Each year baseball players make the jump from the American League to the National League and vice versa. The switch can have a positive or negative effect on their fantasy value. If a player has experience in both leagues, fantasy owners can examine the effect this mild phenomenon has on a player's outlook.
In many cases, the difference is unnoticeable; talent usually outweighs this subtle change. However, in some instances, the discrepancy is more than negligible. Don't necessarily let this deter you from selecting a pitcher or hitter who has switched leagues. Just be aware that it could have an effect; research the type of player making the switch to determine how it affects his fantasy value, if it does at all.
Much depends on the type of hitter who makes the move. AL batters typically see slightly more breaking stuff and off-speed pitches than their NL equals, who tend to see a few more fastballs. There are exceptions, but situational hitting and strategy come into play a bit more in the NL. Therefore, less accomplished hitters must sometimes adapt to a new approach. Some are merely hackers and have trouble adjusting.
When a position player changes leagues, he will be facing new pitchers. He may not get off to a quick start or struggle to adjust to his new surroundings. He'll depend on scouting reports, coaches and teammates to prepare for pitchers he hasn't seen, but nothing is a substitute for experience.
NL teams also, obviously, play without a designated hitter when not in interleague play. They're lucky to have a pitcher hit .200; without a serviceable hitter at the end of the order, there are fewer opportunities for top-of-the-order hitters. The caliber of hitter at the top of an NL order may not necessarily be a run producer, too.
On average, American League clubs score a bit more - anywhere from a quarter to a half run per game - than National League teams do. They have a little more pop, too.
Perhaps this is why National League pitchers post lower ERAs than their American League counterparts? In some years, there has been a significant difference, such as in 2004, when the league average in the American League was 4.63 and 4.31 in the National League. In other years, the difference has been minor. Either way, the historical trend is that pitchers in the National League allow fewer earned runs per nine innings.
How does this apply to fantasy baseball? If a pitcher moves from the National League to the American League, he is likely going to be facing slightly better offenses, depending on where he ends up. If he lands in the American League West, it might not be as tough; if he lands in the American League East, then he could be in for a rude awakening.
The type of pitcher who makes the move makes a difference. A pitcher who moves to the NL and relies on breaking balls or doesn't have an effective fastball may struggle. A hard-throwing pitcher who moves from the NL likely needs to broaden his arsenal to keep AL hitters off balance.
Again, the designated hitter gives American League teams another quality bat in the lineup. Batters at the top of the order may have a few more opportunities to drive in runs; they don't have pitchers in front of them causing rally-killing outs. Conversely, a pitcher in the National League gets to pitch to his counterpart, which often is a guaranteed out.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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