Support for the Moral Hazard Theory of Hit Batsmen

From the WSJ Science Journal:

In January, I described a study concluding that the reason there are more hit batsmen in the American League than the National League (15% more since the AL adopted the designated hitter rule in 1973) isn’t that the DH puts one more strong, aggressive hitter into the lineup. (Hurlers are likely to pitch inside to strong hitters; too inside and the batter is hit.) Instead, AL pitchers, who never bat, don’t risk retaliation for plunking opposing batters.

Just in case any fans still retain their naiveté on this, Hank Allessio of Walden Consultants Ltd., Hopkintown, Mass., analyzed what he calls “intent to intimidate.” He graphed walks allowed (a measure of wildness) against hit batsmen per nine innings, using career stats through the 2003 season. Many top pitchers, including Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens and Bob Gibson, fall roughly in the middle, issuing three to four walks and plunking one batter every three games or so.

But some pitchers with excellent control hit a batter almost twice as often. The pitcher with the most extreme walks-to-plunks record: Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez. Coincidence? Mr. Allessio, a self-described “Yankees fan in eastern Massachusetts,” thinks not. After Martinez moved from the NL to Boston in 1998 and no longer needed to worry about being the victim of retaliation, his control improved but his rate of hit batsmen rose.

Toot! Toot!, yes she is referring to the research by Doug Drinen and myself in the first paragraph. Anyway, this study looks interesting. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will look for it.

Comments are closed