record-fewest”
Scores should be shown as 7–3 (en dash), not 7 to 3
He batted 1-for-4 (hyphens)
30-year-old (n. & adj.) (hyphens)
his 653-game playing streak
an 11-inning no-hitter
a five-run outburst
a third-place finish
the second-place Dodgers
an 11th-inning sacrifice fly
his 16th-inning RBI
player-manager, not player/manager
the whip pennant
two-for-three. 2-for-3 is acceptable. Be consistent within an article as to which style you use. Do not have some sentences read “one-for-four” (spelled out) and others “2-for-5” (numerical).
Mets-Giants game, not Mets/Giants game
“a NL hitter,” not “an NL hitter”
native Cuban, not Cuban native
A nickname should be set off in quotes if it is between the first and last name: Fred “Boot nose” Hofmann. If the nickname is synonymous with the player, or well-known enough, no quotation marks are needed: Babe Ruth, Hoot Evers, Dummy Hoy, Bubbles Hargrave. A lesser-known nickname should be set off with quotes: Tony “Count” Mullane, Mark “Fido” Baldwin.
If the player has several nicknames, such as Buck and Bobo for Newsom, make sure that there is no confusion if both are used.
If the sobriquet is longer than one word, set it off with quotation marks: “Death to All Flying Things,” “Big Un,” The Apollo of the Box,” “Mandrake the Magician.”
Exception: Three Finger Brown.
If the nickname is a shortening of the last name, it is acceptable to use it without quotes. Make sure, however, that there is no confusion. In an article on Yastrzemski, using Yaz without quotes is acceptable.
First names: First and last names can be used separately in an article, according to author’s preference: “Williams hit .406” is as acceptable as “Ted hit .406.” However, do not use “Connie” for Mr. Mack.
The nickname is used interchangeably with the name of the city, unless using the name of the city might be confusing as to which team is playing. “Cleveland beat Detroit, 7–3” is acceptable since any reader would know it is the Indians and the Tigers. “Chicago beats New York, 7–3” is less clear and might be confusing.
Early nicknames of teams are acceptable, although often these are changed to the city rather than the nickname. Or referred to as the “Brooklyn Nationals” to show they were the NL entry from there. Any documented nickname used at the time by the press or fans is acceptable.
Earlier nicknames of teams often used the manager’s name as the nickname—for example, the Hugmen, for Miller Huggins’ team. Make sure there is no confusion.
If the nickname was one of several, then it may be used interchangeably. Robins and Dodgers for Brooklyn.
Exception: The Blue Jays for the Philadelphia Phillies of the 1940s should not be used unless it is explained. The Bees should be used for the Boston Braves in the late ‘30s.
Exception: Pittsburg may be used for Pittsburgh, for the historical period before the city added the “h.”
The nickname of a team is referred to as who.
The Mariners, who have been in first place for two months, dropped to second today.
The city as team is referred to as that or which.
The win catapulted them over Seattle, which had held first place for two months.
Spell out numbers from one through nine except when starting a sentence. Use numerals for numbers 10 and over. Numbers below 10 remain as numbers in tables and also when part of a series with numbers of 10 or above. Scores are always listed as numbers, not written out. In general, spell out numbers nine and under.
Two for his last 17
Three hits in 11 at-bats
Top 10, but top five, top three
With baseball-specific terms, the following styles should be used:
Batting average is .312, not 0.312
ERA is 2.14
5 1/2 games out, not 5.5
Some sample uses of numbers:
first inning, seventh-inning stretch, 10th inning; first base, second base, third base, first home run, 10th home run; first place, last place. The pitcher’s record is now 6-5. The final score was 1-0. The batter went 1-for-4.
Heights are given in numbers. 6-foot-2, 5’6”
Round off batting averages and earned-run averages unless it is critical to the discussion.
Fractions of innings. The preferred style for SABR is the 1/3 and 2/3 rather than .1 or .2.
Example: 5 1/3 innings worked, not 5.1 innings worked.
Fractions of games out. The preferred style is 5 1/2 games out of first place, not 5.5 games out of first place. Note that a single half should be spelled out as follows: “They were a half-game ahead in the standings.” (Not a 1/2 game, not “half a game”)
Numbers are hyphenated when spelled out. Twenty-one, not twenty one.
Numbers one through nine are generally spelled out in text. “The Cubs went on a nine-game winning streak”. Not “9-game winning streak.”
1 percent, 2 percent, 10 percent
Years (1914, for example) that start sentences need to be spelled out, though it looks awkward. But try to rewrite the sentence so the year does not begin it.
