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The AL continues to dominate interleague play

Jun 25, 2012, 9:12 AM EDT

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The final interleague game of 2012 ended when Nick Swisher caught the last out of last night’s Yankees-Mets game. That brought the tally to 142 wins for the American League, 110 for the National League. Put differently, that’s a .563 winning percentage for the junior circuit, or a 91-win pace over the course of a 162-game season.

Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus has the numbers for interleague play since its inception, and they’re pretty ugly for the NL. The AL has won the series for nine straight years and, overall, have won at a .525 clip, going 2079-1883.

No one gets a prize for it or anything, but it is pretty telling regarding the relative strengths of the two leagues.

  1. proudlycanadian - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    The difference would probably be greater if the DH was used in all games. Making AL pitchers hit gives NL teams a big advantage in home games.

    • Alex K - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:23 AM

      On the flip side having the DH gives the AL teams a big advantage at home games. Who would yu rather be your DH..David Ortiz or the 4th outfielder?

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:26 AM

        I would rather have Jim Thome.

      • jarathen - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:29 AM

        Instances in which a DH is a dedicated role is becoming less and less common as more teams use it to rotate in players to rest them. The Angels and Red Sox both use a dedicated DH, for example, but after Ortiz retires and after Morales is done (and I’m thinking the Angels will let him go after his contract is done unless he regains some kind of power stroke), they’re not going to replace these guys with the proto-DH, but rather some mixture of players like Mark Trumbo (defensively below-average, but not atrocious) and Albert Pujols (veterans who could use a day out of the sun here and there).

        NL teams would have the advantage in that their pitchers should be better at hitting, at least in executing bunts and other sacrifices, but it seems that the aging talent that crosses over overwhelms any minor pitch-hitting advantage might give the senior circuit.

      • kopy - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:39 AM

        Everything jarathen said. Plus, is there an NL roster that doesn’t have a good hitter with mediocre defense that they’d rather DH so they can put a good defender on the field? I’m sure the Phillies aren’t at a “disadvantage” when they can put Thome in the starting lineup at Target Field and he slugs a few homers.

      • kopy - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:41 AM

        Thome is the extreme, but I think most teams have a slower-ish corner OF that they can slide to DH for a fast guy on the bench.

      • Alex K - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:21 AM

        While a lot of teams use a rotation of players at DH, the team is constructed so that is possible. NL teams should consider a player’s defense more heavily because if they are going to be in the line-up they are going to have to at least hold a glove in the field. With the amount of pitchers teams carry now, it’s hard for an NL team to have an all hit little field guy sitting on the bench (Thome is the exception)

    • Detroit Michael - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:56 AM

      Looking at just 2012:
      AL designated hitters have a 81 point advantage in OPS over NL designated hitters.
      NL pitchers have a 61 point advantage in OPS over AL pitchers.

      Based on just one year’s worth of statistics (which isn’t really enough to prove the point), it is a slight advantage to the AL. Furthermore, given that pitchers bat fewer times per game (due to being in the 9th slot and pinchhitters), the advantage to the AL is a bit larger than that.

      It would be easy enough to look up 5 or 10 years’ worth of data if one wants to do so. It’s readily available on baseball-reference.com.

  2. groundruledoublebourbon - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    The last phrase of the headline, “in spite of the Royals’ Best Efforts,” was left out. *Sigh*

    If the Phillies’ season is like a Mentos truck hitting a Pepsi truck (or whatever the explosive soda was), the Royals’ last 25 years has been… death by paper cuts? 3 days ago, KC was 4.5 games back and for about 36 hours KC was able to be optimistic. Then we gave up 30 runs in 3 games to the Cardinals – and back we go to business as usual. Fun day and a half, though, seeing how the other half lives… *sigh*

  3. florida76 - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Interleague play isn’t the absolute indicator of the strength between the two leagues, if that were true, the NL would have no business winning three out of the last four Fall Classics. It would be interesting to see a team by team IL breakdown. For example, the Pirates won four of six series versus the AL.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      ah yes, a seven game sample size is far more preferable than almost four thousand games, /sarcasm off

      and btw, since interleague began in ’97, the AL is leading 8-7 in WS victories…

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:59 AM

        and heres an overall breakdown of teams with the last four years split out.

        http://www.vegasinsider.com/mlb/stats/interleague/

      • rythestunner - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:18 PM

        There are almost 4,000 Interleague games a year?

        Wow, I must missed most of those.

      • rythestunner - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:37 PM

        Also, of those 8 World Series wins since 1997, 6 of them came from the same two teams.

        While in the NL, they’ve had five different champions win 7 titles.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 25, 2012 at 3:44 PM

        There are almost 4,000 Interleague games a year?

        Wow, I must missed most of those.

        When did I say I was talking about one year?

        Also, of those 8 World Series wins since 1997, 6 of them came from the same two teams.

        While in the NL, they’ve had five different champions win 7 titles.

        Congrats, and your point is?

      • rythestunner - Jun 25, 2012 at 4:03 PM

        When you said ‘a seven game sample size is far more preferable than almost four thousand games”a 7 game’

        7 games refers to ONE year worth of World Series games. You can’t compare stats for one year of one type vs. 15 years of the same.

        That’s like saying “The AL is a better offensive league because they’ve scored more runs over the past 15 years total than the NL has scored this year”.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 25, 2012 at 7:49 PM

        “The AL is a better offensive league because they’ve scored more runs over the past 15 years total than the NL has scored this year”.

