Difference Between American League and National League in Baseball

Uncovering the unique characteristics: comparing the American and National Leagues in baseball
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

The American League and National League in baseball offer more than just regional distinctions; they play by different rules that shape the strategy of the game. This discussion will delve into the unique characteristics and historical differences that set these two leagues apart.

  • The MLB was originally formed as the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs in 1876.
  • The American League was created and adopted a two-league format in 1901, creating the current Major League Baseball (MLB).
  • Significant differences between the American League and National Leagues include rules, teams, player statistics, and strike zones/umpire calls.
  • Prior to 2022, the AL had designated hitters who only bat but did not play defense; NL pitchers were forced to hit the last spot in the batting lineup when they played at home.
  • Over the past 20 years, NL pitchers have had a lower Earned Run Average compared to AL pitchers; however, AL hitters have been producing more efficiently recently.

Rules and regulations

Prior to 2022, American League teams were not forced to have their pitcher be in the batting lineup. Each team was granted a designated hitter, who would only bat and not play defense. These were usually guys who were great hitters but poor defenders.

The National League did not have a designated hitter. Instead, the current pitcher would hit the last spot in the batting lineup for each team.

Prior to 2022, things got a little confusing when an American League team played against a National League team. In this case, the home team would be the deciding factor in the designated hitter situation. However, since 2022, the designated hitter rule applies in both leagues, regardless of the home team.

For example, let’s say the Yankees were playing the Mets. Since the Mets were the home team, National League rules would apply, and the pitcher would be forced to hit. If the Yankees were the home team, each team would be granted a designated hitter.

Teams and players

Not much separates the American League from the National League. Over the past 20 years, National League pitchers have had a lower Earned Run Average compared to American League pitchers.

However, American League hitters have been producing at a much more efficient rate over the last handful of years.

Justin Verlander is one of the newest players to have played in both the American League and the National League. He has spent time with the Detroit Tigers and the Houston Astros, who are both American League teams. After a recent trade, Justin will be joining the New York Mets in the National League in 2023. Prior to 2022, Verlander would have needed to work on his hitting since he would have been forced to hit every game he was pitching. However, with the adoption of the universal DH rule, this is no longer the case.

Free agency and player trades are all nearly identical across both leagues. Prior to 2022, teams may have had different strategies, such as a National League team looking for pitchers that could also hit or bunt. However, with the adoption of the universal DH rule, this strategy has become less relevant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the National League play the American League in baseball?

Yes, these games are called Inter-League play. Every year, each team will face at least one team from the opposite league.

Do pitchers bat in the American League or National League?

As of 2022, with the adoption of the universal designated hitter rule, pitchers no longer bat in either the American League or the National League.

Who has more World Series, the American League or the National League?

As of last year, the American League had won 67 World Series championships. The National League has only won 51 World Series championships.


The American League and National League were created to form a bigger league. After the expansion, there were ultimately 30 teams in the MLB. They are split evenly among the two leagues.

While there are some differences, both leagues are nearly identical. With two leagues, there can be an All-Star game between the two leagues every year. The American League has dominated the All-Star game over time. They have also won many more World Series in comparison to the National League. It seems like the American League is holding the top spot.