For a few years now, I’ve fully embraced the idea that the American League features a higher level of play than the National League. To be honest, I don’t even think it’s particularly close. This sort of snobbery often comes out in baseball debates with friends, in which I routinely refuse to consider any NL team or pitcher the best in the game (Albert Pujols’ existence means NL hitters get a pass). It’s obnoxious, I know.
I have neither the time nor the patience to pore through recent baseball history and quantify the difference between the leagues. I can, however, offer a very rough look at this disparity because several starting pitchers have switched leagues this season. Brad Penny, John Smoltz, Jose Contreras, Cliff Lee, and Vicente Padilla began the season in the AL and are currently in the NL. The reverse is true of Chad Gaudin and Ian Snell. Here are their numbers in the AL:
- AL: 597 IP, 4.92 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 3.77 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
And in the NL:
- NL: 274 IP, 4.32 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.37 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, 0.58 HR/9
It’s a small sample, to be sure, and anyone with the requisite interest and time could resolve this issue. But at least for this season, there appears to be little argument about which league has the superior pitching (and hitting). Which means that the next person who tells me Tim Lincecum is better than Zack Greinke is getting a dirty look.