Intentionally hitting batters has a special place among the unwritten rules of professional baseball. If you slide too hard into the 2nd base, if you showboat after a big hit, or if you accidentally "plunk" the other team's best player, the other team's pitcher is guaranteed to retaliate by intentionally hitting you with a pitch.
I cannot even imagine how much it must hurt to get hit with a 90-mph fastball, but unwritten rules in professional baseball regarding when to intentionally hit opposing players have been around for decades and are not going anywhere. And they serve a valuable purpose: they keep players in line and help enforce the MLB players' code of conduct.
These unwritten rules regarding intentionally hitting batters don't really exist in softball. Perhaps it's because softball doesn't have the same issues with showboating or sliding too hard, or perhaps it's because in a typically low scoring "small ball"-type game, a team simply cannot afford to give up a baserunner—even if it means losing an enforcement tool.
But what if I told you plunking batters has no effect on win percentage? Maybe then the "softball sorority" could rethink its stance on intentionally hitting batters, maybe even incorporate it into play. Hit batters certainly add a new and exciting element to baseball. Why shouldn't it be part of softball too?
To determine the effect hitting batters has on win percentage, let's go to the data! Below is a correlation table of 2017 NCAA softball statistics pitting hit batters versus winning percentage.
A perfect correlation is scored as a 1.0. If there is no correlation it is a 0.0. A 0.5 correlation is in the middle. As you can see from the data above, there is a meager 0.05 correlation between these data sets, ie, virtually no correlation between the number of hit batters and the team's win percentage. So hitting a lot of batters has no impact on the number of games you win.
So softball is not so much of a small ball game that you cannot sacrifice a baserunner to enforce a players' code of conduct. If more players knew that plunking a batter won't affect their win percentage, maybe they would be more likely to do it if warranted.
It's time softball uncovered the benefits of enforcing a players' code by intentionally hitting more batters! The data supports this!