CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: THE CASE OF THE DESIGNATED HITTER AND HIT BATTERS

Authors

  • JOHN CHARLES BRADBURY,

    1. Bradbury: Associate Professor, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Sport Science, Kennesaw State University, 1000 Chastain Road #0202, Kennesaw, GA 30144-5591. E-mailjbradbu2@kennesaw.edu
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    • An earlier version of this paper circulated under the title “Identifying Moral Hazard: A Natural Experiment in Major League Baseball.” Thanks to David Smith and the volunteers of the Retrosheet organization for compiling and sharing the play-by-play data. We also thank seminar participants at Clemson University, session participants at the annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America, Kevin Holman, and Jim Porter for helpful comments and suggestions.

  • DOUGLAS J. DRINEN

    1. Drinen: Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics & Computer Science, Sewanee: The University of the South, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37383-1000. Phone 1-931-598-3370, E-mail ddrinen@sewanee.edu
    Search for more papers by this author
    • An earlier version of this paper circulated under the title “Identifying Moral Hazard: A Natural Experiment in Major League Baseball.” Thanks to David Smith and the volunteers of the Retrosheet organization for compiling and sharing the play-by-play data. We also thank seminar participants at Clemson University, session participants at the annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America, Kevin Holman, and Jim Porter for helpful comments and suggestions.


Abstract

Past studies have found a positive correlation between the use of the designated hitter in baseball and hit batters, but the reason for this is debatable. Using a new micro-level data set of individual plate appearances, we control for detailed cost-benefit attributes that affect the decision calculus of the pitcher to isolate the deterrent impact of requiring the pitcher to bat. We find that pitchers hit batters strategically, and the deterrent effect of requiring pitchers to bat explains 60%–80% of the difference in hit batsmen between leagues. We also identify evidence of direct retaliation against plunking pitchers. (JEL D81, KC42, L83)

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