Difference Between AL and NL (With Table)

Baseball is something more than a mere sport it is an American tradition. It is equivalent to what cricket is to an Indian or what football is to a European. Major League Baseball is the most popular professional baseball organisation which is composed of The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs (AL) and The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (NL).

At times the difference between the two is considered to be vague but this is a common misconception that emerges due to the fact that the teams associated with one league often competes with teams in the other league at the end of the season in the world series.

AL vs NL

The main difference between AL and NL is a rule regarding Designated Hitter (DH) which enables the use of DH for pitchers in AL whereas in NL this is not allowed.

In AL DH can do batting in place of the pitcher which enables the creation of a devoted batting lineup. This allows players to polish the required individual skill to perfection which otherwise is not possible. But the DH is also unable to play from any other position due to this rule. The umpire watches over the flight of the pitched ball by focusing above the head of the catcher.

In NL the use of DH is not permitted therefore pitchers are put into batting rotation and pressures them to become all-rounders, unlike their AL counterparts. Which reduces the opportunity to attain perfection in individual skills. Here also the umpire has to watch over the flight of the pitched ball but here he focuses on the side of the inside catchers of catchers shoulder.

Comparison Table Between AL and NL

Parameters of ComparisonALNL
Year of Establishment19011876
Game StyleInclined towards home run and powerInclined towards pitching and offensive running
Usage of DHPermittedNot Permitted
Focus of Umpire Above catcher’s headOver the inside shoulder of the catcher.
No: of Games won1,2491,202

What is AL?

The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs (AL) was established as a replacement for The Western League in the year of 1901. It began with a total no: of 8 teams which has expanded to 15 today. Prior to 2012, the number of teams was 16.

Due to the use of DH average runs is also more in AL when compared to NL. The style of the game is also more focused on home runs and overall power. At the end of every season, AL teams compete against NL teams and to date AL teams have won the majority of matches. AL also holds the record of 61 home runs which is ironically low when compared to NL.

The teams which are the members of the league are as follows:
• Toronto Blue Jays
• Boston Red Sox
• Los Angeles
• Houston Astros
• New York Yankees
• Chicago White Sox
• Oakland Athletics
• Detroit Tigers
• Tampa Bay Rays
• Baltimore Orioles
• Texas Rangers
• Kansas City Royals
• Seattle Mariners
• Cleveland Indians
• Minnesota Twins

What is NL?

The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (NL) was founded in the year 1876 with the purpose of replacing The National Association of Professional Baseball Players (NA). The league was originally composed of 8 teams which now has grown equal in number to AL. But it is also important to note that before 2012 NL comprised only 14 teams which were less than AL.

As the usage of DH is not permitted in NL the average runs are comparatively less to AL. The other reason behind this lesser average may be attributed to a change in style followed in the game which gives more weightage to pitching with a focus on offensive running. Even though NL is following a game style that is more focused on pitching its record of home runs is 73 which is more than that of Al.

The current teams in NL are as follows:
• New York Mets
• Philadelphia Phillies
• Washington Nationals
• Chicago Cubs
• Cincinnati Reds
• Milwaukee Brewers
• Atlanta Braves
• Florida Marlins
• Pittsburgh Pirates
• St. Louis Cardinals
• Arizona Diamondbacks
• Colorado Rockies
• Los Angeles Dodgers
• San Diego Padres
• San Francisco Giants

Main Differences Between AL and NL

  1. Although both AL and NL are equally popular the latter is 25 years older than the former. AL was formed in the year 1901 as a replacement for its predecessor The Western League and NL came as the successor for The National Association of Professional Baseball Players (NA) in the year 1876.
  2. Another reason of contrast between the two leagues is the DH rule. DH is allowed in AL whereas the same is not allowed in NL. This difference leads to the emergence of several other interesting differences.
  3. The style of game followed in both AL and NL is also different. Whereas the former focuses on homeruns and power the latter focuses on pitching orientation and offensive running.
  4. The umpire focuses on the on the flight of the pitch in different perspectives for both the leagues. In AL the focus is above the head of the catcher and in NL the focus is on the inside shoulder of the catcher.
  5. The number of games won by AL is 1249 whereas NL has won only 1202.


Both AL and NL can be said to be equally popular even after all the differences that exist in the various aspects such as Style of game, DH rule, the focus of umpire, year of establishment etc. And both the leagues are quintessential to the world of baseball. But if it is necessary to assess the superiority of one league over the other then the parameter of the greatest number of victories can be used. It may be inferred that AL is superior to NL but this inference is crude and variable with time.


  1. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=xlZrLEcuUlAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=major+league+baseball+history&ots=AS4m_1oYPb&sig=hVHIsJFpO7ZpuEdhkrPEPUNNaNk
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/135048501750041231
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/152263790300500102