“You Called That a What . . . ?”
The Newsletter of the Official Scoring Committee
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
June 2018, Volume 3, Number 2
- Committee Meeting at Convention to Feature Real Live Official Scorers
- New Minor League Rule Raising Questions (and Answers)
- Conundrum of the Month (or Quarter or Whatever)
- Conundrum Answer
Bob Webb and Evan Pattak, official scorers for Major League Baseball, will be the special guests at the meeting of the Official Scoring Committee at the SABR 48 Convention in Pittsburgh. The meeting will be in Grand Ballroom 1 (on the Ballroom Level) at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 21.
Evan has been the official scorer for Pirates games since 1980. He operates the public-relations firm of Evan M. Pattak Associates and has written many books and magazine articles. He and his wife, Pohla Smith, live in the Park Place neighborhood of Pittsburgh with their six pets.
Bob has been an official scorer for Pirates games since 1989. He is the chief operating officer for the Pittsburgh law firm of Tucker Arensberg, is married with three sons and three grandchildren, and has hobbies that include long-distance hiking and taking pictures of county courthouses in the United States (his collection is 60 percent complete).
Bill Nowlin and Marlene Vogelsang will chair the meeting and interview the scorers, who will field questions from the audience. The Oral History Committee will be on hand to record the event and add it to its burgeoning collection. (On the subject of the Oral History Committee, researchers of all types will want to take advantage of the new website for the SABR Oral History Collection. The Oral History Research Committee for years has been collecting recordings of interviews and sessions from SABR events. The committee worked with the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library to digitize the recordings and make them available on-line. Some of the interviews are of official scorers, and we hope to expand that part of the collection.)
On a sad note, Pirates official scorer Tony Krizmanich died on March 29. A nice story about Tony appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
As usual, keep an eye on our Committee Files page, as the information in there continues to grow, including:
- A blog on Our Game by John Thorn, “Keeping Score,” consisting of his remarks to the annual meeting of official scorers in New York.
- A Word file, provided by Mike Dean, of changes in the scoring rules over the years.
In addition, committee member Sarah Johnson wrote a biography of Minnesota official scorer Gregg Wong for the SABR BioProject.
The Links to Stories file has a few additions, stories written about official scoring and official scorers.
In the Non-Guest Column of the October 2017 newsletter, I mentioned a How to Keep Score section in an early 1960s Twins program that showed how to indicate the progress of a baserunner by using the fielding-position number of the batter who advances the runner. From that came a request to show this section. Happy to oblige:
In my opinion, anyone following the instructions from this will have a complete description of a game in his or her scoresheet. The only suggestion I would add for this is to note whether balls caught on the fly by infielders were pop ups or line drives. Rollins in the fourth inning is shown with a 5 in his box. I would be more specific and make it P5 or L5. Other than that, anything an aspiring scorer needs to know is nicely explained in this handy column.
This issue of “You Called That a What . . . ?” doesn’t have a guest column, but it does have profiles of a couple of fascinating official scorers from around the world.
- Chris Thoms is the official scorer for Giants and Athletics games in the Bay Area while also overseeing the official scorers in the Cape Cod League, a continent away. How does he manage that? Read his story below.
- Robert Saletti is an official scorer of the Italian Baseball and Softball Federation, where they have annual meetings of official scorers, just as is done here. Read about how he applies the analytical capacity that comes from being an engineer to making a scoring decision.
Guest columns are always welcome as are interviews and profiles of official scorers. If you’re interested in doing either or both, contact me: Stew Thornley
The minor leagues are now starting extra innings with a runner on second base. Whether this rule will reach the majors or not, it has brought up questions from all sorts of places about how scorers will handle the situation in their scorebooks and reports.
