The 2023 schedule released by Major League Baseball on Wednesday might look the same in some ways. There are still 162 games per team, spread from spring to fall, with a brief pause for the All-Star break, and October, as always, the goal.
But make no mistake: The new, more balanced 2023 schedule, which will begin with Opening Day on March 30, is a massive change for the sport.
• Schedules: AL | NL
No longer is each team’s slate significantly skewed toward division opponents. Instead, the schedules will feature more variety. For the first time in modern MLB history, every team will play every other team at some point.
This altered schedule structure will have significant effects on the postseason and the product. So let’s dive into the specifics of this schedule change by answering questions you might have about it.
Why has MLB moved 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 is also entertainment value to having all teams face each other at least once, as opposed to loading up the schedule with division matchups. That means 29 fan bases getting to watch their clubs face Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Mookie Betts and the other great 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, “particularly in the recently expanded Wild Card round. Additionally, this fan-friendly format provides fans with the opportunity to see more opponent matchups, with a particular focus on dramatically expanding our most exciting Interleague matchups, and offers more national exposure to the star players throughout our game.”
Is the 2023 schedule truly “balanced”?
Not in the strictest sense, no. Teams will still play more series against individual division opponents than any individual opponent from another division. But the schedule is nowhere near as weighted towards division play as it was previously.
How many games will each team play against division opponents?
Each team will play 52 games against division opponents, decreased from 76 under the previous schedule structure.
This will include 13 games (across four total series) against each division opponent, decreased from 19 (across six series). That’s seven home games and six away games (or vice versa) against each opponent for a total of 26 home games and 26 away games.
How many games will each team play against non-division league opponents?
Each team will play 64 intraleague games (32 home games and 32 away games), decreased 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 Interleague 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 from 20.
Teams will play a home-and-home series (four games total) against their natural Interleague rivals (Yankees vs. Mets, Dodgers vs. Angels, Cubs vs. White Sox, etc.) and another 42 games against other Interleague opponents, including seven series (21 games) at home and seven series (21 games) on the road.
How long was the schedule “unbalanced”?
The unbalanced schedule we are familiar with 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, had never been balanced the way it will be with the 2023 schedule.
What impact will the balanced schedule have?
Although the travel will be quite a bit different under the more balanced schedule and rescheduling postponements against non-division opponents can be more challenging, this arrangement should be a fairer one in terms of settling both division and Wild Card races. As a result of the adjusted schedule, teams within the same division and within the same league will have more common opponents.
The new schedule could also affect how front offices approach roster construction. With fewer division games, there might be less emphasis on acquisitions targeted specifically because of how they match up with particular division rivals or how they play in particular ballparks within the division.
What are some other notable aspects of the 2023 schedule?