2020 MLB schedule release winners and losers: Which teams face biggest challenges?

MLB's early COVID-19 testing not running smoothly (1:22)

Jeff Passan explains how MLB is struggling to implement coronavirus tests thus far. (1:22)

The annual release of the Major League Baseball schedule is usually a pretty fun night. You get to see what's lined up for Opening Day. You see how specialty games -- such as the one in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, or the once-planned series this year in London -- fit onto the calendar. Most of all, it's the unfurling of 2,430 glorious games of baseball that will play out over six months. The original version of the 2020 schedule was released way back in August of last year. That feels like a different epoch.

Monday's release of the shortened version of the 2020 schedule didn't quite stack up to the usual flurry of excitement. Of the 2,430 games we usually get, there will be 900 -- or at least we hope there will be. Sixty games per team, the fewest in the major leagues since the 1870s, will determine who squeezes into the usual playoff format. Of the many things we could say about such a state of things, we can at least say this: We've never seen a big league schedule such as this one.

Strength of schedule isn't usually a big factor in deciding the final standings. Teams competing for the same division title usually play nearly identical schedules. There is a bit of variation for the teams competing for wild-card slots, but it isn't typically a deciding factor. This time, however, relative schedule strength has a wider range than in any season we've had.

That's because of the unprecedented formula for this year's slate. Teams will play 40 of their 60 games within their own divisions (67%). That number is significantly higher than in a typical season, when teams face division opponents 76 times (47%). The other 20 games will be interleague matchups -- the exact number of games in which teams usually face the opposite circuit. However, those 20 matchups now make up a third of each team's schedule (33%) rather than being spread across 162 games (12%).