Doug Kern, who was with ESPN and now charts games for Baseball Info Solutions, points out that the rule means scorers may have to account for the extra runner when proving a box score. The total number of batters in a game (as shown by at-bats, walks, hit batters, sacrifices, sacrifice flies, and catcher interference) has to total runs, outs made, and left on base. But the placement of a runner could create a runner left on base (or run) without a corresponding batter. “It’s worth remembering that you now have to subtract any extra-inning ‘free’ runners since they don’t count as batters faced for the opposing pitcher,” Doug says.
I responded to a question from Emma Baccellieri of Deadspin on how I would enter an extra-inning runner in my scoresheet. I said I would probably mark in the lines in the same way I would do it for a double, except that instead of the double line I usually use for a double, I would put in an x or something like that. Other scorers have weighed in:
Tony Miller, the sports information director at Goshen College in Indiana, recommends a “TB” for “Tiebreaker” in the quadrant of the box to indicate a runner reaching second. Thom Hinton, who has been an official scorer in the Eastern League since 2002, plans to use “BR” for “By Rule” on his scoresheet.
The “By Rule” runner is unearned. I was the scorer for the Jalisco pool in the World Baseball Classic in 2017. The rules called for runners to be placed on second and third starting with the 11th inning. The rules were the same for treating these runners as unearned. In addition, the World Baseball Classic used runs allowed/innings in the field and earned runs allowed/innings in the field as a tiebreaker. The runners placed by rule were not to affect those categories. Out of some perverse curiosity, I was hoping to get such a situation. A wild game between Italy and Venezuela went into extra innings but was decided in the 10th inning, so that didn’t happen, although I considered what I would have done had the game continued and wrote out my thoughts in my response to Emma Baccellieri:
The 11th would have started with Carlos Gonzalez on second and Rougned Odor on first. In my scoresheet I would have drawn in the lines the same as I would for a double for CarGo, showing him at second; same thing with one line to show a runner at first for Odor. I’m not sure how I would have coded a designation for how they got there—maybe an x. Either player scoring would be credited with a run scored.
The bigger thing, to me, would be the designation of earned or unearned. The WBC manual had a good explanation. The “placed” runners, if they scored, would be unearned—even though there were no errors. Their placement and status as unearned would not affect the number of outs, so that would not be relevant in reconstructing an inning as we do when runs score in innings with an error. In that way, these runners would be similar to a batter who reached first on catcher’s interference (which is an error). If that runner scores, it is unearned, but runs that score after two are out are earned; it is not treated like the inning would have been over.
One thing a scorer has to keep in mind with these “placed” runners is that if one is retired on a fielder’s choice, the batter who reaches on a fielder’s choice would then assume the unearned status.
As far as how to mark it on the scoresheet, I guess every scorer keeps her/his personal scoresheet in a different way, so it really doesn’t matter how it’s handled there. It’s the box score we fill out afterward that would be relevant—credit a run scored for a placed runner and make it an unearned run.
Here is the story Emma wrote on the topic: Minor League Baseball’s New Extra Innings Format Turns the Rulebook into Nonsense
Marichal is pitching, and his team has a 4-3 lead. Cournoyer is on first base and Richard on second. Koufax relieves. Beliveau singles home Richard to tie the game; Cournoyer stops at second. Koufax picks Cournoyer off second. Ferguson homers to put his team in the lead for good. Who is the losing pitcher?
Chris Thoms has been the official scorer for San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics games since 2013. Although he is now on the West Coast, he still oversees official scorers for the Cape Cod League, the summer collegiate league that has been in existence more than 70 years. Chris was born and raised on Cape Cod, where his dad was the volunteer general manager for his hometown team, the Chatham A’s (now the Chatham Anglers). The Thomses served as a host family for, among others, David Bush, David DeJesus, Yan Gomes, Tommy Milone, and Andrew Miller. “I’ve found any sort of baseball difficult to beat Cape Cod baseball,” Chris says. “I got my start in the Cape League as just a kid with an interest in baseball and no real idea how detailed you need to be in order to do official scoring right. My time on the Cape is really the thing that got me in the door for the surreal MLB gig.”