Newspapers and Periodicals
For the titles of newspapers, italicize both the city and the newspaper’s title. No cap or ital should be used for “the” in either newspapers or magazines, with the exception of The Sporting News (because of its common usage). Also, if The Sporting News is mentioned often in an article it is acceptable to intersperse the abbreviation TSN after the first time it is spelled out. We do not ital “The” in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc..
Possessives/Adjectives of team names
As per Major League Baseball’s guidelines, the plural form should be used when a team nickname precedes a player’s position. EX: “The best Yankees outfielder in decades.” “Yankees fans were disappointed by the loss.” But note possessive use with apostrophe: “The Yankees’ outfield has been affected by injuries.”
When team nickname precedes player’s name, use the singular form:
Yankee Red Rolfe; the Yankee Red Rolfe, (but Yankees pitcher David Cone)
Red Sox is singular: “It came down to the last Red Sox on the bench: Doug Mientkiewicz.”
When two or more players:
Indians Bob Lemon, Warren Spahn, and Rocky Colavito combined . . .
No apostrophe for:
The Yankees lineup, front office, dugout, etc.
Note the following:
The Indian run
The Braves’ 14–7 victory, win, championship, win streak, attendance.
A Braves victory, win, championship, win streak, attendance record. (Here the team name functions as an adjective, and so does not require an apostrophe.)
The Red Sox’ winning season…
The possessive of A’s is also A’s.
The two teams’ expenses.
Quotation Marks and Italics
A comma or period goes inside the quotation mark. A colon, semicolon, question mark, or exclamation point goes outside the quotation mark, unless it is part of the quoted material. Examples:
The umpire asked, “Is there a doctor in the park?”
Did that man say, “I’m a doctor”?
Yes, he said, “I’m a doctor”!
Wally Schang’s manager said, “We wuz robbed!”
Books, magazines, and publications are italicized. (In titles of publications, initial articles are kept in roman and lowercase, with the exception of The Sporting News.) Names of plays and musicals are in quotation marks. Song titles are in quotation marks; albums should be italicized. Dissertations, articles, and chapters in books are in quotation marks. All are set in title case.
Jr. and Sr. are not preceded by commas.
African American is not hyphenated, either as a noun or an adjective, like Italian American.
In much of the nineteenth century, the word League was routinely capitalized when it referred to the National League. It is acceptable for writers of nineteenth-century pieces to maintain this usage.
A.M.—set in small caps with periods.
age—always expressed in numerals
AL (not A.L.)
ALCS—abbr. for American League Championship Series (can use LCS or LDS on second reference)
All-Star (noun) Always capitalize All-Star, even to write: Glavine was an All-Star—unless you are using all-star as synonymous with great player
All-Star Game. Refers only to MLB’s annual game. Generic all-star games are not capitalized.
all-time (adj.) e.g. his all-time high
all time (noun phrase) e.g. he was the greatest hitter of all time
around the horn
ARTICLES, ESSAYS, SONGS, POEMS (except of epic length)—in quotes
A’s—abbr. for Oakland Athletics (use for possessive too)
Astroturf. AstroTurf is the correct form for this trademarked product. Artificial turf is the generic name.
attendance—follow rules for expressing numbers and numerals in millions
back up (v.)
backup (n.) (adj.)
bad-ball hitter (n.)
ball boy / ball girl
barehanded (v.) (adj.)
base on balls
baserunning (n.) base-running (adj.)
bases-empty home run
bases-loaded home run
bases on balls (pl.)
basestealer, basestealing (n.) base-stealing (adj.)
Baseball Writers’ Association of America BBWAA is acceptable
batboy / batgirl
BATTING— Represent with numerals adjectivally. EX. He had a 2-for-5 day. (Or: “In the game he went 2-for-5” or “…two for five.”)
BATTING AVERAGE—always use numerals
big league (n.) big-league (adj.)
boo, booed, booing – never booh
BOOK AND FILM TITLES—italicize
break up—e.g., break up a double play
brush back (v.)
bullpen-by-committee (n. & adj.)
bull’s-eye but the bull’s eyes
call-up—e.g. he was a September call-up call up (v.)
career high (n.) but career-high (adj.)
caught stealing, a (n.)
center field (n.)
change of pace
changeup (n.) (adj.)
change up (v.)
checked swing (n.) checked-swing (adj.)
choke up on the bat
cleanup (n. & adj.)
Club—capitalized only when part of the full title: “the Texas Rangers Baseball Club,” but “the Texas club.”
coaches’ boxes coach’s box note distinction: 3b coach’s box, the 1b and 3b coaches’ boxes.
