Baker Team Competition Format

The Pros and Cons of Bowling's Baker Scoring System

PBA pro bowler Pete Weber
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The Baker Format, also known as the Bakers Format or Baker System, is a method of scoring competition bowling which places emphasis on the team effort rather than the accomplishments of the individual players. The relatively modern method is used in many levels of bowling competition, notably collegiate and high-school bowling.

Some amateur leagues incorporate a Baker competition on occasion, some as often as weekly. Beginning in 2009, the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour has used the Baker system in team competitions like the PBA Team Shootout and doubles events like the 2012 Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship.

What is The Baker Format?

In a typical league format doubles game, a two-member team of bowlers each bowls ten frames, and the score is the sum of each player's ten frames, or rather 20 frames in total. In a Baker Format game, each doubles team member bowls five frames, and the score is the total of the ten frames.

The Baker Format requires teams to rotate in players so that each player plays in order: the doubles (two-person) team simply alternates frames so the first bowler completes all odd-numbered frames, and the second bowler bowls all the even-numbered ones. In a three-person team Baker format, the first bowler (team member 1) bowls frames 1, 4, 7, and 10; team member 2 bowls 2, 5, and 8; and team member 3 bowls 3, 6, and 9.

With five-person teams, the first bowler bowls frames 1 and 6, the second bowler bowls frames 2 and 7 and so forth, with the fifth bowler bowling frames 5 and 10. While a Baker format is usually only used in teams with two or five bowlers, you could conceivably bowl a Baker game with any number of people up to 10, each bowler assigned to a single frame.

Why "Baker"?

The Baker system was invented in the 1950's by Frank K. Baker, then-executive secretary-treasurer of the American Bowling Congress, the predecessor to the U.S. Bowling Congress. Baker came up with the new scoring method after the professional National Bowling League failed: he thought switching bowlers for each frame might be more appealing to spectators.

Baker lobbied the PBA to allow him to create new leagues which would use the system, but they weren't interested. The Baker system was not used in an official game until 1974, during the NBC Bowling Spectacular, in the Collegiate Division. At the time, the bowlers said that they felt that the system emphasized the idea of performing as a team by capitalizing on each other's strikes and spares for the team count. Baker's system was first used in a league situation in 2009 when USA Bowling was launched.

Pros and Cons

Many high school and collegiate bowlers don't like the format because it leaves so little bowling time to each person especially with larger teams—on a five-person team, each bowler only rolls two frames. However, other bowlers prefer the format because it forces everyone to focus on a single frame and come together as a team, which decreases internal competition, builds trust in one another, and leads to everyone becoming better bowlers.

Baker games have a qualitative difference from standard league competitions that all bowlers should try at least once. There is definitely a different feel to a game when you and your teammates trust each other to do your best in each of your frames, and knowing that you contribute to the whole.

Creating the Ideal Lineup

In five-person Baker competition, a strategic lineup is crucial. You want your best bowler to bowl last as the anchor, as it will be his or her job to bowl the all-important tenth frame. In order to maximize that final push, you'll need a fourth bowler who will bowl the ninth frame with a high likelihood of striking or, worst case, sparing. Because each bowler only gets to bowl two frames, the strategy of how to form a five-person bowling team is amplified in Baker competition.

Depending on the rules established by the association, a coach can substitute players or have another player take the last shot of the 10th frame.