The 2023 schedule released by Major League Baseball on Wednesday may look the same in some ways. There are still 162 games per team, spread out from spring to fall, with a short break for the All-Star break, and October is, as usual, the goal.
No longer is each team’s whiteboard significantly skewed towards the opposing division. Instead, the schedule will feature more variety. For the first time in modern MLB history, each team will play every other team at some point.
This changed schedule structure will have a significant effect on the postseason and product. So let’s dive into the specifics of this schedule change by answering any questions you may have about it.
Why did MLB move to a balanced schedule?
With the post-season format being expanded in 2022 to include three Wild Card spots in each league, it is more important for teams in each league to play a more similar schedule. All wins and losses count equally, so a more balanced schedule may limit the advantage teams from weak divisions have over teams from deep divisions in Wild Card races.
But there’s also the entertainment value of having all teams face each other at least once, as opposed to loading a schedule with divisional fights. That means 29 fan bases can watch their club take on Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Mookie Betts and other great sports stars.
“This new format creates more consistent counter-fights as Clubs vie for a spot in the Postseason,” MLB chief operations and strategy Chris Marinak said in a release, “especially in the recently expanded Wild Card round. In addition, this fan-friendly format gives fans the opportunity to see more of their opponents’ matches, with a particular focus on dramatically expanding our most exciting Interleague matches, and offering more national exposure to star players throughout our play.”
Is the 2023 schedule really “balanced”?
Not in the strict sense, no. Teams will still play more draws against individual division opponents than individual opponents from other divisions. But the schedule is not at all weighted against division play as before.
How many games will each team play against divisional opponents?
Each team will play 52 games against divisional opponents, down from 76 under the previous schedule structure.
This will include 13 games (across four draws total) against each division opponent, down from 19 (across six draws). That’s seven home games and six away (or vice versa) against each other for a total of 26 home games and 26 away games.
How many matches will each team play against non-divisional league opponents?
Each team will play 64 league matches (32 home and 32 away), down from 66.
The team will play six games against six league opponents and seven games against four other league opponents. This is the opposite of the previous format, where teams played six games against four league opponents and seven against six league opponents.
How many Interleague matches will each team play?
This is the biggest change, with a total of 46 Interleague matches for each team (AL vs. NL and vice versa), up from 20.
The teams will play home and home draws (four games in total) against their natural Interleague rivals (Yankees vs. Mets, Dodgers vs. Angels, Cubs vs. White Sox, etc.) and another 42 matches against other Interleague opponents, including seven draws ( 21 games) at home and seven draws (21 games) on the road.
How long is an “unbalanced” schedule?
The unbalanced schedule we know today was first introduced in 2001. That year, the team started playing anywhere from 16 to 20 games against every division rival. Previously, AL played under a more balanced schedule since the 1977 expansion from 12 to 14 teams, while the NL played under a more balanced schedule since the 1993 expansion from 12 to 14 teams.
Interleague Play, however, has never been as balanced as it would be with the 2023 schedule.
What is the impact of a balanced schedule?
While the rides will be slightly different under a more balanced schedule and rescheduling delays against non-divisional opponents can be more challenging, this arrangement should be fairer in terms of completing divisional and Wild Card races. As a result of schedule adjustments, teams in the same division and in the same league will have more common opponents.
The new schedule may also affect how the front office approaches list construction. With fewer divisional games, there may be less emphasis on targeted acquisitions specifically because of how they match up with certain divisional rivals or how they play at certain ballparks within the division.
What are other important aspects of the 2023 schedule?