•Always use serial commas
•Do not use commas after introductory clauses of six words or less when the meaning is clear. Example: “On August 2 the Cubs split with the . . .” Use a comma in this circumstance only when the meaning would not be clear or the sentence would be awkward without one. Examples: “On Monday, Rick Monday….” and “In 1994, 850 home runs were hit….”
•Do use commas to set off numerical years. Example: “On August 1, 1942, the White Sox….” But: “In August 1942 the White Sox….”
•Do use commas to set off scores. Example: A four-run rally won the game for the Reds, 6-2….”
•Do use comma before the word “too” at the end of a sentence.
Commissioner—Always capped when attached to the name of a specific commissioner (ex.—Last night, Commissioner Fay Vincent announced . . .; Fay Vincent, the commissioner of major league baseball, last night announced . . .’ Commissioner Fay Vincent last night held a news conference. The commissioner announced that . . .)
COUNT—always use numerals separated by an en-dash (ex.—he hit a 3-2 pitch for a homer)
Cracker Jack Old Timers Classic
cut off (v.)
cutoff man (n.)
Cy Young Award
D-Backs (acceptable on second use for Diamondbacks)
dark horse (n. & adj.)
DATES—spell out months. Years: 1970–73 but 1999–2001
DECADES – ‘70s or ‘80s; use numerals. Apostrophe not to be used for pluralization. 1970s, not 1970’s
designated hitter (DH acceptable even on first reference, but avoid DH-ing or DH’d. In narrative text, spelling it out is preferred.)
DIMENSIONS—Use numerals for all specific weights, heights, lengths, distances, etc. Spell out when no specific figures is used. (ex. the height of the pitching mound was originally established at 15 inches with the plate 45 feet away. Since that time it has varied from that distance to more than sixty feet. He threw the ball more than seventy-five feet.) Heights are given in numbers, e.g., 6-foot-2 or 5’10”.
Dominican winter league, but Arizona Fall League
double figures (n.) double-figure (adj.)
earned-run average ERA acceptable on first use. No periods between letters.
ellipsis—Each dot is followed by a space. In a four-dot ellipsis, the first dot is the period, and so no space intervenes before it and after the letter that precedes it. But a space does follow the first dot of a four-dot ellipsis.
EM DASHES—no space before or after
EN DASHES—used in won-lost records (5–1); scores; use as a replacement of the word “to” (for example: He played 1959–65.)
first class (n.)
flied out (not flew out)
Florida Instructional League
fly ball (n.)
fly out (n.) fly out (v.)
force out (n.)
force out (v.)
force play (n.)
FORMAL TITLES—Always capitalize the title (ex: Last night, President Larry Lucchino attended…; Larry Lucchino, president of the Red Sox . . .)
40–40 Club—numerals separated by en-dash
foul tip (n.) foul-tip (v.)
FRACTIONS 5 1/2 games out, not 5.5
free agent (n.) (adj.)
full count (n.) full-count (adj.)
full-time (adj.) “He is a full-time player.” (adj.),
full time (adv.) “He worked full time at the mill.” (adv.)
GAME NUMBERS—always spell out for World Series games (for example: The White Sox beat the Astros in Game One of the 2005 World Series.)
GAMES BEHIND – see STATISTICS
Gas House Gang
general manager—do not capitalize when used as title: “The Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey.” It is acceptable to use GM (no periods) on second reference.
grand slam (n. & adj., but never use the words home run with grand slam)
ground out (v.) as a verb, past tense, grounded out (not ground out)
half inning (n.)
Hall of Fame the formal title is the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Hall of Famer
hard-hit (adj.) ex: a hard-hit ball
hard-hitting (adj.) ex: a hard-hitting batter
hidden ball trick
high 90s (n.) high-90s (adj.)
hit-and-run (n. & adj.) hit and run (v.)
HIT STREAKS – always use numerals: DiMaggio’s 56-game streak
hold out (v.)
home plate (n.) home-plate (adj.)
home run HR is OK, but spelling it out is preferable HRs is also OK in the plural.
home run hitter home-run swing (adj.) home-run trot (adj.)
home run hitting (n.)
HOME RUNS—use numerals when using stats
home team—two words, either as noun or adjective
hometown (adj.) home town (n.)
