Surprise! The National League is Better

Surprise! The National League is Better

Surprise! The National League is Better

The American League has better hitting and pitching.  The National League sucks! How many times have baseball fans said this (Or at least the first half of that statement)?  For a while now it has been widely assumed that the AL is the better league, even with the NL taking the last 2 world championships.

But that assumption is wrong, and there has to be something that helps people begin to realize why the league that lets pitchers hit is the MLB’s better half.

So how in the world did I find this groundbreaking revelation?  Let’s start with last week’s all-star game.  The AL had their powerful lineup all set and ready to put on a show, one that would basically extend the previous night’s home run derby.  Before they even had a chance to do so, the NL had gone completely through the batting order and scored 5 runs on Justin Verlander.

If you ask me, the AL should have called it quits when bowling ball-shaped Pablo Sandoval hit a bases-clearing triple.  The NL would go on to use all 11 pitchers to combine for a 8-0 shutout.  Despite having such a loaded lineup and the supposed best pitcher in the league (Verlander), the AL managed to find one thing in common with the Kansas City Royals, whose stadium was hosting the All-Star Game:  Even when playing at home, they get destroyed.

There’s probably already one person reading this who wants to say, Hey, no fair!  You can’t judge them based on one game.  And only 2 AL pitchers allowed runs in this game!

Yes.  That is true, it was only one game.  Take out Verlander and Matt Harrison, and it’s a 0-0 ball game.  That still doesn’t help the argument for the American League being better.

The stats also don’t help the AL’s argument. 

Consider this: The National League uses pitchers, who take up roughly 60% of the at-bats for the 9th spot in the batting order.  The rest are from pinch-hitters, who mostly aren’t every-day starters.  Conversely, the American League has the Designated Hitter, who gets more than 1/9 of the team’s at-bats, and is usually good enough of a hitter to be in the top half of the lineup.  The American League’s DH should provide much more offensive production than the average 9th hitter on a given NL team.

The stats disagree here.  If you average the batting statistics of all teams, and compare the two leagues against each other, the batting averages are virtually equal (AL .255; NL .254).  In the other major categories (RBI, runs, total bases, on-base %, slugging), the AL’s stats are less than 5% better than the production of the NL.  The average Designated Hitter should easily create that small margin.  Even if American League teams end the season with 10% more runs than their National League counterparts, that wouldn’t be anything real impressive- Especially when you consider that we’re putting the batting stats of Billy Butler and David Ortiz up against the numbers from NL pitchers and 5th outfielders.

Unless the AL and NL are relinquished and all teams are free to play each other under the same rules, we’ll have no exact way of comparing all 30 teams.  With that said, the small statistical margin despite the handicap advantage of having a DH in no way supports that the AL is a better hitting league.  At best, the two teams are dead even.

As far as pitching goes, look no further than the all-star game.  Out of the 9 guys with 20+ home runs, and the others who are hitting well over .300, the AL was loaded with sluggers.  Worst case scenario, they struggle but one of them manages to hit a home run or something.  With a lineup that good, somebody’s guaranteed to produce a run or two, right?

Nope.  The National League shut them out.  There was clearly depth on the pitching staff, too, as all 11 pitchers played, and no runs were scored.  Beyond that, there were numerous National League pitchers having all-star caliber seasons that weren’t selected to play.  Maybe after this all-star game, guys like Jose Bausista, Josh Hamilton, and Curtis Granderson will be thankful that they don’t have to face National League pitching every day.

We’re well into the season now.  The National League has proven that its players are just as good as, if not better than, the American Leaguers at hitting and pitching.  The NL also dominated the All-Star Game.  What other evidence is needed?  Do fans need ESPN to leave the love affair with the Red Sox and Yankees, and do a 3 hour SportsCenter special on the National League’s recent success?  The Senior Circuit is back in business, and has young teams like Washington, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the rise, so it’s only getting stronger.  And guess, what?  The American League gets to have the Astros, starting next year!  Hope the AL has fun with that.

by Nathan Dillon 


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By The Baseball Page
Monday, 16 Jul 2012


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