The 2023 schedule released by Major League Baseball on Wednesday could look the same in some ways. There are still 162 games per team, spread from spring to fall, with a short break for the All-Star break, and October, as always, the goal.
No longer is each team’s slate significantly skewed toward divisional opponents. Instead, the schedules will have more variety. For the first time in modern MLB history, every team will play every other team at some point.
This changed schedule structure will have significant effects on the postseason and the product. So let’s dive into the specifics of this schedule change while answering questions you might have about it.
Why did MLB move to a balanced schedule?
With the postseason format having already been expanded in 2022 to include three Wild Card spots in each league, it is more important for teams across each league to play more similar schedules. All wins and losses are counted the same, so a more balanced schedule conceivably limits the advantage a team from a weak division has over a team from a deep division in the Wild Card race.
But there’s also entertainment value in having all the teams face each other at least once, as opposed to loading up the schedule with divisional matchups. That means that 29 fan bases will watch their clubs face Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Mookie Betts and the other big stars of the sport.
“This new format creates more consistent opponent matchups as Clubs compete for Postseason berths,” MLB chief operations and strategy officer Chris Marinak said in a release, “especially in the newly expanded Wild Card round. Additionally, this friendly format gives fans the opportunity see more opponents, with a particular focus on dramatically expanding our most exciting League matches, and offers more national exposure to the star players during our game.
Is the 2023 schedule really “balanced”?
Not in the strictest sense, no. Teams will continue to play more series against individual division opponents than any individual opponent from another division. But the schedule isn’t as weighted toward division play as it used to be.
How many games will each team play against division opponents?
Each team will play 52 games against division opponents, down from 76 under the previous schedule structure.
That will include 13 games (across four total series) against each division opponent, down from 19 (across six series). That’s seven home games and six away matches (or vice versa) against each opponent for a total of 26 home games and 26 away matches.
How many games will each team play against non-division league opponents?
Each team will play 64 intraleague matches (32 home matches and 32 away matches), down from 66.
Teams will play six games against six league opponents and seven games against four other league opponents. This is the reverse of the previous format, in which teams played six games against four league opponents and seven against six league opponents.
How many League games will each team play?
This is the biggest change, with 46 total Interleague games for each team (AL vs. NL and vice versa), an increase of 20.
Teams will play a home-and-home series (four games total) against their natural League rivals (Yankees vs. Mets, Dodgers vs. Angels, Cubs vs. White Sox, etc.) and an additional 42 games against other League opponents, including seven series (21 games) at home and seven series (21 games) on the road.
How long has the schedule been “out of balance”?
The unbalanced schedule we know today was first introduced in 2001. That year, teams began playing anywhere from 16 to 20 games against each division rival. Prior to that, the AL had played under a more balanced schedule since its 1977 expansion from 12 to 14 teams, while the NL had played under a more balanced schedule since its 1993 expansion from 12 to 14 teams.
Interleague Play, however, has never been balanced as it will be with the 2023 schedule.
What effect will the balanced schedule have?
Although the journey will be quite different under the more balanced schedule and rescheduling delays against non-division opponents may be more difficult, this arrangement should be fairer in terms of hosting both divisional and Wild Card races. As a result of the adjusted schedule, teams within the same division and within the same league will have more frequent opponents.
The new schedule could also affect how front offices approach roster construction. With fewer division games, there may be less emphasis on acquisitions targeted specifically because of how they match up with particular division rivals or how they play in particular stages within the division.
What are some other notable aspects of the 2023 schedule?