How Many Baseball Games Are In A Season? (And Why?)
Baseball has many peculiarities and quirks that make it stand out among other major sports.
For many devoted fans, these unique characteristics are one of the biggest reasons why they love the game so much.
Features such as the absence of a time limit, a particular way of scoring, and specific equipment used, are just some of the things that are almost never seen in any other sport.
One of these elements that set baseball apart is certainly the length of the season.
Compared to their counterparts in other pro sports, MLB players step onto the field much more often during a single season.
While this may be hard on players, fans certainly enjoy it, as there’s no such thing as too much baseball.
Below, you’ll find out how many baseball games in season each Major League team plays and what are the reasons behind such a packed schedule.
So, let’s dive in!
|Professional Baseball League
|Games In A Season Per Team
|Major League Baseball (MLB)
|Minor League Baseball (AAA)
|Minor League Baseball (AA)
|Minor League Baseball (A+)
|Minor League Baseball (A)
Table of Contents
How Many Baseball Games in a Season?
The regular season schedule of each of the 30 teams playing the American League and National League typically includes 162 games.
The games in the regular part of the season are played over approximately 6 months, commonly from late March or early April to late September or early October.
This means that the total number of games played in a single MLB season is 2,430, with rare exceptions, which I’ll explain later.
This number doesn’t include postseason games.
The team that makes the playoffs will, of course, play even more games, whose number varies depending on when they start the postseason and how far they get.
The maximum, which implies that a team has entered the playoffs in the Wild Card Round and made it to the World Series, with each series going the distance, is 22 games.
On top of all this, teams also play preparation games during Spring Training. Commonly, each team will play around 30 games each spring.
Why do MLB teams Play Exactly 162 Games in a Season?
To understand the reason why teams in the MLB play exactly 162 games each season, we should go back in time to 1961 when this format was first introduced.
For years before that, or more precisely from 1904 to 1960, the season schedule included 154 games for each team.
At the time, there were 18 teams in the league, divided into two divisions. The 154-game season meant that each team got to play its 7 divisional rivals 22 times in a season.
Managing the 1961 Expansion
However, as the league started to add teams in 1961, this format became untenable. Playing each rival 22 times would result in nearly 200 games per season.
The league had to keep the number of games against each opponent even to retain home and away balance.
Plus, they still needed to have a season that’s not too short or too long.
So, as a compromise, it was decided that the number of games per rival will be 18 which meant that the season was set at 162 games.
Over the years, as more teams were added to the league and interdivisional games were introduced, the structure of the schedule changed a bit.
Nevertheless, the total number of games remained the same.
Can a Team Play Fewer than 162 Games?
The general rule says that MLB teams play 162 games each during a season. Still, in some cases, certain teams may not play all 162 games.
This usually happens when a game during the regular season is postponed due to bad weather or any other reason.
If playing the very next day or within the same series isn’t an option, these games are usually moved to a later date in a season.
However, sometimes, at that later date, commonly near the end of the season, the outcome of the game has no impact on the final standings.
When that happens, the two teams can opt not to play the makeup game, thus finishing the season with fewer than 162 games played.
Can a Team Play More than 162 Games?
When two teams are tied for a playoff spot, they will play an extra regular season game to determine who will advance to the postseason.
This means that occasionally, a handful of teams will play 163 games. For example, in the 2018 season, four teams ended up playing game 163.
However, according to the new MLB’s CBA, there will be no tiebreaker gaming the 2022 season and the tiebreakers will be decided by a formula.
Still, the CBA doesn’t specify if this rule remain in effect beyond the 2022 season.
The Main Reasons Why Baseball Season has so Many Games
We looked into how the league came to the exact number of 162 games in the regular season.
But, what are the factors that make this large number of games justified?
How is this packed schedule sustainable from the league’s perspective, but also from the point of view of players and fans?
It would be a mistake to assume that baseball is not physically demanding. Playing at the pro level demands superior athletic ability and puts a lot of strain on the body.
For example, starting pitchers usually only play once every couple of days to reduce physical stress.
However, compared to sports such as basketball, soccer, football, or hockey, there’s a lot less running and constant movement involved, so baseball players are capable of better withstanding a tightly packed schedule.
In addition, they commonly have plenty of time to rest during a game as they wait their turn at bat.
Sometimes, in the case of doubleheaders, they may even play two games on the same day. Because of this, it’s often said that baseball takes more mental than a physical toll.
In addition, as a basically non-contact sport, baseball carries significantly less risk of serious injuries than other major sports.
Bigger Sample Size for Statistics
One of the most characteristic features of baseball is its obsession with statistics.
Everyone involved in baseball, from front offices, coaches, and players to media and fans obsess about individual and team stats.
The statistics play a big role in decision-making when it comes to tactics and roster construction, but are also a big part of the fan experience.
So, having so many games during the season increases the statistics sample size and makes stats more accurate and reliable.
It allows coaches, fans, and media to judge players on more than a couple of great or terrible performances and provides more insight into how good a player actually is.
Furthermore, a higher number of games provides more realistic league standings.
It pretty much eliminates factors such as sheer luck or injuries and ensures that the truly best team sits on top of the league at the end of the season.
Baseball is not only a game of numbers but also a game of tradition.
You’ll hardly find any other sport or any other aspect of life, for that matter, that puts that much importance on tradition,
So, any proposition of change is usually met with a lot of resistance from every corner of the baseball world.
Certainly, a large number of games during a season is a huge part of baseball tradition.
I already explained that the number of games is fixed at 162 for more than 60 years, and even before that, baseball season wasn’t much shorter.
The game of baseball is designed to be a long battle, both during a single game and over the course of the whole season.
And, no one in baseball would have it any other way.
Most baseball fans take the game very seriously. During the season, many of them organize their daily schedules around baseball games.
Of course, this is not easy and for some fans, it poses unsolvable logistical issues.
However, thanks to this many games being played, the season is almost never decided on a single game.
This means that even if they’re unable to watch a certain game, there’s always the next one, likely carrying similar importance.
The way in which a lot of games impact the fans’ budget is also important. More baseball games mean a lower average ticket price for a single game.
So, it’s usually possible to catch at least several games in person during a season, even if you’re operating on a tight budget.
Baseball doesn’t have an issue with a limited number of games, which, in other sports such as football, leads to sky-high ticket prices.
The long season and plenty of games are inseparable parts of baseball tradition.
It dates back to the early days of the game when teams designed games and seasons in the form of lengthy battles.
However, as you can see, besides tradition, there are plenty of practical answers to the question of how many games in a baseball season are played.
All of them indicate that this is the format that perfectly suits the game itself, teams, players, and fans.
With rare exceptions, such as the shortened 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the schedule won’t change any time soon and there’s no reason why it should.