The AL will always be better than the NL and here’s why

The Kansas City Royals celebrate after their 2015 World Series win.

The Kansas City Royals celebrate after their 2015 World Series win.

Zachary Kaplan, iNews baseball reporter

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It was October 28, 2018. A sold out crowd of 54,367 fans waited in silent anticipation at Dodger Stadium. They watched as Chris Sale delivered a 1-2 slider which INF Manny Machado swung at blindly for the final out. The Sox won 5-1, clinching a title for the Red Sox. Then chaos. Catcher Christian Vazquez jumped into the arms of Chris Sale, and the whole Red Sox roster started mobbing the mound, celebrating with champagne their 9th world championship.

Last year a 54,124 person sold out crowd again watched in silence as Charlie Morton delivered his 51st pitch of the game to Corey Seager as his team led 5-1, waiting patiently to celebrate. Seager grounded out to second base, a slow dribbler. Jose Altuve fielded it, and fired to first to seal the Dodgers’ fate. The 104-58 Dodgers were good, but they were outnumbered by the best team in the AL, the Astros. 

The 2017 and 2018 examples are very representative of the annual AL-NL matchup. Two years in a row, the Dodgers emerged as the best team in the National League, hoping to break their World Series drought, which began after they defeated the Oakland Athletics in 1988. But they were again outnumbered both times by the Red Sox and Astros because the American League has always been better than the National League.

There are a number of reasons as to why the AL has been better than the NL. One of these reasons is that the designated hitter adds to the offense of an AL team. This reason is echoed by iSchool junior Coltrane Cho, who has watched baseball for his entire life. He said the presence of the designated hitter “puts more pressure on the defense” and adds a “specialized batter” for each team, therefore adding to the offense of the American league team. This also means that AL teams will have better rotations/bullpens than NL teams because they will be facing better, more skilled batters and need to be able to get those hitters out.

Cho also said that the designated hitter has resulted in the AL team becoming significantly better due to that extra offense. He says because of the designated hitter, hits are more common in the AL. “Things like the shift and stronger outfields have developed because of the presence of the designated hitter.”

He uses the example of Giancarlo Stanton, who the Yankees picked up last year from the Marlins in a blockbuster trade: “For instance [Stanton] being a very strong power hitter, a stronger outfield presence and better pitching is required to deal with someone like Stanton,” Cho said.

On the other side in the NL pitchers are required to bat. If you’ve played in Little Leagues, you’ve heard the term, “Easy out.” A lot of the times the pitcher will see the batter coming to the plate, and will know that they can get them out. The pitcher will shout “easy out” and the infield/outfield will relax. It’s a way to intimidate the batter, and make them feel that their batting has no purpose. Pitchers batting in the NL is the real life definition of an “easy out.” It’s a wasted batter, a guaranteed out 70-80% of the time.

And having pitchers bat doesn’t just drag down the offense, this practice has had some repercussions. Masahiro Tanaka, starting pitcher for the Yankees batted against the Mets on June 9, 2018, and drew a walk. After a bunt and a single, Tanaka tagged up on a sacrifice fly. He scored a run, but with a cost. He strained his hamstring and found himself on the DL for several weeks, according to MLB’s Bryan Hoch. There are a number of reasons as to why this happened but it is definitely true that Tanaka shouldn’t have to worry about batting on top of worrying about pitching.

“Pitching is a really hard job. You have to focus on so much and to have to bat additionally puts pressure on a pitcher,” says Zachary Taylor, a iSchool junior and a pitcher on the iSchool baseball team. 

Despite pitchers having to deal with batting as well as hitting, Cho does like the difference between the AL and NL He says “there should be a difference between the AL and NL,” and it doesn’t really matter until there’s an interleague matchup. “Having (AL) pitchers bat in National League parks kind of balances it out, which I find entertaining.”

Many people don’t like this policy of having pitchers bat. Becca Feldman, a senior at the iSchool, and a lifelong Mets fan, says pitchers should just focus on pitching and not hitting, using the example of 2018 Cy Young award winner Jacob DeGrom. “[DeGrom] has to think about the hitter, who’s batting next, what the catcher is telling him to do, what the coach is telling him to do. There’s many things for a pitcher to take into consideration just as a pitcher so to add worrying about hitting to their plate would be too much for a pitcher to handle.”

As for if the American League will continue to dominate in the 2019 season, Cho remains faithful that the American League will continue to dominate. “I’m going to be optimistic about the Yankees especially with the big trades they’re making, the makeover of pitching they will have. I also think again the Boston Red Sox will be a strong team and I’m worried that they might make a huge trade to add onto their already great team.” Cho admitted that there’s no place on the Red Sox that really needs fixing except their bullpen, saying, “There’s nowhere that you could overhaul to make their team better except get some good bullpen pitchers.”

Out of all the interviews, nobody said that the National League would win the World Series in 2019. 

As for me, I think the best division to watch will be either the NL East or the NL Central. The NL Central has heated up, as the Cardinals have found their replacement for Albert Pujols in 6x All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who will add depth to their lineup. The NL Central will be the most competitive division with all of the Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs looking to contend. 

As for the NL East, every team except the Marlins could possibly win the division. No matter whether Bryce Harper returns to the Nationals (a deal which would reunite the star and the Nats is looking more and more likely) the Nats have one of the best rotations in baseball. The Phillies are expected to land Harper or Machado, but if not they still will never be a sleeper pick. The Mets seem good, with GM Brodie Van Wagenen helping sign Wilson Ramos, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Jeurys Familia among others. However, the Braves are undoubtedly the frontrunner to win the East, with their incredible lineup and pitching.

I believe either the Braves, Brewers or Cardinals will win the pennant and the World Series will pit the best of the NL against either the Yankees or Red Sox. No matter what the outcome of the season or the World Series, I know it’ll be fun to watch.