Don’t Like: The National League

AKA “What John Smotlz and Brad Penny have been able to do there.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of the league: having pitchers hit keeps a certain nice symmetry with things. 9 players. 9 Hitters. The games are shorter. That’s good. It’s all very romantic. And if romance is the goal then the AL is certainly “ruining” it with DH rule.

Now. Here’s the problem. American League Teams are simply superior.

This is not to say top flight NL teams can’t win it all.  They both can and have, though not as frequently as AL teams the last fifteen years. It’s just that if you do a complete survey up and down of National League Lineups,you realize that only three of them compare (phillies, dodgers, cards) with top flight AL teams (ny, boston, tampa, white sox, detroit, angels, texas). That’s a difference of 3  to 7. There are also three AL teams with 2nd tier lineups (orioles, minnesota, seattle). I only see one in the NL in the Cubbies (the mets would be but are excempt because of injuries). That leaves the bottom teir  of only four teams in the AL: toronto, cleveland, kansas city, and oakland VS. the following bottom teir lineups of the NL:  braves, marlins, brewers, astros, reds, rockies, giants, dbacks, and padres. And that means the pirates and Nationals have AAA lineups.

There are 11 bottom teir lineups in the NL and only 3 good ones. Any self-respecting analyst would tell you the same thing. You may love your NL team. You may love the NL league. But I’m sorry. That’s the reality. The Orioles would be a good to mid range lineup in the NL.  Unfortunately they play in the AL east and are therefore last.

Now the above rankings do not figure in total team quality w/ account of pitching. The giants, cards, and braves all have decent staffs with some excellent pitchers. But in terms of overall quality hitting, which you need to use for foundation and base indicator for team (because even the best pitchers are inconsistent), then it’s not even a comparison.

… This does not even include the fact that pitchers have to hit in the NL.

You may wonder why I’m so passionate about this.

Easy: Smoltz. Penny. Julio Lugo. Cliff Lee. Matt Holiday.

The first three guys were practically RUN OUT of Boston. They had long enough periods of time to prove that they could indeed play in the AL, but completely crapped out. Suddenly Penny goes to giants and his first time with a new catcher he threw 8 SHUTOUT INNINGS????!!? Against the “best NL lineup” Phillies? Are you serious? This could just be a simple fluke, but I doubt it. I watched him all year. He was throwing the same stuff last night and the Phillies were whiffing consistantly.  Maybe he was just NL familiar, but even that’s a stretch. This was Night and Day. He couldn’t get out of the 5th inning ALL YEAR. It’s absurd. Look at Holliday too. He couldn’t hit anyone in the AL (even the west). But now on the cards he’s destorying. Cliff Lee is suddenly amazing again now that he’s on the Phillies.

If there isn’t a huge difference why are big time pitchers all but demanding (and in some cases actually demanding) to go to the National League in trades? Seriously. Peavy. Halliday. Lee. They all demanded NL (though only one got it). Seriously, why are they only signing in the AL if they get huge money? CC despretly wanted to stay in the NL after he dominated there, but there was no way he could turn down that contract.

It’s not a secret. The NL is not as good. If you’re a hitter. You can do better. If you’re a pitcher you can do MUCH better. And will for the rest of time because every 9 guys is an easy out. Yes the NL is baseball in the “more pure” form… but honestly, AL teams are a lot of fun to watch. These are truly great teams getting to play and it’s especially fun when they play each other and every at bat is dangerous.

Now, this may all be an over reaction and I’m exaggerating the differnces… but it’s just just one of those dumbfounding things. The AL is truly better. People say the league is cyclical and the NL will be better soon, but that won’t happen unless some clubs get some more money and every good pitcher goes to sign there (an actual possibility). But guys will keep getting lured by those big money contracts on top AL teams. Thems the breaks I guess.

Okay hold on. Phone call.

[time passes]

… I just got signed by the Pirates.


2 Responses to Don’t Like: The National League

  1. kevin says:

    I mean, yes the AL has certainly proven to be better overall for a good while now – but I honestly think it has a lot more to do with psychological differences (because of the way the last 15 or so seasons have gone) than anything else. But there are a couple things you said that I don’t really understand:

    Cliff Lee developed his stuff and won a Cy Young with the Indians, so it’s no surprise to me he is still kicking some major ass with the Phillies. And Matt Holliday – you’re going to judge that he was terrible in the AL on the basis of 93 games? How on earth are the Orioles a 2nd tier AL team? This is a team that since 1989 has had just TWO seasons above .500.

    The bottom line, I think, is that as much as statistics, lineups, etc DO matter, they actually don’t. I know that sounds weird 🙂 – but look, since 1903 62 AL teams have won the world series compared to 43 NL teams. In the grand scheme of things I don’t know that that necessarily makes the AL a far more powerful league. Pretty much any team could win a world series, that’s the beauty of baseball.

  2. mgss says:

    First off, thanks for the excellent comment. They are a rarity and this one was really constructive. So here are my responses to your inquiries.
    -Cliff Lee. Yes. Excellent American league pitcher. Excellent all last season. This season he was simply off all year long. This happens a good deal in the American league after hitters better figure out how to approach you. This may partly explain his success in the National league, but the jump in his statistics is completely jarring. This season he was really performing much worse than last year, and in transferring to the national league he had an INSTANT bump. Whereas when you look at examples of pitchers who have switched to the american league coming from the national, their stats always get worse (suppan, smoltz, penny, kevin brown, randy johnson, vazquez, willis, clemens). Now most of those guys went back to the national league and started being awesome again. Penny got through 7 again last night. Unreal. My point is that it’s not simply “switching” leagues, but switching specifically from the american to the national that boosts your stats. Because the lineups are much weaker. It is inescapable.
    -93 games is enough of a sample size to get an idea how a guy will do.
    -The oroiles Line-up is second tier. For sure. But that is just in regards to this year, when their talent (guys like adam jones) made huge jumps in development. So yeah, I’m talking specifically about this year. They just beat up on texas and everyone was like “wow, that lineup is pretty good!” No. They’ve been good all year it’s just no one noticed. Also they have weak pitching.
    -I never meant to imply that this was anything but a recent trend for the last decade. The national league dominated for many, many years and now the American league is superior. And by dominating the money end of things seems like it would make things tough for the National league to overtake them.
    -The NL can do well in the world series because a team with two really good pitchers can throw them out for 5 of the 7 games and have a chance to win. especially because any team can get hot (witness “colorado rockies, the”) and have just enough offense to make do.
    -My point is ultimately this: If you had the national league play an even amount of games with the american league… i’m not sure how many National League teams would even make the playoffs (which is when having 2-3 excellent pitchers kicks in. if you’re just looking at a 5 man rotation often the AL is better, because of the more money thing. Day in and day out they would get beat up.)
    -The way this could even out is if more and more good pitchers start signing in the national league. We’d have a hitting league and pitching league.

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