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Updated: May 21, 2010, 10:49 AM ET

Simply put, the NL is the better league

By Eduardo Perez
ESPN
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The 14th season of interleague play begins this Friday, and it always seems to spark an interesting discussion. Which league, top to bottom, is superior? The large majority of baseball minds, it seems, have been siding with the American League for years, but this season is different. The NL has emerged as the bullish league in the majors market, and I'm buying into it.

[+] EnlargeUbaldo Jimenez
AP Photo/Pat SullivanUbaldo Jimenez is part of a core group of young, impressive NL starters.

The designated hitter is often cited as a reason for the American League's advantage. There's an established specialist in the lineup when an AL team plays at home and, in the past, that player has provided both a mental and physical edge. This season, however, I don't see the DH being relevant. Vladimir Guerrero is the only DH hitting above .300. Travis Hafner and Luke Scott are hitting .269 and .267 as designated hitters, respectively, but gone are the days of Jim Thome, Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz (in his prime). Ortiz has certainly picked things up in the month of May, but no one really stands out as a huge threat in the middle of the lineup. That "extra hitter card" that the AL always had in its back pocket for this argument is not that big of a difference anymore.

If you need another reason to buy into the NL, look no further than its young, talented pitching corps. Ubaldo Jimenez, Jaime Garcia and Tim Lincecum are all incredibly impressive players who have been in the league for less than five years.

Jimenez is 8-1 with a smoldering 0.99 ERA, and Cardinals first-year pitcher Garcia has already made his mark in St. Louis. Baseball people -- everybody, really -- have been drooling over Braves rookie Jason Heyward since spring training, but Garcia is having a better inaugural year than all of them right now. The 23-year-old lefty is 4-2 with a 1.28 ERA. Plus, he produces one of the highest ground-ball rates in the majors. Then there's the two-time reigning NL Cy Young winner, who continues to go out and baffle batter after batter. Lincecum is 5-0 with a 2.35 ERA and a league-leading 75 strikeouts.

Add Roy Halladay to this dynamic mix and I think the NL's pitching quality becomes more valuable than what currently resides in the AL.

The lack of control and dominance by American League closers also tips the scales in favor of the NL. Kevin Gregg of the Toronto Blue Jays leads the AL in saves (12). Not Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon … but Kevin Gregg. Meanwhile, the Nationals' Matt Capps and the Reds' Francisco Cordero are completely shutting teams down in the end of games. (Ignore the bad outing Cordero had Thursday; those happen to closers.) San Diego hurler Heath Bell is another NL closer excelling in his role (1.00 ERA, 11 saves) for the surprising Padres. American League closers just aren't what they used to be, and the stock is rising on a lot of NL bullpen arms.

People will talk about the AL winning (or, in the case of 2002, tying) every All-Star Game since the NL won the 1996 game 6-0. They may mention the American League holding an edge in the season series. But those measures are irrelevant to me. I think the National League has finally stepped out from behind the shadow of the AL to become the more dominant league.

Eduardo Perez is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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