Out of all the different sports in the world, baseball has one of the longest seasons. Once the baseball season starts in April you can find a baseball game on TV on almost any day for the next six months or so. Because of how long the season is, a lot of people wonder how many games are in a baseball season.
The regular season in Major League Baseball consists of 162 games in a season. However, some teams can play fewer than 162 games if they have a make-up game towards the end of the season where the outcome does not impact the standings.
To most people, 162 games sounds like a lot, but this only includes how many games are played during the regular season. For the rest of this article, we’ll look at how many games a team can play if you also factor in games from Spring Training and the playoffs. We’ll also go over how it’s possible for a team to play fewer than 162 games and how it’s possible for a team to play 163 games during the regular season.
All MLB Teams Play 162 Games in the Regular Season
As a general rule, each MLB team plays 162 games each season. And because there are 30 teams that each play 162 games, there is a grand total of 4,860 scheduled games for every MLB season.
However, playing 162 games a season was not always the norm. Prior to MLB’s 1961 season, each team in both the American League and National League would play 154 games in a season.
At the beginning of the 1961 season, the American League added 8 additional games to their schedules to create the first-ever 162 regular-season schedule in Major League Baseball. Then at the beginning of the 1962 season, the National League followed suit by also adding 8 games to their schedules to also create a 162 game season.
For more historical context, below is a quick chart that outlines how many regular-season games were scheduled by year, starting with the year 1900.
|Years of MLB Seasons||Regular Season Games Scheduled|
|1900 – 1903||140*|
|1904 – 1918||154|
|1920 – 1960||154|
|1961 – 2019||162**|
|2021 – current||162|
** The American League began playing 162 games at the start of the 1961 season while the National League began playing 162 games at the start of the 1962 season
*** Shortened due to a pandemic
The above chart only goes back to the year 1900, but to see additional history around how many games were played each year, check out the history of Major League Baseball schedules on Wikipedia.
Non-Playoff Teams Can Play Fewer Than 162 Games
Most of this article discusses how many additional games a baseball team can play, but it turns out that it’s quite common for a team to play less than 162 games in a season. Do MLB teams have to play all 162 games?
As a general rule, all MLB teams have to play all 162 games, but if a game gets canceled and the outcome of that game will have no impact on the final standings, those two teams do not have to make up that canceled game.
As it turns out, this is something that is fairly common. If you look at the stats from the previous years, you’ll see it is pretty consistent that two teams in the MLB played 1 fewer game than the rest of the league.
For example, in the 2021 season, the record for the Colorado Rockies was 74-87 (161 games) and the record for the Atlanta Braves was 88-73 (161 games). These two teams had a game towards the end of the regular season that was postponed due to a soggy field and the only time the two teams could make up the game was the day after the regular season was scheduled to end.
As it turned out, making up that postponed game would have had no impact on playoff standings so both teams opted to not play that makeup game and both teams ended their season with 161 games played.
There are a variety of reasons for baseball games to be postponed due to bad weather or bad field conditions. For more information, read about the 9 reasons why baseball isn’t played in the rain.
Some MLB Teams Play 163 Games in the Regular Season
Baseball is full of one-off statistics so it makes sense for people to wonder if there are one-off statistics for the number of games played during the course of a regular season. How can you play 163 games in a season?
In the MLB, teams can play 163 games in a season if they are tied for a playoff spot after the standard 162 game season concludes. This extra regular-season game is referred to as “Game 163” and it is a one-game playoff that determines which team will advance to the playoffs.
It may come as a surprise to some baseball fans to learn about an extra regular-season game, but there are a handful of teams that have played 163 games during their regular season.
During the 2018 MLB season, 4 teams were credited with playing 163 games. On October 1, 2018, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies while the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs. Both of these tie-breaking games were considered to be part of the regular season so all 4 teams ended up playing 163 games during the 2018 season.
However, as part of the MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, there will not be a Game 163 during the 2022 season. Instead, a formula will be used to break a tie instead of a one-game playoff. Although it’s yet to be determined if there will be a possibility of a Game 163 beyond the 2022 season.
MLB Teams Play About 30 Spring Training Games Each Year
Spring Training in the MLB usually begins around the end of February or the towards the beginning of March. On the other hand, Spring Training will end either towards the end of March or the beginning of April. This means that almost the entire month of March is consumed by Spring Training.
For most seasons, Major League teams will play around 30 Spring Training games each year. However, if there is some type of delay to the season, the number of Spring Training games can be reduced.
For example, there was a potential lockout at the beginning of the 2022 MLB season and Spring Training was not able to begin when it normally began. Because of this delay, most MLB teams played between 15 and 20 Spring Training games in 2022.
This means that on top of the normal 162 games a player can play in a season, there are roughly 30 more Spring Training games they could be playing before the regular season even begins.
MLB Teams Can Play Up to 22 Games in the Playoffs
After the regular season comes to an end, the playoffs begin. Although the MLB playoffs are arguably the best time of the year, it means there is about another month of baseball left. How many baseball games can MLB teams play in the playoffs?
MLB teams that make the playoffs can play anywhere from 2 games to 22 games, depending on how many games they win.
Starting in the 2022 season the MLB implemented an expanded postseason. The way the expanded playoffs work is that there are 4 rounds in the MLB playoffs:
- Wild Card Round (best of 3)
- Division Series (best of 5)
- League Championship Series (best of 7)
- World Series (best of 7)
When added up, one team has the potential of playing 22 games in the playoffs. Of course, this means that a team would have to draw out all 4 playoff rounds to the final game, which is unlikely, but it still gives you an idea of how many more games one team has the potential of playing.
On the other hand, this playoff format also means it is possible for one team to make the Wild Card Round, lose their first 2 games, and be done for the season.
Why Does Baseball Have So Many Games?
As a general rule, baseball has more games than other sports because it is a non-contact sport, which makes it less physically demanding than other sports. In addition, having a large sample size of games helps determine which players and teams are the best.
These are just two common reasons why a baseball season is so long. Read more about the 5 reasons why baseball has so many games.
To sum it all up, Major League Baseball teams normally play 162 games in a season. But if you factor in the potential for one less game, all the Spring Training games, a possible Game 163, and all of the playoff games, one team has the possibility of playing anywhere from 161 games to 213 games in a season.