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Have you ever flipped on your television set to watch your favorite Major League Baseball team and said, “WOW, we are playing them AGAIN??!” If so, you are probably not alone. For example, it seems like the New York Yankees are ALWAYS playing against their hated rival, the Boston Red Sox.
So, how many times Major League Baseball teams play each other. The number of games played depends upon a few different factors. Teams play other teams within their own respective divisions a total of 19 times due to the new scheduling rules set by Major League Baseball.
Scheduling Amongst Division Opponents
Here are some of the historical facts and current rules regarding games involving teams in the same division below:
- From 1901-1960 there were only 16 Major League Baseball teams in total (8 teams per league). During this era, teams played against each team in their league a grand total of 22 times per year.
- In 1961, two expansion teams (Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators) were added to Major League Baseball. This increased the season length from 154 games to the current schedule of 162 games. Also, this is when divisional games were reduced. Teams would now play divisional opponents 18 times instead of 22.
- The current Major League Baseball format allows for teams within each division to play each other 19 times each. This was started in 2013 right after the Houston Astros left the National League Central to join the American League West division. Each team plays a grand total of 76 games within their own respective divisions. This means that nearly 47% of each MLB team’s games are against divisional rival teams.
A Word about Interleague Play and the Number of Games Played
Major League Baseball started Interleague play in 1997. This meant that American League teams would play against National League teams during the regular season. Before 1997 the only time Interleague play occurred was during the World Series. The main reason Interleague play was established was to rekindle fan interest since attendance numbers were down due to the 1994 MLB Players strike.
Major League Baseball first considered implementing Interleague Play way back in 1903. It took a whopping ninety-four years for the Interleague Play idea to come to fruition. Since 2013 (not including the pandemic shortened 2020 season) there have been 300 total Interleague games played each season.
One major benefit of Interleague Play is that has created some heated rivalries between teams that are close in geographical proximity. Here are some of the most famous rivalries below:
- The “Beltway Series” is played between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. This battle for the District of Columbia began in 2006.
- The “Windy City Series” is played in Chicago between the North Side (Cubs) and the South Side (White Sox). These two teams have hated each other since way back in 1900 when Charlie Comiskey moved his minor league team to Chicago. This infuriated the Chicago Cubs owner at the time.
- The “Ohio Cup” is battled out each year pitting the Cincinnati Reds against the Cleveland Indians. This rivalry actually started in 1989 when these two teams played against each other in an exhibition game (a game that does not count toward official records). The rivalry got its name after the trophy that is awarded to the winner of the series.
- The “Show-Me Series” gets its nickname from the state of Missouri’s namesake. It is played between the Kansas City Royals and the Saint Louis Cardinals. This rivalry came to its peak in 1985 when these two teams faced off in the World Series. The Royals won in a thrilling Game 7 showdown.
- Last but certainly not least we have the “Subway Series” which is played in New York each season between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. From 1963 to 1983 these two heated rivals competed for what was dubbed the “Mayor’s Trophy”.
During this twenty- year period, the Mets and Yankees played against each other in an exhibition game during the middle of the regular season. These two teams also faced off in the famous 2000 World Series. The New York Yankees outlasted the New York Mets in only 5 games and famous Shortstop Derek Jeter was awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy for his World Series performance and team leadership.
Major League Baseball Scheduling Information
Here are some more interesting facts about Major League Baseball’s scheduling below:
- Each of the thirty MLB teams play a grand total of 162 regular season games (obviously this does not include Spring Training games or postseason games).
- A team could play a maximum of 20 post-season games if all of the playoff series went the entire length. This means a team could, in theory, play 182 baseball games per year (not including Spring Training games). This high number of games has led many baseball executives to argue that the 25-player roster needs to be increased to help each team’s respective pitching staffs.
- There are over 2,400 regular season baseball games played each season (2,430 to be exact).
- The MLB regular season typically lasts around twenty-six and a half weeks. Opening Day is usually around the last week of March or the first week of April.
- MLB regular season games are split up into what are called “series”. This is where teams played each other on consecutive nights. Most series are three to four games in length. On rare occasions teams will play only a short, two game series between each other.
- In most seasons, teams play a total of 52 series. 24 are divisional series. 20 are inter-division series. 8 of them are Interleague series (American League vs. National League).
- As we have talked about in a previous article, most baseball rain-out games are made up the next day as a “double-header” (2 games played in a row).
- Many folks think baseball is not a physically taxing sport. This could NOT be further from the truth due to the sheer number of games played. Most of the time teams only get one day off every ten days. Also, teams often play an early afternoon game after playing a late- night game the previous day.
- In the 2020 regular season, Major League Baseball teams only played a 60-game season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Final Thoughts about the Number of MLB games played
What do you think about the current Major League Baseball schedule? Do you think the amount of 162 regular season games is excessive?
How about the fact that divisional teams play each other 19 times during each year? Is that a good amount or do you get bored seeing the same teams playing each other on such a frequent basis?
Also, how about Interleague Play? Do you think it adds a much-needed extra flavor to Major League Baseball or are you an old-school baseball purist who misses the old days of league-only games?