SirTheory’s Treatise on Life

(opinions on just about anything)

Why The American League Will Continue To Dominate.

It has come to light the past number of years that the American League is dominating. If you look at their inner-league record and how frequently the win the World Series and at the number of elite teams the have things are looking bleak for the National League. The sad thing is that we probably won’t see things change in a long time. Surprisingly the dominance isn’t due to a major difference in talent. Instead, the reason that the AL always seems to come out victorious is due to something else entirely.

The American League is playing a different game than the National League.

Oh, sure. Most of the rules are pretty much similar. Enough that most people probably don’t really see a problem. Yet if you look at what the rule difference means in how the teams are compose, it means that the AL automatically has a huge advantage.

First, the big rule difference is that in the NL the pitcher has to hit. So once every nine batters someone is at the plate that spends most of their training not swinging a bat. Pitchers, with a few exceptions, are basically an embarrassment at the plate. You only have nine people in a line-up. When one of those is an out over 80% of the time and your main goal in production from that spot in the line up is in bunts, it is a significant decrease from any other spot in the lineup.

In the AL, however, they have things thing called the Designated Hitter. The DH hits instead of the pitcher so the pitcher can concentrate completely on their pitching– aka, what they’re paid to do. The DH, on the other hand, is often a big power hitter with minimal fielding skills. Essentially, they are paid solely to provide power to a lineup. What is the difference? Well it isn’t uncommon for any given NL team’s pitchers to not hit any home runs in a year. Some do, but you definitely don’t count on it. Then if you look at the AL you’ve got Designated Hitters who might hit 35 or more home runs. As a result the lineups and benches are composed completely differently.

This is OK when the AL is playing the AL and the NL the NL. But when the two leagues face off (and every seasons ends with the biggest series of the year, the final battle between the teams that emerge from their respective league) the advantage will go to the AL every single time. What it means is that when the two leagues face off, either in the regular season or the World Series, there has to be a way to determine which set of rules to play by. It is settled by what ballpark the team is playing in. So if the AL Yankees are playing the NL Mets in the Mets’ stadium, then NL rules are used and both pitchers bat. Conversely if the Mets and Yankees were playing in the Yankees’ stadium, then AL rules are used and both teams use a DH.

“Well that sounds all fine and dandy,” you say. “Both teams play by the same rules and the NL gets to use a DH at the AL field and the AL allows the pitcher to bad in a NL park.”

As dandy as it sounds, it is still not  equal. When playing a game in an NL park it is going to be fairly even. NL pitchers can’t hit too well and AL pitchers can’t hit too well. It is when playing in an AL park with AL rules that the advantage swings hard to the AL team

An NL team which builds its team around NL rules where the pitcher has to bat is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to playing in an AL park because they lack someone on the bench who is up to filling the role of a Jim Thome or David Ortiz. The AL team in the AL park is at full power. An NL team in an AL park is just relieved that someone with a batting average above .200 is hitting in the pitcher’s spot. Just because the pitcher is not batting on either team that doesn’t mean the footing is equal. For a league already built more around being offensively dominant this quirk in the rules gives them a decided head start on any inner-league series they play in their park.

Let’s say that this difference in rules is responsible for even just one loss for a NL team. Teams miss the playoffs by only one game every year. What if the difference is two games? Or three games? Can we really say that the right teams are making the playoffs? Then the biggest effect happens in the World Series when both teams host games. There just one game that gets swung due to the rule difference is a huge deal.

Unfortunately, I don’t see either league deciding to conform to the other league’s rules. At least, not in a long, long time. So be prepared for a lot of AL dominance in the upcoming years. In the meantime we will have to endure a lot of ESPN round-table discussions about why the NL isn’t keeping up with the AL. The NL will be considered a second-rate league. It will just be us purists who keep the life of the NL alive.

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August 31, 2007 - Posted by | Sports

1 Comment »

  1. Only an NL fan would rationalize the Interleague dominance of the AL like you have.

    The AL had (by my count) a 73-53 record in NL parks this year. They beat the NL in almost EVERY statistical category, including BA (.275-.251), home runs (276-251), runs (1242-980) and ERA 3.69-4.58.

    There IS a talent difference in favor the the AL. Your assertion that the DH rule hurts the National League goes against most experts (even in the NL) who say that the AL is hurt the most in Interleague play because their teams are built around the DH.

    If you NL fans are such purist, you should be lobbying for the return of the higher pitching mound as well (rule change in l969). Look, without the DH rule in baseball, the AL would still prevail because the pitching is better. Stop blaming the DH and start pressuring your owners to do a better job of retaining, recruiting and building great farm systems.

    Here’s a website that lists all of the rule changes in MLB. If you NL fans are such purist, you might start working on other rules changes as well. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/rulechng.shtml

    Comment by Peter Schwepker | July 3, 2008 | Reply


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