Chris returns to the Cape every summer to train new scorers and then oversees the league remotely from the Bay Area. “It’s a lot of choppy out-of-focus video or internet radio broadcasts to piece everything together some times. I even had to manually score a game from YouTube last summer while I was on my honeymoon in Tokyo.” The games he’s seen include a no-hitter with Buster Posey at shortstop and one you won’t find in any record books, a 12-strikeout game started by Andrew Miller against a lineup featuring Jacoby Ellsbury and Cliff Pennington. Miller notched his Ks in only four innings, when the game got fogged out, “a signature Cape Cod outcome, so it was lost to history except for the manual scorecard that I have framed on my wall”
Chris answered a few more questions:
How did you get into official scoring?
I started scoring games in the Cape League in 1999 and I became the League Statistician/Head of Scorers in 2008. Prior to that, my mom was the person that initially taught me how to score games. I got my start keeping the book for my young brother’s little league team when I was in 6th grade.
We had the opportunity to have the Cape Cod League All-Star game at Fenway Park for a couple of years, so I got the chance to be the official scorer of a game in a Major League ball park for the first time. Those games got me curious about what it would take to become an official scorer at the highest level. I ended up reading the book Baseball Scorekeeping: A Practical Guide to the Rules by Andy Wirkmaa. I emailed him just looking for any information on how to proceed. He gave me Phyllis’s [Phyllis Merhige] contact information and I reached out with my resume and my interest. She let me know there was nothing available at the moment, but would keep me in mind if anything was open. Then right before I was set to move to Washington, DC, for my first job out of grad school, she got back to me that there was an opportunity to begin shadowing games for a potential gig with the Boston Red Sox. I had to pass since I was moving and offered my services for anything that would open in Baltimore or Washington. Nothing came from that, and I reached out again when I moved to San Francisco. Luckily, there was a spot open and I’ve been doing Oakland and San Francisco games ever since.
Outside of baseball I moved to San Francisco to work as a data scientist for Zynga, the gaming company that makes Words with Friends. I also spent 3 years as a data scientist at Uber, and transitioned to my current role now at LinkedIn in San Francisco, a convenient half mile walk to AT&T Park.
What interesting situations have you encountered while scoring?
The strangest situation I’ve encountered thus far in the big leagues was in a game between the Dodgers and Giants on July 6th, 2013 (my 6th ever game). Gregor Blanco led off the home half of the first with a double. He was then sacrificed to third. Then Buster Posey came up to the plate. The Dodgers brought all their infielders in, which I thought to be really strange at the time. Posey proceeded to rip a double down the right-field line to score the game’s first run. Then Don Mattingly came out of the dugout to chat with the umpires. After a great deal of confusion, it turned out that the Giants had batted out of order. A close up of the lineup card in the Dodgers dugout showed it beyond all doubt, despite every piece of paper that we had in the press box and the scoreboard saying that it was Posey in the three hole. Instead, Blanco was sent back to third, Pablo Sandoval [who was the number-three batter but had been skipped over] was charged with grounding out to the catcher unassisted, and Posey was sent back to the plate for his actual at bat. This time he harmlessly flied out to right and the inning ended. There was certainly a lot of confusion and even more evidence that the official scorers should always get a copy of the official lineups (even if you’re not allowed to tell anyone when they bat out of order).
What advice do you have for people interested in official scoring?
My biggest advice for new scorers is to get as much experience as you can. I equate official scoring to driving a car. The best way to get good at it is to practice. You don’t really realize how many different things you need to keep track of until you’ve been in the hot seat for a game. You get better and better at sorting out all the things that can happen in a baseball game the more that you’ve seen it, much like your driving ability improves as you encounter more situations on the road. Aside from experience, a firm grasp of the rules is the other piece of a good official scoring foundation. I always make sure to re-read the scoring section of the rulebook every year before the season to make sure that everything is fresh in my mind so I can make calls confidently and quickly.
Profile: Roberto Saletti
Roberto Saletti is an official scorer in the Italian Baseball and Softball Federation.
