20+ Differences Between American And National League (Explained)

Like American Football or the NFL, Major League Baseball has two leagues within – the American League and the National League.

Together, these two leagues have thirty teams competing in various matches within the league or interleague, with the winner of these two leagues playing the World Series.

There is not much difference between the American League and the National League recently. However, there are still some if we consider their origin and one particular rule that existed for a long time but has changed currently.


Key Differences between American League and National League:

American League

  1. American League was born in 1901 from Western League, a minor league.
  2. The clubs kept a designated hitter in their lineups for decades.
  3. The pitcher did not need to bat for himself.
  4. Until 2012, the league had 14 teams. It has 15 teams now.

National League

  1. National League was born earlier than the American League- in 1876.
  2. The clubs never kept a designated hitter until 2020 and from 2022 onwards.
  3. The pitcher had to bat for himself compulsorily before 2022.
  4. Until 2012, National League had 16 teams. It has 15 teams since 2013.

Comparison between American League And National League

ParametersAmerican LeagueNational League
Using a Designated HitterThe teams always keep a designated hitter for their pitcher.The teams never kept a designated hitter for their pitcher before 2022.
The Number of TeamsThere are 15 teams, but they had 14 in 2012.There are 15 teams, but they had 16 in 2012.
The OriginAmerican League is younger as it was born in 1901.National League is older as it was born in 1876.
The Batting PitcherThe pitcher did not have to bat for himself because the designated hitter would do so.The pitcher had to bat for himself because there were no hitters to take his place.
The Primary FocusPower-based strategy, which focused on making more home runs.Tactical strategy, which focused on powerful pitching and walking.
Interleague MatchesAmerican League ballparks would allow designated hitters to National League players as per their rules.National League ballparks used to apply their rules, that is, not allowing designated hitters to the American League teams.

Major Differences Between American League and National League

What Is American League?

The American League was formerly known as Western League, which operated as a minor league from 1885 to 1899.

In the 1900s, Ban Johnson, president of the Western League, changed its name to the American League and was instrumental in getting it recognized as a major league.

American League had fourteen teams, but after the Houston Astros transferred to AL West from NL Central, the league had fifteen teams, with five each in three divisions.

The teams in this league have always had a designated hitter in their lineup to bat in the pitcher’s place.

What Is National League?

The National League was founded in 1876 and replaced the National Association, which was only half a decade old.

William Hubert, a businessman, proposed a new professional league to the National Association clubs, which had a stronger authority over the clubs, unlike the National Association.

The National League had 16 teams until the migration of the Houston Astros in 2013, which left the league with 15 teams – making the number even with the American League.

It has three divisions, and each division has five teams. NL teams never used a designated hitter until 2020, and in 2022, they made this change permanent.


American League vs. National League- All you need to know.

American League

  1. This league was formed in 1901 from a minor league.
  2. Ban Johnson, the league president, played a huge role in making it a major league.
  3. The American League has fifteen teams in three divisions- AL East, AL Central, and AL West.
  4. The American League teams have kept a designated hitter for a long time.

National League

  1. This league was formed in 1876 as a separate league.
  2. William Hubert, a businessman, created a new league for the National Association clubs, which would have better management.
  3. National League has three divisions – NL East, NL Central, and NL West. Each division has five teams, making a total of fifteen teams.
  4. The National League teams never kept a designated hitter except for interleague matches. The 2022 agreement will allow them to have it permanently.

Contrast Between American League and National League

Using A Designated Hitter

  • American League- All the teams in the American League have kept designated hitters since 1973. This allows the team to make more runs, and the pitchers can focus more on pitching.
  • National League- The National League teams never used a designated hitter, and the pitchers had to field and bat. This called for the teams to have or build players who could perform at all positions.

    They only used a designated hitter in interleague matches and within the league in 2020. Following 2022, National League teams will also have a designated hitter.

The Number of Teams

  • American League- Until 2012, the American League had fourteen teams. However, the number is now fifteen with the later inclusion of the Houston Astros in the AL West.
  • National League- National League had sixteen teams before 2013. After the Houston Astros left the NL Central division and moved to the American League, the number is fifteen.

The Origin

  • American League- The American League came into existence in 1901 as an evolution from the minor Western League.

    They did not replace any existing association but developed the minor league into a major league. It is younger than the National League.
  • National League- The National League was a separate league born in 1876 to compensate for the poor management by the National Association of Professional Baseball Players.

    The latter came into being in 1871 and got replaced by the former in five years. Compared to the American League, National League has existed for a longer time.

The Batting Pitcher

  • American League- A pitcher, never needs to bat if he is in an American League club. A designated hitter would take his place when the team would bat. So the pitchers could concentrate more on their pitching without needing to work on their batting skills.
  • National League- If a pitcher belonged to a National League club, he also had to bat, unlike the American League players. National League players never used a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher, forcing them to improve their batting skills.

Primary Focus

  • American League- Since all the players would be good hitters during batting, the players could focus more on hitting stronger and gaining home runs. The overall strategy is based on power.
  • National League- The pitchers, used to bat by themselves in National League games, so the emphasis was given more to effective pitching and bunting so that better hitters enter the home plate and more runs get made.

Interleague Matches

  • American League- In an interleague match, when an American League hosts the match, the rules of the American League would apply. The National League clubs would, thus, keep a designated hitter in these matches.
  • National League- If an interleague match were held in a National League ballpark, then the National League’s rules would take effect. So, the American League clubs would not keep a designated hitter in these matches.


The Details: American League vs. National League

American League

  1. This league was born two and a half decades after the formation of the National League.
  2. The number of teams increased from fourteen to fifteen after the migration of the Astros.
  3. The pitchers did not have to bat because of the designated hitter rule.
  4. AL teams employed a power-based strategy.
  5. The rules of AL would apply if the home team belonged to the American League.

National League

  1. National League is an older association.
  2. The number of teams became even with the American League after the Astros moved to the AL West.
  3. The pitcher also had to bat because there were no batters to take his place.
  4. NL teams employed a more tactical strategy.
  5. If the NL team was the home team in an interleague match, the rules of the National League would take effect.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What is the MLB World Series?

The MLB World Series is analogous to the Super Bowl in American Football.

Both the American League and the National League have their respective championships. The winners of both leagues face each other in the World Series event.

Q2. Who was the winner of the MLB World Series in 2021?

Atlanta Braves faced the Houston Astros in the 2021 World Series and faced each other in six games. The Braves won four matches and became the current champions.

Q3. Who has won the most World Series in MLB?

As of today, the New York Yankees hold the most victories in the World Series. They have won 27 times.

Q4. What is the ‘Shohei Ohtani’ Rule?

A new rule was introduced in 2022, nicknamed Shohei Ohtani. A team can enlist a player as a pitcher and a designated hitter.

However, as the season progresses, the coach would remove the player from one of these positions.

Q5. Why do the American League teams score more than the National League teams?

The American League players score more on average because they have a stronger offense with the help of the designated hitter.

This scenario is set to change in 2022, enabling the National League teams to have a designated hitter permanently.

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