Is the N.L. Really That Much Weaker Than the A.L.? (Updated)

Don SpielesCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 20:  Pitcher John Smoltz #29 of the Boston Red Sox on July 20, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It was suggested that my sampe size for the original post was simply innaccurate.  I've added extra info (seen in blue) to further demonstrate my view.  Thank you to P.J. for his input.

John Smoltz, undervalued by the Braves after his latest surgery, signs with the Red Sox.  After making a late debut, Smoltz goes 2-5, pitches 40 innings, strikes out only 33 batters, gives up eight home runs, and posts an 8.32 ERA, his highest ever for a 40 inning stint. 

Smoltz is released, stating he does not want to go to the bull pen, and is signed by St. Louis.  In his first two starts with the Cardinals, Smoltz pitches 11 innings, giving up one run.  He allows no jacks in those 11 innings, but instead strikes out 15 batters.

Brad Penny, also dismal in Boston ( 7-8, 5.61 ERA, WHIP 1.534), also not interested in working the Boston pen, ends up with the Giants.  In his first start, against arguably the best hitting team in the majors—Philadelphia—Penny pitches eight shut-out innings at Citizen's Bank Park, giving up five hits and only one walk.

Cliff Lee is traded by the floundering Cleveland Indians.  He was their best pitcher this season, with his 3.14 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.3.  Lee is traded to the Phillies and in his first six starts with the defending world champions, Lee is 5-1, posting a 1.88 ERA, his WHIP is a minuscule .889, and two of his games have been complete games.

Even when you consider the small sample size reflected here, doesn't it lead one to believe that the National League has become the ugly stepsister to the A.L. in terms of hitting?

Last year it was C.C. Sabathia.  He's having a good year in Cleveland.  The Indians trade him to the Brewers and he turns into Cy Young!  In 17 games with a postseason bound Milwaukee squad, Sabathia posted a 1.65 ERA, went 11-2, with a 1.003 WHIP.  He struck out 128 batters in 130.2 innings pitched!

So what is the story to be told here.  Is the National League the new Minor League?  Is it an issue of the parks?  Honestly, Fenway is not a friendly place for many hurlers.  Is there such a huge difference to be made of the fact that the A.L. uses the DH and the N.L. makes the pitchers hit?

In the case of Smoltz, it has been reported that the future all-star was tipping pitches in Boston.  According to one source, the Cardinals caught on to this and were able to address it.  Smoltz is no longer a pitcher who can make you miss if you know what's coming.  But take the subtle cues out of his stance, or delivery, or whatever it was, and apparently we now have a difference that is eye-popping.

In this decade, of the nine World Series played, the N.L. has won four to the A.L.'s five.  In actual World Series Games, the A.L. tops the N.L. 27-20 in the same period.  While that may not seem like much, prorated fora 162 game season, that works out to a 93-68 record for the A.L. (pretty respectable) and 68-93 for the N.L. (pretty lousy.)

In interleague play, the A.L. has shown even more dominance.  In the graphic below, the orange rows are N.L. leading years, the purple rows are years the A.L. was dominant.


In the past 20 years, the A.L. has gone 16-3-1 in the All-Star Game against the N.L.

As the last surge for the post season plays out, one of the most interesting story lines will be whether the Senior Circuit team that makes the World Series is anyone but Philadelphia, do they stand a chance against lineups like that of the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, or even Tigers?