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AL vs. NL — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 27, 2024
AL (American League) and NL (National League) are two leagues in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States, differing mainly in rules, such as the use of the designated hitter in the AL and not in the NL.
AL vs. NL — What's the Difference?

Difference Between AL and NL


Key Differences

The AL and NL are both part of MLB but have distinct historical origins, with the NL being older, established in 1876, and the AL established in 1901. Both leagues have their own set of teams and regular-season play.
A key difference is the use of the Designated Hitter (DH). In the AL, the DH bats in place of the pitcher, while in the NL, pitchers take their turn at bat. This rule results in different strategic approaches in both leagues.
The AL and NL meet in the All-Star Game and the World Series, where champions of each league compete. The World Series is the climax of the MLB season, showcasing the champions of the AL and NL.
Rivalries between teams in the AL and NL are a significant aspect of MLB, with fans often having strong loyalty to teams in one league over the other. Interleague play has allowed these teams to compete during the regular season.
The AL and NL have different team compositions and historically have had slightly different playing styles, influenced by their distinct rules, especially the use of the DH in the AL.

Comparison Chart


Founded in 1901
Founded in 1876

Designated Hitter Rule

Uses Designated Hitter
No Designated Hitter, pitchers bat

Interleague Play

Competes against NL teams
Competes against AL teams

World Series Participation

AL champion competes
NL champion competes

Team Composition

Different teams from NL
Different teams from AL

Compare with Definitions


Participates in the World Series against the NL champion.
The AL champion faces off against the NL champion in the World Series.


Does not use the Designated Hitter rule.
Pitchers in the NL are required to bat, unlike in the AL.


A major league in MLB with teams like the New York Yankees.
The New York Yankees are a dominant team in the AL.


Known for traditional baseball play due to the absence of the DH rule.
NL games often involve more traditional strategies due to the pitcher batting.


Uses the Designated Hitter rule in games.
In the AL, teams use a designated hitter to bat in place of the pitcher.


The oldest league in MLB, featuring teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a rich history in the NL.


Part of MLB, known for certain rivalries with NL teams.
The AL teams often have intense rivalries with NL teams during interleague play.


Competes in the World Series against the AL champion.
The NL champion team plays in the World Series against the AL champion.


Has teams primarily based in the American region.
The Boston Red Sox are another famous team in the AL.


Includes teams from various regions across the United States.
The Chicago Cubs are a prominent team in the NL.

Common Curiosities

How many teams are in the AL?

The AL consists of 15 teams.

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

The major difference is the use of the Designated Hitter in the AL, while pitchers bat in the NL.

When did interleague play between the AL and NL start?

Interleague play started in 1997.

How does the All-Star Game work between the AL and NL?

The All-Star Game features players from both the AL and NL competing against each other.

How does the World Series work between the AL and NL?

The World Series is played between the champions of the AL and NL.

Can teams switch from the AL to the NL or vice versa?

League switches are rare and usually involve major league reorganization.

Are the rules the same in the AL and NL?

The rules are largely the same, except for the Designated Hitter rule.

Is the playoff structure the same for the AL and NL?

Yes, both leagues follow the same playoff structure.

How many teams are in the NL?

The NL also has 15 teams.

Which league is older, the AL or NL?

The NL is older, established in 1876.

Are player salaries different between the AL and NL?

Salaries depend more on the team and player than the league.

Has the Designated Hitter rule ever been used in the NL?

Traditionally, the NL does not use the DH rule, but there have been temporary exceptions.

Do AL and NL teams play in separate stadiums?

Teams have their home stadiums but may play in other stadiums during interleague play and the World Series.

How does the fan base differ between the AL and NL?

Fan bases can differ in terms of regional loyalty and traditional vs. modern baseball preferences.

Can a player be traded from an AL team to an NL team?

Yes, players can be traded between AL and NL teams.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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