The NL is beating the AL in interleague play. Here's why it doesn't matter

8 Comments has a story with a rather misleading headline today: “NL makes a statement on Interleague weekend.”  Big statement: it was 22-20. They could have drawn game results out of a hat and gotten the same results. I’d ask anyone who reads significance into that record to immediately walk down to the nearest community college and sign up for an introductory statistics class before you hurt someone.

But hey, a statistically insignificant sign of league parity is better than nothing, right?  Bah.  As I said the other day, I find the comparison of the AL and the NL to be a dreary exercise. I must admit that this is partially because I’m an NL guy and I get tired of hearing people disparage the senior circuit.  But it bothers me far more because it’s a comparison that easily leads people to unwarranted conclusions based on an ignorance of baseball history. News flash: disparities, even great disparities, are nothing new.

While the Yankees got their titles, most people agree that the NL was the superior league — some people would argue far superior league — from the 1950s through the 1970s. Indeed, one reason the Yankees got so many titles in the 50s and early 60s was because they didn’t have to face much in the way of strong competition to win the pennant in the first place, what with pushovers like the Senators, Athletics, Browns/Orioles and others hanging around.

The NL, in contrast, was much stronger top-to-bottom, with far more teams breaking through to win pennants.  A lot of this had to do with the fact that the NL was much faster in integrating. A lot of it also had to do with the fact that the NL had smarter front office people than the AL (which explains the integration thing too), managers who utilized the speed game, thus diversifying offenses and owners who seemed less focused on the bottom line than on winning (key word being “seemed”).

Due to the lack of interleague play back then we can’t really quantify how much better the NL was than the AL, but it’s hard to argue that the NL wasn’t a better league during those years. Now we can quantify such a thing, and we have pretty clear evidence that the AL is superior to the NL.  Rather than just let it be, however, we get people wringing their hands and using such information as the basis for crazy suggestions like radical realignment and what not.

It’s one of the rare instances where more data, rather than less, is likely to lead people astray.  Let it be people.

Video: Justin Turner gives Dodgers early Game 4 lead with two-run double

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp on the mound and at the plate so far in this must-win NLDS Game 4 at New York’s Citi Field.

After no-hitting the Mets in the first two frames, Kershaw smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the top of third inning. Howie Kendrick followed soon after with a two-out single to left and then Adrian Gonzalez blooped a ball to shallow center that drove in Enrique Hernandez, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base.

That all set up this Justin Turner two-run double down the left field line that put Los Angeles up 3-0

That’s now four doubles this postseason for Turner, which is a Dodgers franchise record for the Division Series. Los Angeles is trying to force a Game 5.

Video: Hector Rondon closes it out, Cubs advance past Cardinals to NLCS

Hector Rondon
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

In the first postseason meeting between the two longtime archrivals, the Chicago Cubs prevailed over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Watch as Cubs closer Hector Rondon whiffs Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty with a nasty 0-2 breaking ball to clinch a Division Series victory and send Wrigley Field into a frenzy (this is actually the first time in franchise history the Cubs have won a playoff series at home) …

Chicago dropped Game 1 but took three straight to finish off St. Louis. Next up is a matchup against either the Dodgers or Mets in the National League Championship Series.

Cardinals miss Martinez even more than Molina

Carlos Martinez

After taking Game 1 of the NLDS in an outstanding performance from John Lackey, the Cardinals dropped three straight to the Cubs by scores of 6-3, 8-6 and 6-4. It’s not difficult at all to imagine a healthy Carlos Martinez swinging one of those games.

Martinez wasn’t the Cardinals’ best starter this year, but he was the one who could shut a team down by himself, with little help from the defense needed. Martinez struck out 184 batters in 179 2/3 innings while going 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA. He left his next-to-last regular season start with a shoulder strain that was going to cost him the entirety of the postseason no matter how far the Cardinals advanced. It was a killer blow for a team whose offense had already been slowed by injuries.

October just came at the wrong time for the Cardinals, what with Martinez down, Yadier Molina nursing a significant thumb injury, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk far from 100 percent and Adam Wainwright still weeks short of potentially pulling off a Marcus Stroman-like return to the rotation.

It’s Molina absence Thursday and lack of effectiveness otherwise that serve as a popular explanation/excuse for the Cardinals’ loss. And the downgrade from him to Tony Cruz behind the plate was huge, even if Molina is no longer the hitter he was a couple of years back.

Martinez, though, had the potential to even up the NLDS just by doing what he did in the regular season. And had Martinez been in the rotation, the Cardinals wouldn’t have moved up Lackey to start Game 4 on three days’ rest. They’d have been the clear favorites in a Game 5 Jon Lester-Lackey rematch back in St. Louis, though we’ll never know how that might have worked out.