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National League has the edge in pitchers hitting

Micah Owings is one pitcher who can actually hit

Earlier this afternoon I compared Minnesota's middle infielders to National League pitchers offensively, which along with watching American League pitchers go 5-for-48 (.104) at the plate during the first round of interleague play got me curious about the numbers behind pitchers hitting.

Specifically, how much better are NL pitchers because they get to actually bat regularly? And how much worse are AL pitchers because they rarely get more than a handful of at-bats in a season and only take batting practice a couple times per year in preparation for the interleague schedule?

Here are the OPS totals posted by each league's pitchers during the previous five seasons:

               2008     2007     2006     2005     2004
National       .354     .366     .341     .372     .367
American       .312     .361     .328     .314     .245

NL pitchers have had an OPS between .341 and .372 in each of the past five years, while AL pitchers have been much less consistent between .245 and .361. More variance should be expected from the AL, because the sample of plate appearances involved is so much smaller. Combined over the previous five seasons, NL pitchers have had a .360 OPS compared to a .312 OPS from their AL counterparts.

There may be some built-in biases, such as NL teams choosing pitchers in some small part because of their hitting ability, but basically the numbers suggest that getting regular at-bats and taking regular batting practice gives NL pitchers a 15-percent boost in offensive production. Maybe Nick Punto just needs some extra batting practice.