How did you get into official scoring?
My approach to official scoring was rather different from that of many other scorers from both my country, Italy, and the rest of the world.
Let me first give a brief description of what baseball is like in Italy. Baseball is unfortunately a so-called “minor sport,” in a country where almost every resource is devoted to soccer. Nevertheless, baseball in Italy has a long tradition, particularly in those Italian cities where baseball was first introduced by American troops. Indeed, Italy is one of the teams which participated in the last editions of the WBSC [World Baseball Softball Confederation] and is one of the best European national teams. Overall, baseball and softball are played at a good level.
I was born in Grosseto (Tuscany), a rather small city where baseball was introduced because of the presence of an important military airport nearby, in which American aviators where very often hosted.
When I was a young boy, baseball was the most important sport in Grosseto, played in every corner on sandlot fields by most youngsters. I was one of those youngsters, until I had to leave my hometown to start my university study and then career. At that time, I was deeply attracted by “the numbers” behind a baseball game and the glamour of scoring, but I never got into it seriously. For me, scoring remained a curiosity, a rather mysterious and magical thing.
I had to leave baseball behind me until 2010, when my last son Riccardo, a young prospect as swimmer, realized he was tired to follow the black line at the bottom of the pool and decided to play baseball, as his father did years before. I was rather shocked initially, but then I realized this would have been the opportunity for me to close the gap I left open decades before. So, I started to approach scoring in a very serious way: studying the Rulebook, regularly watching MLB games on the Internet and scoring them at home. Finally, I attended an official scorer course taught by the Italian Baseball and Softball Federation Instructors, after which I was promoted as Official Scorer of the Italian Federation.
I now am an official scorer, enabled to score baseball and softball games up to the top championship (National First Division), and I am regularly nominated as official scorer of games of the Italian National and Regional Championships. Moreover, I have been asked to revise the publication of the 2017 Italian Official Baseball Rulebook, that is the Italian translation of the MLB Official Rulebook, and to translate the Scoring Manual of the World Baseball and Softball Confederation.
Scoring is now for me one of the best ways to spend my time. I would like to feel every day the sense of accomplishment that scoring a difficult action gives me. In conclusion, I am very happy to have succeeded in travelling the path I started so many years ago, and I can consider myself, being in my sixties, a young “old scorer.”
What interesting situations have you encountered while scoring?
My experience as official scorer is not very long, as my story tells. Therefore, I will only mention a few situations I think are worth to be shared and that will always be fixed in my mind.
1) I was one of the three official scorers who had the opportunity to score the perfect game pitched by Angel Marquez in the Italian National First Division on September 13th, 2014. As you can see from the scoresheet, the game was easy to score, and no plays occurred that required a superior scoring ability, but the atmosphere in the scorer booth was increasingly thrilling. Inning after inning, we realized that we were going to be witnesses (The Official Witnesses) of a historical event. During the last innings no words were pronounced in the booth and we could hear each other breathing, or a mosquito flying. After the last out, I gave in to my emotions and finally became aware of what had happened that night. Those emotions still live in my heart.
2) Last year I was asked to be part of the crew of scorers in charge of scoring the Women’s Softball European Championship. I conducted myself well during the Championship, so much that the Scorer in Chief decided to appoint me as one of the scorers of the final between Italy and the Netherlands. What an immense pleasure and honor for a young “old scorer.” The moment when the national anthems were played was very emotional and I felt it very deeply but, after that, I kept myself fully concentrated till the end of the game. And everything was fine.
3) I am often appointed to score the games at the baseball field in Leghorn. One of the pitchers of the home team pitches a very nasty curveball that often fools the batters, but also often hits the ground and is not controlled by the catcher. One day he ran to my booth and said: “What’s wrong with me? Why do you call a wild pitch all the time? It was an easy play and it was the catcher’s fault!” I answered: “It’s not my call. It’s the Rulebook’s call,” and I showed him Rule 9.13(a), which states that “a wild pitch is assigned when the ball is not controlled after a bounce before the catcher.” I realized that one must be able to defend his calls when people are arguing them, but that is much easier to do when the scorer stands safe behind the dictate of a rule.
