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AL vs. NL: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 20, 2024
AL (American League) and NL (National League) are the two leagues that make up Major League Baseball (MLB), with differing rules, most notably the use of the designated hitter (DH) in the AL.

Key Differences

The AL, established in 1901, is one of the two major leagues in MLB, known for using the designated hitter (DH) rule, where a player bats in place of the pitcher. The NL, founded in 1876, is the older of the two leagues and traditionally does not use the DH rule, requiring pitchers to bat.
Teams in the AL, such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, often build their rosters differently due to the DH rule, focusing on strong hitters. NL teams, like the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, emphasize pitchers who can bat and fielding strategy.
The AL and NL were separate entities for most of their existence and only began playing against each other in regular-season games in 1997. This interleague play has become a regular feature of MLB, allowing AL and NL teams to compete outside of the World Series.
The AL is known for often having higher-scoring games due to the DH's focus on hitting, whereas the NL is often associated with a more traditional style of play that values strategy and pitching.
The World Series, MLB's championship, pits the champions of the AL and NL against each other, showcasing the differing styles and strategies of the two leagues.

Comparison Chart

Establishment Year


Designated Hitter Rule

Uses a designated hitter for pitchers
Traditionally does not use a designated hitter

Notable Teams

New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants

Game Style

Often higher-scoring due to emphasis on hitting
Focuses more on strategy and traditional play

Interleague Play

Regular-season games against NL teams since 1997
Regular-season games against AL teams since 1997

AL and NL Definitions


One of the two major leagues in MLB.
The AL champion will face the NL champion in the World Series.


The older of the two major leagues in MLB.
The NL has a rich history dating back to 1876.


Includes famous teams like the New York Yankees.
The Yankees are a storied franchise in the AL.


Traditionally does not use the designated hitter.
Pitchers batting in the NL adds a unique strategic element.


Known for using the designated hitter rule.
The AL's use of the DH adds a dynamic aspect to its games.


Includes renowned teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers have been a dominant force in the NL.


Often sees higher-scoring games.
AL games frequently feature powerful hitters and high scores.


Faces off against the AL in interleague play.
Interleague play brings exciting matchups between NL and AL teams.


Competes against the NL in the World Series.
The AL has a fierce rivalry with the NL during the World Series.


Emphasizes strategy and traditional play.
NL games often showcase the importance of pitching and defense.


The Indian mulberry, Morinda citrifolia, especially as used to make dye.




The chemical symbol for aluminum.


Although; if.


A silvery ductile metallic element found primarily in bauxite


A state in the southeastern United States on the Gulf of Mexico; one of the Confederate states during the American Civil War


What is the main difference in gameplay between the AL and NL?

The main difference is the use of the designated hitter in the AL, not typically used in the NL.

How does the World Series involve the AL and NL?

The World Series is a championship series between the winners of the AL and NL.

What style of play is the NL known for?

The NL is known for a more traditional, strategy-focused style of play.

Which league uses the designated hitter?

The AL uses the designated hitter rule.

Are team strategies different in the AL and NL?

Yes, due to the DH rule, AL teams often focus more on hitting, while NL teams value pitchers who can bat.

Can AL teams play against NL teams?

Yes, they play against each other in interleague play and the World Series.

When were the AL and NL established?

The NL was established in 1876, and the AL in 1901.

How does the designated hitter impact AL games?

It often leads to higher-scoring games in the AL.

Which league has older origins?

The NL is older, having been established in 1876.

What does AL stand for?

AL stands for the American League in Major League Baseball.

Do the AL and NL have different rules?

Yes, the most notable difference is the designated hitter rule in the AL.

When did interleague play start?

Interleague play began in 1997.

What role do the AL and NL play in baseball history?

They are integral to the history and development of baseball in the United States.

Are there any famous rivalries between AL and NL teams?

Yes, famous rivalries exist, especially those highlighted during the World Series.

What is the significance of interleague play?

It allows AL and NL teams to compete against each other during the regular season.

How do the AL and NL influence MLB's structure?

They are the two main divisions that make up MLB, each with its own teams and style of play.

Do pitchers bat in the AL?

Typically, pitchers do not bat in the AL due to the DH rule.

Do AL and NL teams have different fan bases?

Yes, they often have distinct fan bases, especially in regions with teams from both leagues.

Is the designated hitter rule always used in the AL?

It is typically used, except in certain interleague and World Series games.

Can an NL team adopt the DH rule?

NL teams typically don't use the DH, except in certain interleague and World Series games.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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