How to Read a Baseball Scoreboard

Scoreboard terms and abbreviations demystified
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

Do you know how to read a baseball scoreboard? Most fans know the basics, but there is more to it than just reading the score. In this post, we will teach you how to read a baseball scoreboard and what all of the abbreviations and terms mean. So, if you’re looking to brush up on your knowledge or are a beginner, keep reading!

  • Most scoreboards have three rows: the top row displays innings and runs/hits/errors (RHE), the second row is generally for the visiting team, and the third row is for the home team.
  • Runs (R) represents cumulative number of runs for game.
  • Hits (H) column displays a team’s total hits for game – not individual player stats.
  • Errors (E) column displays tally for errors made during game.

Types of Scoreboards 

There are several different types of scoreboards that you may see depending on the league and the level. The types of scoreboards will vary depending on the facilities. You will find that most scoreboards are electronic.

Some scoreboards are found in the outfield and some major league stadiums, you will find scoreboards in the stands behind the dugouts. 

In some of the older stadiums, you will find that the scoreboards are hand-turned. This means that the numbers are changed by hand (think old-school Wheel of Fortune but with wooden tiles). These scoreboards tend to be larger to accommodate the people that operate them – often from inside of the scoreboard. 

Scoreboard Basics 

There are a variety of scoreboards. Some come with more bells and whistles – which we will get into later. However, to understand the basics of how to read a scoreboard you have to understand the information that is being provided. 

Most scoreboards have three rows. In the top row, you will have the innings listed (left to right) from 1 to 9. After the 9 you will find three letters – RHE. These letters represent runs, hits, and errors.

Even though the visiting team bats first in baseball, the second row is generally the visiting team (though this may vary from stadium to stadium) and the third row is generally the home team.  The reason for this structure is pretty simple – the home team bats last, so they are usually found on the bottom of the scoreboard. 

You will find that in the rows next to the visitor name and the home name, there are often either empty boxes or zeroes. These are the spots where the number of runs scored in each inning for each team will be displayed. For example, if the Visitors score three runs in the first inning, then the first of the nine boxes will have a “3” in it. If they score zero runs in the second inning, then the box to the right of the “3” will have a “0”.

By looking at the boxes under the inning numbers, you can tell what inning it is and how many innings are remaining. You should know that if a game goes into extra innings the scoreboard may reset the innings on the scoreboard and reuse the innings for the extra innings. For example, the first inning could become the 10th inning, the 2nd inning could become the 11th, and so on. 

You can compare how each team did in each inning by simply looking at the inning columns. For example, if you look at the 3 for the visitors (from the previous example) but then look down and see that the Home team scored 5 runs, you would notice that there were a lot of runs scored that inning. 

Runs, Hits, and Errors

To the right of the scoreboard, you will notice the letters RHE. This stands for runs, hits, and errors. You may also notice that the number under the R doesn’t match the number of runs that your team scored that inning.

The reason for this is that the numbers under the R are the cumulative number of runs for the game. If you add all of the numbers of runs up from each of the innings you should get the number that is displayed on the scoreboard under the R. 

The H column is where the number of hits each team has accumulated for the game is displayed. This number does not identify how many hits each player has received. The H column is merely the team total of hits for the game. 

The E column is where errors are tallied. You will notice that this column generally has the smallest numbers (at least in the big leagues). When a play has been ruled an error, the tally will appear in this column. 

Additional Features 

Depending on the park and the size of the scoreboard, you may notice some additional scoring features. Some ballparks list the entire lineup of each team and display the individual statistics of players – how many hits, walks, and strikeouts they have in a game. Some scoreboards will do this for players on an individual basis when they come to bat or are on the mound. 

In addition to cumulative statistics, some scoreboards will display how to score a play if you are keeping score while watching the game. Each position is designated with a number and scoring a play uses these numbers to identify who touched the ball and got an out.

For example, if there was a double play made by the second baseman throwing to the shortstop who then threw to the first baseman, you might see “4-6-3 DP” appear on the screen to know what the official score of the play was.

You should know that the scoreboard is often kept by the official scorekeeper of the game. This is the person who determines if something is ruled a hit or an error. Whatever is displayed on the scoreboard is the official score of the play. 

What Can You Tell from a Scoreboard 

There are many simple things that you can learn from simply reading the scoreboard. For example, you can quickly glance at the scoreboard and determine what inning it is.

You can glance at the error column and determine which team is having a good fielding day. You can look at individual innings to see where most of the runs were scored.

This information can tell you if the starting pitching or the bullpen is doing well. As previously mentioned you can use the scoreboard to keep score of the game by following the official scores of plays throughout the game. Keeping score can be a fun way to teach the game to a new fan or simply a way to keep track of the action. 

One of the last things that you may pay close attention to is the H column on a scoreboard. If it has been 5 innings and you see a 0 in that column for either team, you might be watching a pitcher chasing a no-hitter. There’s a lot of information you can get from a scoreboard if you take the time to read it.