        Except it’s really not. The seven game sample size was a talking point about using the results of the WS over the whole interleague schedule. My point still would have been right if I used the last 3/4 years and said what’s better, a 21/28 game sample size or 756/1008.

    • Detroit Michael - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      Wouldn’t a team-by-team interleague breakdown lead you to the same total, that the AL won 56.3% of interleague games this year and also hold a decided advantage if you enlarge the sample to include the last 5 years’ worth of interleague games? I think you’re just trying to sidestep the obvious conclusion that the AL is somewhat better right now.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:35 AM

        Making a giant assumption here, but maybe (s)he was trying to infer that overall AL win % is biased due to a few teams constantly beating up the NL? So if you were to remove teams, like the Yanks, the % would be more evenly divided?

  4. natslady - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Our pitchers hit just fine, and we used a guy coming off the DL as our DH. Really, the DH is a waste of a “position” and not real baseball.

    • Kevin S. - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:07 AM

      Yawn. Nats’ pitchers hit .190/.215/.284 on this season. While one of the best composite batting lines for pitchers in the league, it still sucks ass. Baseball evolves. Always has, always will. So you can save your “real baseball” schlock there, Bednarik.

  5. Kevin S. - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    In a sub-battle, the Beast took the JV out to the woodchipper this year, going 46-32 in the East Coast Bias series. Special props go out to the Yankees for rolling off ten in a row and winning twelve of fifteen against what are supposedly the NL East’s best three teams, including an 8-1 record in their ballparks.

  6. yournuts - Jun 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    As a fan of baseball who would you rather see hit, David Ortiz or Josh Beckett? I’d like to see the NL go to the DH and stop watching pitchers try to hit, or run and get themselves hurt. That is just my opinion.

    • chadh88 - Jun 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      Josh Beckett. And if there were no DH, Ortiz may not have a job, let alone be in a lineup nearly every day. It’s not about the pitchers hitting well, its about baseball being a strategy game as opposed to lets see who can hit more homers.

      • Kevin S. - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        It’s not strategy when every manager handles pretty much every situation the same way.

      • The Rabbit - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:02 PM

        It’s not strategy when every manager handles pretty much every situation the same way
        You haven’t seen much of Freddi, have you?
        Given that I have no life, live in a Fan Cave, have no particular team loyalty, and watch multiple games daily simultaneously, I’ll have to respectfully disagree.
        Certain situations/decisions are obvious, but others range from inspired to “what the hell is he doing?” Some of these decisions depend on how stat oriented the manager is and which stats the manager finds important or ignores.

    • theptbnl - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:26 PM

      I think this points out why the DH is bad.
      “I’d rather watch x hit than y”. Sure, and I’d rather not watch catchers run the bases or certain other players play their positions. However, the whole point of baseball is that to retain the strengths of certain players in your lineup (hits with power) you have to deal with their weaknesses (coudn’t catch a cold in the North Pole). By using the DH you eliminate the essence of the game.

      • Kevin S. - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:39 PM

        The difference is there are reasonable tradeoffs for the other eight positions. There are none for pitchers. Pitcher hitting is completely non-valued, or Micah Owings would still have a job. Also, there is no slippery slope from DH-for-pitchers to DH-for-catchers/shortstops. It’s more like a chasm.

  7. Loose Changeup - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    DH stuff aside, the AL is obviously the better league, but I’m thinking the NL is winning the ASG this year. Strasburg, Dickey, and Cain is a formidable bunch.

  8. rooney24 - Jun 25, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    While the odds of it happening are about the same as me winning the Powerball, my suggestion would be to have BOTH a DH and have the pitchers hit. Sure, that would put 10 guys in the lineup, rather than 9, and mess up a few of the counting stats (fewer plate appearances per year). But, I like the DH, as it allows some awesome hitters to remain in the game a little longer, even if their defense is poor or non-existent. But, I do also like when a good hitting pitcher can help himself in a game by getting a hit, or even by bunting well.

    Why can’t we do both? If the only reason is because “we’ve always done it this way”, then that is a poor excuse. You might have to increase roster size to 26 or 27, but with the way a pitching staff is handled now, you can make the argument that roster size should increase anyway. When it takes 12 roster spots to cover one position on the field, while only 13 spots to cover the other 8, it doesn’t leave much bench flexibility for position player reserves.

    • rythestunner - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      It serves no purpose. In your scenario, we’d be adding a 10th batter to the team’s lineup just for the sake of “allowing more people to play the game”.

  9. theptbnl - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    It serves no purpose. In your scenario, we’d be adding a 10th batter to the team’s lineup just for the sake of “allowing more people to play the game”.

    You mean, like what the DH currently does by allowing 10 players occupy 9 spots.

    • rythestunner - Jun 25, 2012 at 2:54 PM

      The purpose of the DH is to replace the pitcher, because a) the pitcher is trained to focus on his pitching instead of batting, diminishing his offensive capabilities, and b) the team would like the pitcher to be able to focus on pitching during the game and prevent any further injury by playing offense.

      If you have both a DH and a pitcher on offense, then that reasoning goes out the window, and the DH is worthless.

      I don’t care for the DH, but it serves a higher purpose other than to just “add more players to the game”.

  10. badintent - Jun 26, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    Just have Dennis Martinez throw at their heads. More fights , more action , too many shutouts, no-hitters, perfect games this year. snozzzzzzzzzzz. .. AL Rules !

  11. hushbrother - Jun 26, 2012 at 2:04 AM

    I still enjoy watching National League games. It’s still baseball. Like when I go to the local minor league team’s games, it’s still an enjoyable experience even though you’re not seeing top-flight talent on the field.

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