We’ve all thrown our arms around our friends and family and swayed back and forth, singing, “Take me out to the ball game! Take me out with the crowd!”
Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly crooned a song that got stuck in America’s consciousness, but it may leave some of us wondering how many ball games we could go to. Baseball has a long season, and if someone wanted to go to one of those ubiquitous ball games, how many would they have to choose from each year?
How many MLB games are there in a season? There are 2430 MLB games in a season divided through 30 teams that play 162 games each. These 162 games are played over a 6-month period.
Games In an MLB Season
Since the season is approximately six months long, that means that there’s an average of 405 MLB games per month! If you’re looking to go to a Major League Baseball game, you’ll certainly have plenty of options.
- MLB Season: April – October
- Off-Season (MLB): November – March
Since there are so many games, teams play each other in series throughout the season. They’ll usually play on consecutive days in one stadium.
For example, in 2022, the Texas Rangers played the LA Angels on April 14, 15, 16, and 17. They then traveled to Seattle and played there April 19, 20, and 21.
The team then traveled to Oakland to play the A’s on April 22, 23, and 24 become coming back to Texas to play the Houston Astros on April 25, 26, 27, and 28.
In those two weeks, they only had one day where they didn’t play a game at all, and they played a total of 14 games against four teams.
This is a very different regular-season schedule than many other sports. For instance, in the NFL, teams play once a week during the regular season. One of those weeks, they don’t play at all. Some schedules will include a game on Thursday night and then another on Monday night.
And while NBA teams play more often than NFL teams during the regular season—about once every two to three days—they never play the same team back-to-back.
Was It Always This Many?
Since 1900, the teams played at least 140 games per season each. The 1904 and 1920 seasons had 154 games per team, and since 1962, teams have played 162 games per season.
The biggest exception to this was in 2020, where teams played a total of 60 games each due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The standard MLB season is 162 games. However, sometimes teams end up playing 163. This is because of the need for a tiebreaker game.
In most sports, tiebreakers are in the form of team statistics or head to head win-loss records. However, in baseball, tiebreakers are played out on the field. This is called game 163. When there is a tie for a division or wild card winner, teams play a single-elimination game.
The winner advances to the playoffs. The loser goes home. It is a simple concept, but can result in a longer season. While exceedingly rare, if there are multiple ties, multiple tiebreaker games are played to determine the outcome.
Tiebreaker games are a path to both the playoffs and a longer season. Playoff teams are guaranteed to play a longer season.
Every team dreams of getting into the playoffs. However, the downside of that dream is playing a longer season.
Each playoff round a team makes, the number of games they play that season increases. For example, the Wild Card round is 1 game. The Division Round is best of 5. The League Championship round is best of 7. The World Series is best of 7. That means a Wild Card team can play between 1 and 20 extra games in a season. A division winner can play between 3 and 19 extra games.
While that may not seem like a lot, the games are spread out with off days in between. This means that a team who wins the World Series can play upwards of an extra month of baseball.
On top of an already 6 month season, this can be a lot to handle. It results in more physical activity and a shorter offseason to recover. When a team struggles the following season, some call it a playoff hangover.
While teams much prefer the trade off of playoff wins vs more games, it still takes a toll. The end result is a much longer season than the standard 162 game season teams are guaranteed to play. Let us explore the impact the length of the season has.
What About Preseason and Postseason?
Just like other organized sports, there is so much more to the MLB than just the regular-season games.
Preseason, a.k.a Spring Training
MLB teams play in the Cactus League (in Arizona) and the Grapefruit League (in Florida) during the spring. These are exhibition games that allow players to showcase their talents, try out for positions, and they’re very popular with fans.
Teams will play about 33 spring training games from mid-February until late March, which further adds to the tally.
Now, after each team has played their 162 regular-season games, there is still the postseason to think of. The MLB currently has 12 teams that play in their postseason, with six teams from each of the two leagues.
The way that MLB sets up their tournament means that at a minimum, there will be 32 playoff games, but there could be as many as 53 games in total across both leagues and the World Series. This brings the total MLB games in a single season to between 2,464 and 2,483.
Much like the NBA, the MLB has playoff series. That means that two teams facing each other in the playoffs don’t get immediately eliminated after one game. Instead, they play an odd number of games, and whoever wins the majority of games first wins the series and continues on.
