How Does Major League Baseball (MLB) Make A Schedule for All 30 Teams Each Year?

Major League Baseball is comprised of 2 leagues, American League and National League. Each league is divided into 3 divisions, an east division, central division, and a west division. Each division has 5 teams which creates a perfect balance of 15 teams in the American League and 15 teams in the National League. Now that we understand how each league and division are balanced equally, let's get to the good stuff of how they make the schedules for each team, that is what brought you here anyway. right?

How Many Games are on an MLB Schedule?

Each of the 30 MLB teams is scheduled to play a 162 regular-season game schedule every season.

The schedule is made with a predetermined amount of games for each team to compete against each other. This pre-determined formula is made of of these components

  • Same Division Scheduling
  • Same League Scheduling
  • Interleague Scheduling

 

MLB Same Division Scheduling

Let's first start by understanding the same divisional scheduling. As stated above, there are 5 teams in each division. As you should already know, each team in every division will compete for as many wins as possible throughout any given season and the team with the most wins will "win" that division. So, since 5 teams are competing to "win" each division, MLB has decided that these divisions should play a large portion of their schedules competing against each other.

 

How Many Games Does Each MLB Team Play Within Their Own Division?

Each of the 5 teams in every MLB division will play the other 4 teams a total of 19 times each for a total of 76 games (4 x 19) every season. So of the 162 game schedule that every team plays, 76 of them will be played within their own division, leaving a total of 86 games that still need to be scheduled between teams in the same league and interleague games.

 

MLB Same League Scheduling

Now that we know that each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams plays 76 of their games scheduled against teams in their own division, the next step is to find out how the games are scheduled between teams in the same league. We know that there are 2 leagues in MLB Baseball, The American League and National League. We also know that there are 15 teams in each league divided into 3 divisions of 5 teams each. We already have accounted for each individual division of 5 teams scheduling so we can now find out how many times each team will play the other 10 teams that are in the other 2 divisions of their league.

 

How Many Games Does Each MLB Team Play Within Their Own League?

Each of the 5 teams in any given division of Major League Baseball will play the other 10 teams from the other 2 divisions in their league a total of 66 times. Now simple math will tell you that 66 games against 10 teams come to playing each team 6.6 times, which is not possible. The actual way that the schedule is made up is that of the other 2 divisions in your league, you will play each division 33 times. This is done by playing 3 teams in each division 7 times (21 games) and the other 2 teams in each division 6 times (12 games).

So now that we know that each team plays 76 games within its own division and 66 games against the remaining opponents in their respective leagues, for a total of 142 games scheduled (76+66),  that leaves us with 20 more games (162 -142) that still need to be scheduled each year with opponents from the other league (interleague).

 

MLB Interleague Scheduling

The final piece of how Major League Baseball makes it's 162 game schedule for all 30 teams comes with scheduling interleague play. As you know, Major League Baseball is comprised of 2 leagues, American and National, and there are 15 teams in each league. So does that mean that each team will play all 15 teams from the other league every year? No it does not. MLB has a different format for scheduling interleague games and it is divided into 3 categories: 

  • Natural/Geographical Rivals
  • Split Rivals
  • Division Rotation

How Does MLB Schedule Interleague Natural/Geographical Rivals?

Many of the 30 MLB teams are in close proximity to each other. Some of them are within the same city, some of them are in the same state and some of them are just a short distance over state borders away from each other. This creates what MLB considers "natural rivals". Because of their geographic proximity, fans of either of the teams are just a short drive away from attending the games regardless of which team venue it will be played in.

How Many MLB Interleague Games Between Natural/Geographical Rivals Are Scheduled Each Year?

Of the 20 interleague games that 22 of The 30 MLB Teams must play each year, 4 of them are played against a natural/geographical rival. 

Here are the MLB Interleague Natural Rivals that play each other 4 times every year, along with the nickname of the rivalry.

