But what makes it small ball?
My first inclination was to think of the stolen base. Surely the NL must run more to manufacture runs. Nope.
In 7 of the last 10 years American League teams have attempted more SB’s per game than NL teams. Now some might want to attribute that to the extra hitter (DH) per game. But I don’t think so. Over the past 10 years AL teams have attempted 0.836 SB’s per game compared to 0.808 for the NL. The difference of 0.028 per game equates to 4.536 SB’s per 162 games. With 14 teams in the AL that multiplies out to 63.5 stolen bases for DH’s. Looking at last year’s numbers, it appears that AL DH’s stole appox 35 bases. Even if you give them credit for 63 steals, the AL would have stolen just as many bases as the NL.
Maybe it’s all the homeruns? Nope.
Over the last 10 years AL teams have hit 1.095 HR’s per game, NL teams hit 1.055. So, they do hit more homers, but not as many as you would think considering the use of the DH. In fact it averages out to just 6.5 HR’s per season per team. That’s not much.
How about the sacrifice bunts (SH)? Maybe!
Over the past 10 years AL teams have average 0.224 SH’s per game while the NL has had 0.429. Clearly the NL is bunting runners over more, but really it’s just the pitchers. NL pitchers had 671 SH’s last year, 0.18 per game. Subtract that percentage from the overall NL percentage (0.429 – 0.18 = 0.249) and it looks a lot like the AL total.
Of course you can’t take away the pitchers because they do bat and they did bunt. But really, other than the fact that your number 9 hitter can’t hit and is essential forced to give up at bats with a bunt. Both leagues really play the same.