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Should traditional box scores be updated?

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer
Baxter had a big day in early August, though his box score showed a bunch of zeroes. (Getty Images)

In light of our Eye on Baseball staff post earlier on the best offensive stats -- and my push for more mainstreaming of on-base percentage as opposed to batting average -- I now wonder about an alternative box score.

As things stand, we've had a four number box score for ages. It is at-bats, runs, hits and runs batted in, such as 4-2-3-2. We can look at that and know a player went 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, a very solid day at the plate. Not that it's supposed to, but the box score doesn't tell us everything. No realistic box score could possibly tell us everything about the game and I wouldn't have it any other way. I mean, we still need to watch the games.

Still, could we put together a box score that tells us more about a player's day? I think we could go up to five categories, but any more than that and it defeats the purpose of the box score, which is first and foremost being succinct.

Let's experiment.

Take possibly my favorite box score of the 2012 season, posted by Mets outfielder Mike Baxter on Aug. 4, in a 6-2 Mets win over the Padres:

0-1-0-0

It pretty well looks like Baxter didn't do a ton to help his team win the game. He could have been a pinch-hitter who scored on a home run the following pitch, meaning he basically did nothing to help the Mets win.

Instead, Baxter had the highest win probability added (WPA) among position players on his team. That is because Baxter drew five walks in five plate appearances. Even though he only scored once, he helped turn the lineup over enough times for the Mets to get their best hitters to the plate five times and also saw 30 pitches, tiring the opposing pitchers. He also made zero outs, and we know how precious those are.

And yet, his box score looks pretty blank.

I feel like a snapshot of the game is how many times a batter stepped to the plate, how often he got on, if he scored, how many runs did he drive in and how many total bases he accrued (to account for power).

So what if we had a box score that listed plate appearances (PA), runs, times on base (OB), total bases (TB) and RBI? That's five categories, which, again, I believe is manageable.

Now here is Baxter's line in my proposed box score of PA-R-OB-TB-RBI:

5-1-5-0-0

So we know he got on base five times with no total bases, meaning it's obvious he had zero hits. Obviously the Baxter example totally lends itself to my proposal, so let's pick a more tradional line to be fair.

On September 19, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 4-for-5 with a run and an RBI. All four of his hits were singles.

Traditional box score line: 5-1-4-1
My box score line: 5-1-4-4-1

Doesn't make a difference, really, but my proposed box score definitely isn't inferior. Also, there aren't differences because Castro's four hits were all singles and he didn't walk. What about with extra bases involved?

On May 8, Josh Hamilton went 5-for-5 with four home runs, eight RBI, a double and four runs scored.

Traditional box score line: 5-4-5-8
My box score line: 5-4-5-18-8

In the traditional box, you know Hamilton had a huge day. We just don't know how huge. What if he had a bunch of singles? Four two-RBI singles gets him to eight RBI, after all. With the 18 total bases added in there, on only five plate appearances, we immediately know something special happened.

Obviously it would take some getting used to and with technology where it is, no one needed a different box score to see what Josh Hamilton did. On the flip-side, note my above example of Baxter. I'm not sure many people realized what a huge day he had at the plate, despite his traditional box score having more zeroes than any other number.

Just some food for thought on a slow night.

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