Steve Treder has a nice piece on the hit batter explosion of the modern era.
Thus today’s situation is fascinating in several regards. The incidence of hit batsmen in major league baseball has dramatically increased in the past couple of decades; a significant transformation has taken place in the very nature of the game. Yet this transformation has caught little notice, engaging neither broad contemplation nor comprehensive understanding.
Regular readers of Sabernomics know that I am fascinated by the topic. I will just list one link to a recent post on the subject. It would probably be easier to Google search for hit batters on this blog.
If you want to read more, a paper of mine on the relationship between hit batters and the designated hitter (co-authored with Doug Drinen), Crime and Punishment in Major League Baseball: The Case of the Designated Hitter and Hit Batters, has just been published by Economic Inquiry. Also, Chapter 1 of my book, “Accidents Happen…but More So in American League,” summarizes much of our research. And Chapter 8, “The Evolution of Baseball Talent,” discusses the impact of the distribution of talent on hit batters.
Update: David Pinto provides some support for the talent dilution hypothesis.