 

Rivalry Teams Rivalry Nickname
Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox Crosstown Classic
Kansas City Royals vs St. Louis Cardinals I-70 Series
Cincinnati Reds vs. Cleveland Indians Ohio Cup
Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants Bay Bridge Series
Minnesota Twins vs. Milwaukee Brewers Border Series
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Los Angeles Angels Freeway Series
Tampa Bay Rays vs, Miami Marlins Citrus Series
New York Mets vs. New York Yankees Subway Series
Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles Beltway Series
Arizona Diamondbacks vs Houston Astros None
Detroit Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates None

 

 

MLB Interleague Split Rival Scheduling

In case you didn't notice, only 22 of the 30 MLB teams play in Natural/Geographical rivalries. So what do the other 8 teams do? Well, that is easy, 4 teams from each league rotate playing each other 2 times every other year for a total of 4 games each. It is actually broken up as 2 National League East teams vs 2 American League East teams and 2 National League West teams vs 2 American League West Teams.  This only changes when two of the divisions draw each other in a divisional rotation year, at which point they will play each other 6 times each, 3 home games and 3 road games.

The 2 National League East teams are:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Philadelphia Phillies

 

The 2 American League east teams are:

  • Boston Red Sox
  • Toronto Blue Jays

 

Here are schedules for which  MLB East teams play each other in the ODD years, ei: 2021,2023

  • Philadelphia Phillies vs Boston Red Sox
  • Atlanta Braves vs. Toronto Blue Jays

 

Here are schedules for which MLB East teams play each other in the EVEN years, ei: 2020,2022

  • Atlanta Braves vs. Boston Red Sox
  • Philadelphia Phillies vs Toronto Blue Jays

The 2 National League West Teams Are:

  • San Diego Padres 
  • Colorado Rockies

The 2 American League West Teams Are:

  • Houston Astros
  • Texas Rangers

Here are schedules for which MLB West teams play each other in the ODD years (2021,2023, etc..)

  • Seattle Mariners vs Colorado Rockies
  • Texas Rangers vs, San Diego Padres

 

Here are schedules for which MLB West teams play each other in the EVEN years (2020, 2022, etc...)

  • Seattle Mariners vs. San Diego Padres
  • Texas Rangers vs Colorado Rockies

 

 

How are MLB interleague division rotation schedules made?

So now that we know that 4 of the 20 of the MLB baseball Interleague games are scheduled between natural/geographic and split rivals, let's find out out the remaining 16 games of the season are scheduled between interleague division rotations.

MLB interleague division rotations are just that, each division has a pre-determined division from each of the other league's divisions that they will play in rotating years. So of the 20  interleague baseball games that are played each year, 16 of them will be against a team from the other league from the same division, rotating divisions each year. So a real example is the NL East. You can see in the chart below that the NL East will play the AL West in 2020, they will play the AL East in 2021 and they will play AL Central in 2022, Then the rotation will start all over again and whoever the home team was in the previously scheduled series will now be the away team in the next.

Here is the MLB Interleague divisional rotation schedule through the 2022 season.

Season NL East vs. NL Central vs. NL West vs. AL East vs. AL Central vs. AL West vs.
2020 AL West AL East AL Central NL Central NL West NL East
2021 AL East AL Central AL West NL East NL Central NL West
2022 AL Central AL West AL East NL West NL East NL Central

 

So there you have it. Now you can see how Major League Baseball makes it's the schedule and determines who plays each other on each calendar year.

 

MLB Schedules and Tickets:

AL West AL Central AL East
Houston Astros Chicago White Sox Baltimore Orioles
Los Angeles Angels Cleveland Indians Boston Red Sox
Oakland Athletics Detroit Tigers New York Yankees
Seattle Mariners Kansas City Royals Tampa Bay Rays
Texas Rangers Minnesota Twins Toronto Blue Jays
     
NL West NL Central NL East
Arizona Diamondbacks Chicago Cubs Atlanta Braves
Colorado Rockies Cincinnati Reds Miami Marlins
Los Angeles Dodgers MIlwaukee Brewers New York Mets
San Diego Padres Pittsburgh Pirates Philadelphia Phillies
San Francisco Giants St Louis Cardinals Washington Nationals

 

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