However, the MLB has different lengths of series during the different stages of the playoffs. The wild card series is a best-of-three format. The Division Series are best-of-five. Both the League Championship Series and the World Series are best-of-seven.
This is a different structure than the NBA, which also has series playoff rounds, but each series is up to seven games.
These games add up, and it certainly pays to sweep a series if at all possible. For instance, the 2021 World Series champions, the Atlanta Braves, played four games against their Divisional opponents, Milwaukee, in the best-of-five series.
They played six games against the LA Dodgers in the League Championship series and an additional six against the Houston Astros in the World Series. These 16 extra games brought their season total to 178 games.
The Astros played one additional game compared to the Braves, since their Divisional series went to all five games. Given how intensive and exhausting baseball is on the players’ bodies and minds, having to play fewer games certainly puts a team at an advantage.
How This Volume of Games Impacts the Players
While the human body is capable of incredible things, it isn’t invincible. Many players rotate in and out of games. Very few put their bodies through the rigor of 162 games in a season.
There’s almost 1,500 MLB players, and in 2021, only two of them played all of their team’s games. Marcus Semien and Whit Merrifield.
These two players also both achieved this feat in 2019, but that year, there was a total of five players who played 162.
It’s still a tiny percentage, and it’s okay that it isn’t the norm. A lot of professional athletes have to strategize about how they’ll get through the season.
The term “load management” is used a lot in professional sports, and it just references an intentional reduction of athletes’ playing and training time to try to prevent injuries and to keep players fresh for big games or into the pennant race.
Athletes and the teams that pay them have a vested interest in keeping their bodies healthy and making sure that players can perform at their best. Having a load management strategy catered to each individual player can help them sustain their bodies over the long season and their entire career.
The more games that are played in a season,the more money teams make. This is the leading reason behind why insiders feel that the MLB season will never go below a 162 game schedule as the standard.
During the Covid-19 shortened season, baseball owners said they suffered an exorbitant amount of losses. This resulted in teams cutting costs by firing team employees.
Revenue is directly tied to the next thing impacted by season length, player salaries.
Players are paid because teams make money. We know how shortened seasons impact revenue. How does that impact salaries?
Teams are only willing to spend what they make. In recent years, there have already been complaints from the players that teams are not spending enough on player salaries.
One of the biggest hurdles to scheduling the shortened 2020 season was how teams prorated player’s salaries. While some players are willing to go back to a 154 game model, or less, the thought of losing out on significant salary with a shortened game schedule makes others balk at the idea.
Players are paid for their performance. How does the season length impact their statistics?
One of the strangest things, when seasons are shortened, is how statistics are drastically different. With less games, hitters have fewer at-bats and pitchers appear in fewer games.
Earlier, we talked about Roger Maris and the single-season home run record. In 2020, some talked about how stats should not be counted as records if achieved.
One of the hottest examples of this was the ERA record. Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Indians flirted with the all-time record. However, the question was, is it fair for it to count when he pitches in only 10 games vs. the normal 30 to 33?
Moving forward, if baseball were to ever seriously consider shortening the standard season, they would need to discuss this topic. What would be the new benchmarks? Is it fair that players might never have a chance to break records set during a 162 game season?
Records can only be broken if players remain healthy. A long season can impact a player’s health.
The biggest key to a player’s success is staying healthy. When a season is shortened or lengthened, the risk for injury increases.
In 2020, spring training was cancelled about 2 weeks before the season was scheduled to start. This meant that players were fully ramping up to game shape. Then, they did not play at all until mid-June when the season resumed. The fear was that a lot of injuries would occur, and they did.
On the other hand, a longer season also increases injury risk. Fatigue sets in at some point, making players vulnerable to injury. In addition, after only playing 60 games in 2020, players, especially pitchers, struggled to stay sharp and healthy when stretching back out to 162 in 2021.
Baseball is a long game, and the MLB has a long season. The 30 teams in the MLB play at least 162 games each, a number which doesn’t include the 33 games in spring training and the potential 22 games each team could play in the postseason.
Since there are so many games, baseball teams play each other in series throughout the season, and there are baseball games scheduled nearly every day. However, due to the high physical demand, most players in the MLB don’t play in every single game throughout the season.