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Diamondbacks Game Preview #71: 6/22 @ Padres

Why is the NL outhitting the AL this year?

Minnesota Twins v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Daulton Varsho - RF Jurickson Profar - LF
Alek Thomas - CF Jake Cronenworth - 2B
Josh Rojas - 3B Luke Voit - 1B
Christian Walker - DH Jorge Alfaro - DH
David Peralta - LF Ha-Seong Kim - 3B
Pavin Smith - 1B Austin Nola - C
Geraldo Perdomo - SS Trent Grisham - CF
Jake Hager - 2B Jose Azocar - RF
Jose Herrera - C CJ Abrams - SS
M. Bumgarner - LHP Mike Clevinger - RHP

In yesterday’s preview, I looked at how Arizona’s offense broke down in terms of runs per game, and how that compared to MLB in general. Jack mentioned in the comments it might have been interesting to compare them just to NL teams. It’s something I did consider, but with the universal designated hitter this year, there should not be an enormous difference between the two leagues. Except, there is - and it’s in favor of the National League. They are averaging 4.51 runs per game, a third of a run more than the American League (4.17). It’s mostly because the AL has cratered, dropping from 4.60 last year. The NL has ticked up fractionally, from 4.46 - as you might expect, with DHs now batting in place of pitchers.

I mentioned it was something worth looking into, and Jack’s succinct reply was “Your investigation will start and end with Detroit and Oakland. Incredibly bad.” In some ways, he’s not wrong. They are averaging 2.88 and 3.17 runs per game respectively. It has been FIFTY YEARS since a team has even been below three runs per game (the 1972 Rangers at 2.99). The last side below Detroit’s current figure were the 1968 White Sox (2.86), and they lowered the pitching mound after that season. But that isn’t ALL the reason. Taking those two out of the equation, the rest of the AL is still only averaging 4.35 runs per game. If we drop the two worst NL teams (Arizona and Pittsburgh), their average remains higher, at 4.61.

This is because the NL appears to be scoring more at the top end too. In the AL, only the Yankees are averaging 4.75 R/G or better. In our league, six teams are doing so. Overall, the NL OPS is 18 points higher, at .713 vs. .695, That’s just a 2.6% edge, compared to an 8.2% one in runs per game. But the OPS difference goes up to 25 points (.751 vs. .726) with runners in scoring position: the NL has been superior at hitting in the clutch. Another potential factor: the AL has been the better fielding league, with 20 fewer errors and a higher defensive efficiency (.703 vs. .693). We’ll see if this split is sustained going forward. Been a while since the NL has been the more offensive league overall!