Sports fans know the general length of a season for each sport, but the one sport that tends to stick out to fans is the length of a baseball season. Most professional baseball teams play 162 games, and that doesn’t even include Spring Training or the Postseason. With other sports playing half that many games during the regular season (like basketball and hockey), a lot of people wonder – why does baseball have so many games?
In general, baseball has so many games because it is a non-contact sport, which allows players to play more often than other sports. Additionally, baseball is a tough sport for players to be consistent, which means a lot of games are required to find the players and teams that perform the best.
Baseball has always been a sport where the regular season has a lot of games, but there is also some logic behind the 162-game season. For the rest of this article, we’ll go over all the reasons why baseball has so many games scheduled for the regular season.
1) Baseball is a Non-Contact Sport
Arguably, the biggest reason baseball has a lot of games is because baseball is a non-contact sport and players are able to tolerate playing a lot of games during the season. In fact, it’s not uncommon for players to play in a doubleheader and then be ready to play again the following day.
Other sports (like football, basketball, or hockey) require some level of contact with opposing players and that contact takes a greater toll on a player’s body. It would not be sustainable for those sports to play as often as baseball because of how differently those contact sports affect a player’s body. Contact sports require more rest days than non-contact sports.
While baseball is still a physical sport, baseball has more of a mental impact than any other sport. Most baseball games are around 3 hours in length and players are able to sit in-between innings and when they are not batting. It takes a lot of mental energy for players to be invested throughout the entire game.
Simply put, a non-contact sport allows players to play more often than other sports. However, these non-contact sports also require players to be mentally tough. Learn more about 14 tips for building mental toughness in baseball.
2) Baseball Statistics Require a Lot of Games
Hitting a ball with a bat is not easy so a lot of at-bats and a lot of games are necessary to help determine which players and which teams are the best. In baseball, players are considered to be good hitters if they get a base hit in three out of ten at-bats.
Pro tip: Not every plate appearance counts as an at-bat. Learn more about what is an at-bat in baseball.
Due to how difficult it is for a batter to get a hit, each batter needs multiple plate appearances. It’s impossible to tell how good or how bad one player is based on one or two at-bats so the more plate appearance a batter gets, the more coaches know how well the batter can hit.
On the other hand, baseball is a team sport and it’s difficult to judge how well a team plays when you’re looking at just one or two games. There are plenty of times when a first-place team has a terrible day and loses, but when you compare that one game to their other games you start to understand just how well that team can play.
Baseball is one sport where it’s very common for both players and teams to have terrible games or great games so it’s difficult to judge how well they play based on one or two games. In baseball, it’s necessary to have a large sampling of games to help determine which teams and which players are the best.
3) More Games Were Added as the League Expanded
Prior to the 1961 season, MLB’s schedule fluctuated between 140 games and 154 games per season.
At this time, it was widely accepted that baseball seasons were long and it was also widely accepted that each team should play another team between 12-22 times a season (this number could vary from season to season).
Baseball has always had long seasons, but it wasn’t until the 1961 season that two more teams were added to the American League, bringing the total number of teams in the American League from eight to ten. Then in the 1962 season, the National League also added two additional teams, which brought their total number of teams from eight to ten.
These additional teams meant that a team now had nine opponents they could face throughout the season instead of seven, which also meant these additional teams presented two problems for baseball’s schedule.
The first problem was that each team played their opponents 22 times a season, but with ten teams now in each division, that math would have worked out to a 198-game season (9 opponents x 22 games = 198 games). This was an unreasonable number of games for a season.
The second problem was that the math didn’t quite work out for a 154-game season. With a team now having 9 opponents, there was not a way to evenly split up the schedule so each team could play all their opponents the same number of times. The closest a team could come to a 154 game season would be to play each of their 9 opponents 17 times, but that math only worked out to a 153 game season.
So baseball decided to add 8 additional games to the season so one team could play all 9 of their opponents 18 times (9 opponents x 18 games = 162 games).
So in 1961, the American League was the first league to play a 162-game season. In the 1962 season, the National League followed suit. And the MLB has had a 162-game regular-season ever since this change (with the exception of the 60-game 2020 season).
Most baseball fans find it interesting that it’s possible for a team to play fewer than 162 games in a regular season and it’s possible for a team to play more than 162 games during a regular season. Read more about how many baseball games there are in a season.
4) Baseball Was Designed to be a Long Battle
The one thing that sets baseball apart from other sports is that the sport of baseball was designed to be a long battle between teams. This includes playing in a single game and playing over the course of a season.
In fact, baseball was originally created as a game where the winning team was the first team to score 21 aces (“runs” were originally called “aces”). This rule was changed in 1857 so the winning team was the highest-scoring team after 9 innings.
Although the sport of baseball has evolved since then, this rule change just goes to show that part of baseball has always been about a battle of endurance.
In the spirit of baseball being a long battle, two teams will often compete with one another over the course of three or four consecutive games in something known as a “series”. Learn more about how many games are in a series.
5) Tradition Encourages Long Seasons
Tradition plays a big part in baseball and the number of games played in a season falls into the category of tradition. After the number of teams expanded in 1961 and the schedule changed to a 162 game regular-season, baseball has sought to keep the number of games capped at 162.
More teams have been added since 1961, but baseball has decided to get more creative with how to schedule games instead of adding additional games to the schedule. For example, adding in inter-division and inter-league games.