What advice do you have for people interested in official scoring?
I think the most important advice to people interested in official scoring is to cultivate the passion for the game. Scoring a game is the best way to enjoy it as you go into its deepest details. If you enjoy the game, you will enjoy scoring it. Then, you have to know the rules. I regularly read Rule 9 of the Official Rulebook to keep fresh every detail of the rules or, at least, to be able to quickly find the rule that is going to be applied to a particular play.
Another important advice is to stay in touch with other scorers to discuss opinions, to share doubts, and to compare the different points of view. Most of the technical growth of a scorer comes from comparing his calls and his way of applying the rules with other experienced scorers. That is the right way to find and maintain consistency among the scorers. The Italian official scorers meet each other every year in a Scorer Convention where technical talks are given, videos of interesting actions are analyzed, and discussions are encouraged. Finally, I strongly suggest everyone to score as much as possible, because in every game there will be a play that gives you the opportunity to improve your capabilities and enhance your experience.
What sorts of things have you learned since you began official scoring?
Becoming an official scorer has allowed me to enter a community of great people. I am very lucky to be part of the Italian Scorer community, because there are many scorers of great value and experience at a global level. Some of them are often appointed as scorer directors of the most important events for WBSC, CEB, and ESF (European Baseball and Softball Federations), and this means that I have the opportunity to learn something new any time I talk with one of them. As an example, Anna Maria Paini, the Chief of the Italian scorers, is also the Chief of the scoring commission of the WBSC. Having so many valuable scorers around keeps me relaxed and makes me confident that their advice or help will come any time I need it.
Then, I also learned that it is important to explain the decisions I take, if someone asks about it. I try to be as transparent as possible when making a call, but I am not afraid to defend my opinion even if someone disagrees with me and argues my decision. Indeed, I am not going to change a call just because someone pushes for it.
What is your background, including other interesting things about you (family/job/hobbies, etc.)?
I have always been a lover of sports. I have been practicing offshore sailing as an amateur athlete for many years with pretty good results and I am grateful to my family, in particular my wife, Daniela, to have supported and tolerated me in my hobbies. My daughters, Virginia and Costanza, and my son, Riccardo, accepted to live many weekends without their father, who was sailing the seas, without protesting too much. Sailing has been a very important part of my life, but I now feel myself completely involved in baseball and softball scoring.
Being a Full Professor of Electronics at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Pisa, I believe my formation and my job are very useful in my scoring activities. I feel the analytical capacity derived from my engineering studies and career is of great help in finding the right approach for sorting out a complicated action and making the right call.
Koufax is the losing pitcher. Had he not picked Cournoyer off second before giving up the home run, Marichal would have been the losing pitcher.
Rich Marazzi, in his book The Rules and Lore of Baseball (New York: Stein and Day, 1980), noted that this happened in an American Association game between Charleston and Denver May 9, 1958: Jim Stump of Charleston relieved Bob Bruce with Charleston ahead 4-3 in the third inning and runners on first and second. Gordon Windhorn singled home the tying run with Jim McManus stopping at second. With John Blanchard at bat, Stump picked McManus off at second, completing the line on Bruce. Denver scored four more runs in the inning, taking the lead for good. Had Stump not picked McManus off second, the go-ahead run would have been charged to Bruce, and Bruce would have been the losing pitcher. Instead, Windhorn (charged to Stump) scored the go-ahead run, making Stump the loser.
Stew Thornley—(Chair and Newsletter Editor)
Marlene Vogelsang—(Vice Chair)
Gabriel Schechter—(Vice Chair)
Bill Nowlin—(Vice Chair)
Sarah Johnson—(Vice Chair)
John McMurray—(Vice Chair and Liaison to the Oral History Research Committee)
Art Mugalian—(Assistant to the Traveling Secretary)