Hot Stove League
IL for International League
inside-the-park home run
instructional league (unless part of proper name)
introductory clause—generally, do not follow it with a comma unless the clause is more than six words in length, but for exceptions see the entry COMMA.
it’s—use for “it is” but not for “it has.”
junior — Abbreviated Jr. Do not precede by a comma (Ken Griffey Jr.) unless the individual in question prefers it.
junior circuit, senior circuit
Ks (no apostrophe for pluralization)
Ls (no apostrophe for pluralization)
LA – no periods in city abbreviations, but try not to abbreviate city names in narrative text.
laidback (preceding the noun: “a laidback pitcher”) (following the noun: “the whole team was laid back”)
leadoff (n. & adj.) lead off (v.)
League Division Series, or League Championship Series ALDS, ALCS, etc. or, in context, LDS, LCS acceptable on second reference.
left-center (n.) left-center field (n.) left-center-field (adj.)
left field (n.) left-field (adj.)
left-handed (adj. & adv.) left-handed-hitting (adj.)
line drive (n.) line-drive (adj.)
line out (v.)
lineup (n. & adj.) line up (v.)
Little League—always capped
lob (n. & v.)
LOB—left on base
long ball (n.)
loop (adj. & v.)
major league (n.)
major-league (adj.) If this term is used as part of a triple-word modifier, insert an en dash after the word league. E.g., “Ortiz is a major league–caliber hitter.”
Major League Baseball (as a business entity) MLB OK on second use
Major League Baseball Players Association (no apostrophe) – can refer to as players association (lower case) on second reference
makeup (n. & adj.) make up (v.)
manager—do not capitalize when used as a title: “Giants manager John McGraw.”
matchup (n. & adj.) match up (v.)
Mexican winter ball or Mexican winter league
mid-90s (referring to pitch speed) but: low 90s or high 90s middle 90s is OK. If used as adjective, then low-90s fastball is correct.
miles per hour—always use numerals (ex: he threw a 98-mph fastball)
mop up (v.)
mop-up man (adj.)
Most Valuable Player
million—4 million, 4.3 million, $4 million
National League or NL (not N.L.)
National League Championship Series
NEWSPAPERS: Italicize the name, and the city (Chicago Tribune), but not the word “The” except in the case of The Sporting News.
NICKNAMES: Quote nicknames when used with full names: Oscar “Happy” Felsch. But thereafter and when NOT using full name, simply say Happy Felsch, Rube Marquard, Babe Herman, Kiki Cuyler.
nineteenth century (n.)
NLCS—abbr. for National League Championship Series
no-hitter also one-hitter, etc.
non—words beginning with the prefix are typically closed up, as in nonroster.
NUMBERS—Golden rule: try to use words where every kind of writing except sportswriting would use words, but use numbers when dealing with the unique statistical elements of baseball. Some specifications:
•Spell out all numbers to 10.
•Spell out players’ ages. Heights are a stat and may be represented numerically (6-foot-2, 5’6″)
•Spell out numbers in quoted speech.
•Spell out numbers beginning a sentence, or re-edit.
•Spell out innings up to the 10th.
•Spell out numerical expressions: “Two or three hundred years ago.”
•Use figures for numerals above ten, for dates, dimensions, tallies (such as votes for HoF).
•Use comma in four-figure or larger numbers.
•Avoid ordinals (8th, 15th) for dates, but usages such as “53rd double” or “714th home run” are permissible.
Money and dates should be in numerals. (Exception: Fourth of July)
offseason (n. and adj.)
on-base average or on-base percentage
opening day—lower case as generic, upper case to refer to a specific season’s Opening Day.
opposite field (n.) opposite-field (adj.)
Organized Baseball—always capped
outpitch, outpitched (v.)
out pitch (n.)
overthrow (n. & v.)
P.M.—set in small caps with periods
part-time (adj.) “He was a part-time salesman.”
part time (n. or adv.) “He worked part time as a salesman.”
PERCENTAGES—always numerals; spell out percent; 45 percent. In a table, the abbreviation can be used, e.g., 45%
pick off (v.)
pinch hit (n.)
pinch-hit (adj. and v.)
pinch homer (n.)
pinch run (n.
pinch-run (adj. and v.)
pitchout (n. & adj.)
pitch out (v.)
play-by-play (n. & adj.)
player to be named later (even though this is redundant)
playoff (n. & adj.)
play off (v.)
pop out (v.)
pop up (v.)
POSSESSIVES—use ’s in all cases when the word does not end in s. When word does end in s use ’s when it would be sounded in speech. (ex.: Williams’s.) Use apostrophe alone when an additional “s” would not be sounded in speech. (ex: Rogers’.) Exception: Red Sox’, not Red Sox’s.
possessives, team names—Use apostrophe only when there is an indication of the team possessing something. (ex: John Doe, the Braves center field . . . ; The Mets’ losses amounted to . . .; the Giants fans filled the stadium. . . .)
