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Mon October 24, 2011
Prof. Dustin Buehler, University of Arkansas - The DH Rule and Moral Hazard
Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Professor Dustin Buehler of the University of Arkansas reveals a link between the designated hitter rule and the frequency at which batters are hit by pitches.
Dustin Buehler is an assistant professor of law at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. His research focuses on federal jurisdiction, and the use of economic analysis to assess legal rules and public policy. Prior to joining the University of Arkansas faculty, Buehler clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and taught civil procedure at the University of Washington.
Prof. Dustin Buehler - The DH Rule and Moral Hazard
Baseball fans watching the World Series are once again debating a topic as classically American as peanuts and Cracker Jack: should baseball get rid of the designated hitter rule? The rule, which allows teams to designate a player to hit for the pitcher, is used in the American League but not the National League. Generally, National League fans hate the rule, while American League fans love it.
But is something more sinister going on? The American League averages fifty more hit batters per season than the National League. This difference may be evidence of "moral hazard," an economic theory that recognizes that people insured against risk are more likely to engage in dangerous behavior. Because American League pitchers do not bat, they are not deterred by the full cost of throwing risky, inside pitches namely, retribution during their next at bat.
Is the designated hitter rule really turning hurlers into head-hunters? The answer is, "yes." Research shows that moral hazard explains about half the difference in hit batters. The remaining difference simply reflects the fact that there are more batters worth hitting in an American League lineup. After all, hitting a National League pitcher sacrifices a likely out, while hitting an American League designated hitter often prevents an extra-base hit.
And yet tough rules often make things worse. Last decade baseball adopted the "double warning rule," which allows an umpire to warn both teams after the first hit, and then eject the next pitcher who hits a batter. Ironically, intentional hits have spiked in both leagues, because pitchers now know that they have "one free hit" before both sides are warned. By cracking down on intentional hits, major league baseball has created an even greater moral hazard.