Difference between NL and AL

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Baseball is the favorite sport of Americans. Spectator interest in baseball is tremendous. Baseball is a professional sport for a long time. There are two major professional leagues in the USA. One is the American League (AL) and the other is the National League (NL). They play the same game and with practically the same rules save for a couple of changes here and there. It becomes imperative for you to know the history of the two leagues as well as the differences between the two leagues.

National League:

The National League is in existence since 1876. The history of American baseball goes a little back in history. Alexander Cartwright is considered to be the architect of modern day organized basketball. He framed the initial rules of the game, many of which are applicable even today. The first organized professional league in baseball was the National Association of Baseball players. This league was formed in 1871 and disbanded in 1875. This resulted in the creation of a new league, The National League in 1876. There were attempts to form rival leagues but no one could succeed in doing so.

American League:

A sportswriter by the name of Byron Bancroft broke away from the National League and succeeded in creating a parallel league, The American League, in 1901. To attract players to its fold, the American League started offering more money to them. This resulted in a lot of acrimony between the two leagues. Eventually sanity prevailed with the signing of a National Agreement in 1903 to oversee the activities of both the professional Leagues.

Expansion of the leagues:

Over a period of time, the leagues expanded and in 2012, the NL had 16 teams as compared to the AL with 14 teams. In the year 2013, one team, Houston Astros made the shift from the NL to the AL. Thus, today both the AL as well as NL has 15 teams each.

The key difference between the two leagues:

The rules of the game have been same for years. However there is one major difference in the rules between the American League and National League.

The American League has a concept called “Designated Hitter” (DH) whereas there is no such concept in the National League.

Designated Hitter concept:

Normally, all players in a baseball game get a chance to bat. Pitchers have to bat too. The American League has introduced a new concept where a substitute player can bat in place of a pitcher. This player is the “Designated Hitter.” The National League rules do not permit any such luxury. This is the reason why the average scores in an American League game are higher than that in a National League game.

This has made the American League game a power packed one with more emphasis placed on home runs. The National League lays more emphasis on pitching skills and placement techniques.

Position of the umpire:

In the American League, the umpire watches from a position directly over the catcher’s head. In the National League game, the umpire looks over the inside shoulder of the catcher. This is a very minor difference though.

What will happen in case of an inter league game?

Under such circumstances, the rules of the home teal shall apply. This means that if the game is played on the home ground of the American League team, the concept of DH will apply. At the same time, if the game is held on the home ground of the National League team both the teams cannot use the DH.


  1. The NL is the older of the two leagues.
  2. The DH concept is allowed in the AL.
  3. AL games are more runs oriented than NL games.

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