POSITIONS – p, c, 1b, 2b, ss, 3b, lf, cf, rf, DH—lower case all except designated hitter.
postseason (n. and adj.)
PREFIXES—Most prefixed words (anti, inter, mis, multi, non, pre, re, semi, sub, super, un) are not hyphenated. Words that begin with well- are hyphenated when they are adjectives preceding a noun. When they follow the noun, they are open. E.g., “It was a well-pitched game” but “The game was well pitched.” Also hyphenate when following word begins with capital (“pre-Landis era”), or when prefix is doubled (“sub-subparagraph”).
press box (n.) press-box (adj.)
putout (n. & adj.)
put out (v.)
quick pitch (n.)
regular season (n.) but regular-season (adj.)
resign (as in to resign a job)
re-sign (as in to re-sign a contract)
right-center, right-center field
right field (n.)
Rookie of the Year
rosin bag – never resin
rotator cuff (n.)
Rule 5 draft
run and hit
run batted in (s.) runs batted in (p.) Abbreviate as RBI for singular, RBIs for plural.
run down (v.)
sandlot (n., adj.)
sandwich pick—OK as shorthand for compensation pick
scores—use numerals; separate by en dash
season high (n.) but season-high (adj.)
season opener (n.) but season-opening (adj.)
second base second-base umpire
second place (n.)
sellout (n. & adj.) sell out (v.)
senior—do not precede by a comma (ex: John Smith Sr.) unless the individual in question prefers it
the Series – OK on second reference, if referring to the World Series
setup (n.) set up (v.) set-up (adj.)
short hop (n.) short-hop (v.)
“The Show” capitalize the T and S and always place in quotes
shutout (n. & adj.)
shut out (v.)
side-armer (n.) side-armed or side-arming (adj.)
sign stealing (n.)
Single A (n.)
single-A (adj.) (see Triple A, triple-A)
slow breaking pitch
smoky – never smokey
SONG TITLES: italicize, e.g., The Star-Spangled Banner
spitball spitter is OK, too
split-finger (in all uses)
STATES—Spell out and set off with commas; (ex: the Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, New York, near Utica.) EXCEPTION: in charts or lists, use the two-letter capitalized postal abbreviation: (Lynn, MA).
story line (two words)
STATISTICS – follow rules regarding NUMBERS. In statistically-oriented texts, it is acceptable to use numerals in all instances.
stolen base (n.) stolen-base percentage (adj.)
strikeout (n.) (adj.)
strike out (v.)
switch-hitter switch-hitting (adj.)
30–30 Club—separate by en dashes
3–6–3 double play—separate by en dashes
tag up (v.)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
team high (n.) team-high (adj.)
TELEVISION SHOWS – italicize titles
“The Show” capitalize the T and S and always place in quotes
thousands—include comma, e.g. he amassed 2,576 hits
ticket-holder, season ticket-holder
till – never ‘til or ‘till, but one may prefer to use the word until.
timeout—but take time out
Triple A (n.)
triple-A (adj.) (see Single A, single-A)
Triple Crown for the award as a non-specific adjective, no caps, e.g., He was having what looked to be a triple crown season.
twentieth century (n.)
two and a half innings
US (adj. only; for noun, spell out United States) no periods (consistent with state abbreviations, NL, AL, etc.)
Venezuelan winter league
vs. is preferable to versus
Ws – OK as reference to wins
walk-off (adj.) walk off (v.)
warm-up (n. & adj.)
warm up (v.)
WEIGHTS—use numerals. Terms for weight are abbreviated, as is percent. Percent should be spelled out, as should pounds. In a table, the % and lb. abbreviations can be used, e.g., 250-lb. 250 lbs. 25%
wild card (n.) but wild-card (adj.)
National League/American League Wild Card Game (do not abbreviate as “WCG”)
windup (n.) wind up (v.)
winning streak—always spell out (ex: The Reds won fifteen of the next eighteen games.)
wins – follow rules regarding NUMBERS. In statistically-oriented texts, it is acceptable to use numerals in all instances.
World Series—the Series
WWI and WWII are preferred over WW1 and WW2. Spelling out is preferred, e.g., World War II.
Last revised: May 2013
La Guía de Estilo de Escritura de SABR — Spanish-language SABR Style Guide — click here.
To go back to the BioProject Resources page, click here.
To view the Baseball Biography Project home page, click here.
To go back to the SABR Publications page, click here.