Saturday, January 21, 2012

NL vs. AL and the DH

The general argument is that fans of American League baseball suggest the AL is more exciting to watch due to the increased possibility of runs scored by a team. Through the use of designated hitters, AL teams have been able to significantly provide more runs per season than the NL. Though we cannot prove that the AL is ‘better’ we can assume that it is more exciting.  Regardless of league, when a player touches home plate a sense of excitement exist.  NL fans support that the league preserves the traditional rules of the game in which the nine defensive players stated on the rooster must perform an At Bat (AB) as their name exist on the rooster defensively.  Since 1973, an AL team could substitute or designate a hitter to replace the pitcher in the batting order.  However the manager must designate the hitter prior to the start of the game.
First, let us get a sense of how many runs were scored during the 2011 regular season.  The National League is composed of 16 teams. At the end of the regular season, the NL had scored 10,691 Runs. The American League is composed of 14 teams. At the end of the regular season, the AL had scored 10,117 Runs.  (SEE TABLE 1)


The NL scored 574 more runs than the AL. If ones argument is that you would see more runs if you watched AL baseball you would be sadly mistaken. As the stats proved, in 162 games played by 16 teams, you would see more runs. Yes, of course we all know that the AL has one less team, but that's ok, we will calculate that later. For now, it's fact that the NL has more players who touch home plate in one season.

 Now, we need to compare the offensive prowess of the NL pitchers and the AL designated Hitter. Beginning with the designated hitter (DH), we can get a sense of the immense impact the position provides to the league. Though many teams do not always use one player as their designated hitter, multiple players were used according to,, and statistical database. Designated hitters are accountable for more than 876 runs scored in 2011. Designated hitters combined 2,045 Games, 7,221 At Bats, 876 Runs, 1,980 Hits, 432 Doubles, 19 Triples, 226 Home Runs, 1,048 RBI, 61 Stolen Bases, and a .268 Batting Average.   (see TABLE 2)


Obviously the National League pitcher provides a less impressive offensive potency compared to the AL designated hitter. This information was gathered utilizing a team’s starting rotation. The starting rotation best accounts for all pitcher’s runs scored. There are multiple instances in which a relief pitcher (RP) contributes to runs scored; however, for statistical purposes we will use the starting rotation. The 16 teams with 6 starting pitchers provide data for 96 players. The starting pitchers accounted for 4,304 At Bats, 238 Runs, 632 Hits, 99 Doubles, 4 Triples, 23 Home Runs, 253 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases, and a .153 Batting Average.  (SEE TABLE 3)


At this point we have deducted three statistical truths: The NL pitcher scores 238 runs per season, the AL designated hitter scores 876 runs, and the NL scores 574 more runs than the AL per season.

Now we can address the concern of 16 teams against 14 teams. Anticipating the Houston Astros move to the AL, we can apply their total 652 runs scored to the AL total (615 runs - 15 runs scored by pitchers + 52 average runs by a DH). Now that both leagues have exactly the same amount of teams and divisions, the new total runs scored would look something more like this: National League scored 10,076 and the American League scored 10,769 runs. That number looks more accurate considering the effectivness of the designated hitter. These numbers look great considering the NL pitchers scored 223 runs (without HOU) and the DH scored 928 including the simulated Houston DH.

Within equal leagues, the facts have changed: The NL pitcher scores 223 runs per season, the AL DH scores 928 runs per season. The AL scores 693 more runs than the NL per season. Looking at these stats it's obvious that the AL use of Rule 6.10 results in a more 'exciting' season as they score more runs.

What would the league look like if the pitcher's offensive production and the designated hitter has no bearing on the runs scored? Again, in the hypothetical and even league, the NL scored 9,968 total runs and the AL scored 9,789 total runs. This would suggest that the NL is a 'better' league because they can score more runs than the AL. Being so hypothetical, I couldn't make that argument, but it helps the NL fans case. Looking at this, one could say that without runs scored by pitchers and DH alike, the NL would have more runs.

No matter which way you look at these numbers, it's clear that the American League's DH puts up an impressive amount of runs compared to the NL pitchers. If your argument is that the AL is 'better' because they score more runs, you are incorrect because due to the fact that the NL has an extra team allows you the opportunity to watch more players cross the plate. If you think the AL is more exciting because the DH puts up more runs than pitchers, of course! Though we didn't put to rest the old argument, at least we can all discuss with statistical accurance.

Some more interesting facts:

The Phillies have the most effective offensive pitchers in the league.

In 2011, only 3 pitchers have stolen a base. 1 pitcher in each division.

The Cardinals 2011 starting rotation has the best combined batting average of .229

Dontrelle Willis of the Cincinnati Reds had the best batting average of .387


  1. Hit King: Some great analysis here. One thing that springs to my mind right away when thinking about the DH vs Non DH argument and all the number crunching. I would love to see how the numbers differ (and I know that the work involved in this would be a major PITA) if you factor in the pinch hitters that are used for pitchers in the NL. These for sure would account for probably 1 AB per game (if not more).

    All in all though, a good "numbers" post here!!

  2. yeah, there are a lot of factors that are not considered here. The one you mentioned, the fact that the AL doesn't always use their designated DH in every game, and the amount of runs produced by relief pitchers and closers. I would like to continue this hypothetical Stat theory. I am probably going to get the guys on it. Start taking a look at the fore mentioned stats and start plugging them in. If we spent all that time it might be easier to create a stat software database to run the numbers...these were all done on spreadsheets and simple sums/avg/products formulas and a lot of research and data entry.

    Thanks for taking the time to read it though!