Difference Between AL and NL: 5 Things To Know

Major League Baseball (MLB), which is made up of both the American and National Leagues, is the only way to play professional baseball in North America.

The National League (NL) doesn’t allow teams to use a “designated hitter,” but the American League (AL) does (DH). Because of the DH rule, the American League scores more runs and has a better offense as a whole (NL).

Numbers of Teams

Since 1960, the number of teams in the major leagues has grown from 16 to 30 through six rounds of expansion. When new teams joined each league, the number of teams in each league did not always add up to the same number.

Between 1998 and 2012, for example, there were 14 teams in the American League and 16 in the National League.

Difference Between American League and National League

But the Houston Astros were supposed to switch leagues in 2013. This would make both the National League and the American League the same size for the first time since 1997.

For a long time, teams from the American League and the National League didn’t play each other outside of the World Series, which decided who won the major league.

There couldn’t be a day off for any club, so every league had to have an even number of participants. When interleague play began during the regular season in 1997, there was no longer a need for each league to have an even number of teams.

Composition of Leagues

The East, Central, and West divisions of the American League and National League make it possible for teams from all over the country to play in those leagues.

The only team in the AL that is based in Canada is the Toronto Blue Jays. As clubs have moved and been added, the number and make-up of league divisions have changed over time.

When cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles/Anaheim have more than one team, they usually put them in different leagues.

The Designated Hitter Rule

The American League made the designated hitter rule in 1973. It lets a team use a player who doesn’t play defense on the field but bats instead of the pitcher.

Because pitchers tend to be a team’s worst hitters (because they are valued more for their pitching skills than their hitting skills), this rule was made to make more runs.

On average at least, the DH has helped American League teams score more runs, hit better, and hit more home runs than National League teams. But this doesn’t always happen.


Since there is no designated hitter in the National League, the teams have to use different strategies. Managers in the National League often switch out pitchers for pinch hitters in the ninth inning or later. Before the team can go back to defense, the pitcher must also be changed.

A double switch happens when the new pitcher replaces a batter in the batting order, but the pinch hitter stays in the game to play defense.

Since there are no designated hitters in the National League, teams often have a larger roster of players who aren’t pitchers than AL teams do, in case they need to pinch-hit with a lot of players instead of just one pitcher.

Interleague Play

The home team decides whether or not the DH is used in the World Series and in games between leagues.

Difference Between American League and National League

Both teams will use the designated hitter when they play at the home field of an American League team. The DH rule does not apply when a team from the National League is the home team.

Some people say that when American League pitchers have to bat, they are at a disadvantage because they don’t do it often and aren’t used to it. This is why NL teams have an edge in interleague play, but this is a point of contention.

Some people say that while the DH rule is in place, the American League has an advantage because their designated hitters are often the best hitters on the team, while the National League usually has to use bench players.

During the first 15 years of interleague play, AL teams were much more successful. They won 52% of their games.


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