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Scoring Rules - What Constitutes an Earned Run?

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Since one of the primary measurements of a softball pitcher's effectiveness is her ERA (earned run average), a coach should make certain that both earned and unearned runs in a game are counted fairly. 

We have seen all too often, that the official scorekeeper for a game might have a tendency to make mistakes in scoring…giving a hit when it should have been scored as an error (or vice-versa), giving the benefit to the home team's batter or pitcher, etc.


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To make it even more unfair for pitchers, often the scorekeeper does not fully understand the rules for scoring an earned run.  We feel that in a majority of the situations the person keeping the official scorebook for the game looks only at how the run-scorer had initially gotten on base to determine whether or not the scored run was earned or unearned.  As you will see below, scoring rules generally require that the scorer or coach reconstruct the inning to determine whether each run would have been scored had it not been for errors and passed balls.

It is important to note here that you should obtain and follow the scoring rules as adopted by your team's national, state, or local association, league, high school athletic association, etc.  Some scoring rules might also refer back to those organized and detailed by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (  Our role in discussing this subject is not to make or change the rules that your team should follow, but instead to point out that many scorers do a disservice to pitchers by scoring earned runs erroneously.

Typically, scoring a run as unearned vs. earned should be determined by:

1. The inning should be reconstructed as if it were played without errors and passed balls to determine which runs scored are earned.  When there is doubt on deciding which bases would have been reached had it not been for errors, give the benefit to the pitcher (don't automatically assume that a runner would have gotten extra bases on a hit).

2. The run is earned if:
the runner who scored had advanced to each base as a result of any of the following:
  hit, walk, hit by pitch, wild pitch, illegal pitch, stolen base, sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly.

The run is unearned if:
3.  the runner who scored had initially reached 1st base on an error, or defensive interference/obstruction.
4.  the runner who scored, when at bat would have been out had it not been for a dropped foul ball.
5.  the runner who scored had her baserunning life prolonged by an error and otherwise would have been put out had it not been for the error.
6.  the runner who scored had advanced by a passed ball or defensive interference, and otherwise would not have scored.
7. When reconstructing the inning to determine which runs are earned, a relief pitcher does NOT receive the benefit of previous chances for outs for the runners she put on base.


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