Crime and Punishment in Major League Baseball: The Case of the Designated Hitter and Hit Batters

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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.