In the game of baseball
, the official scorer
is a person appointed by the league
to record the events on the field
, and to send this official record of the game back to the league offices. In addition to recording the events on the field such as the outcome of each plate appearance
and the circumstances of any baserunner's
advance around the bases, the official scorer is also charged with making judgment calls that do not affect gameplay, such as errors
, fielder's choice
, and defensive indifference
, all of which are included in the record compiled. This record is used to compile statistics
for each player. A box score
is a summary of the official scorer's game record.
The official scorer never goes on the field, as his or her decisions do not impact the outcome of the game (he or she typically watches from the press box or other suitable location), and fans rarely know the person's identity.
Because statistics (other than the score) were mostly of interest only to sportswriters in the early years, the journalists who covered pro teams were appointed to be official scorers. As their statistics began to be used in determining league awards, the perception arose of a conflict of interest
. In 1980
, Major League Baseball
decided to begin hiring non-journalists to do the job. As a practical matter, the official scorer for a game is traditionally selected by the home club, although MLB is the official employer of record and pays his or her salary.
There are now virtually no formal requirements for becoming an official scorer. However, potential scorers must file an application, and still usually serve an apprenticeship under an incumbent scorer before they assume full responsibility. In 2001, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball established a scoring committee, which currently has five members, to review calls made by official scorers. This committee can make recommendations, but does not have the power to overturn a scorer’s decisions.
The official scorer has discretion to make judgement calls about certain aspects of the score that do not affect the final disposition of the game. For example, when a fielder
fails to catch a ball in play, and the runner reaches base safely, the official scorer decides whether the ball "should" have been caught. If so, the fielder is charged with an error
; if not, the batter is awarded a hit
. Note that this decision can never affect the outcome of the game; the runner is safe at the base either way, and the decision of whether the fielder is charged with an error has no bearing on who eventually wins the game. The only effect is on the official statistics
for players that are compiled later.
Another decision that the official scorer makes is whether a ball not properly received by the catcher (i.e., a ball that gets past the catcher or away from him or her) is a passed ball (charged to the catcher) or a wild pitch (charged to the pitcher). A passed ball or a wild pitch is only scored if a baserunner advances as a result.
Various other decisions come into play during a game, when deciding if a batter should be credited with a certain amount of bases in an extra base hit (or was purely advancing on a fielder's choice), awarding a stolen base or defensive indifference (the runner took the base without any interest or acknowledgement of the defensive team to put them out on the play), awarding assists to fielders on deflected balls (having to decide between effective or ineffective deflection) and judging the plays involving other less common baseball quirks.
The positions on the field all have numbers (distinct from the players' uniform numbers) that are the same no matter what team is playing. That way the scorer does not have to write "out # 1 batter grounded to the shortstop and the shortstop threw the ball to the first baseman"; he or she can just write G6-3.
The numbers and associated positions are:
- first baseman
- second baseman
- third baseman
- left fielder
- center fielder
- right fielder
(In Slow-Pitch softball, the rover is 10.)