MLB Cy Young Odds Update: Is The Market Overreacting To Scherzer’s Historic Month?
With the All-Star break behind us, Major League Baseball teams will battle until September 29th for the right to play in October. Some players will also use the last half of the season to make their case for the MVP and Cy Young awards.
When the Cy Young baseball betting odds opened in March, two American League pitchers and two National League pitchers stood out above the rest in each league. Since then, one of those favorites has distanced himself as a heavy favorite in the NL.
(Also read: MLB All-Star Break Update — 2019 World Series Odds)
Cy Young Odds Update: National League (as of 7/17)
Max Scherzer -145 (use our FanDuel Sportsbook promo code to get these odds)
Max Scherzer has three Cy Young Awards under his belt. In 2013, he won his first Cy Young with the Detroit Tigers in the American League. Since joining the Washington Nationals in 2015, Scherzer, who is currently on the 10-day injury list with a back strain, owns two of the last three National League Cy Young Awards (’16 and ’17). In March, FanDuel opened Scherzer +250, tied with Jacob deGrom as the two 2019 NL Cy Young favorites. Thanks to a stellar first half to the 2019 season, a fourth Cy Young Award is Scherzer’s to lose according to most online sports betting sites.
Despite sitting a season-worst 12 games back from .500 in late May, the Nationals entered the second half of the season with the third-best record in the National League. Washington has won 31 of their last 43 games, jumping to +1100 to win the National League and +2800 to win the World Series(FanDuel). With Scherzer as the anchor, the Nationals’ starting rotation, which includes Stephen Strasburg (+6500) and Patrick Corbin (+5500), is responsible for much of the team’s success
It was June, the best month of Scherzer’s career, that helped Washington bounce back and cemented Scherzer as the odds-on favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award. Actually — Scherzer’s June was the best month baseball fans have seen from a pitcher in 20 years. In that span, Scherzer went undefeated in six starts, lasting at least seven innings in each outing. As MLB.com’s Jamal Collier points out, Scherzer is only the fourth pitcher in the live-ball era to have an ERA of 1.00 and 68-plus strikeouts in a month, putting him in the company of Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.
In total, Scherzer has pitched more innings and has far more strikeouts (181) than his closest competitors. In fact, Scherzer leads the NL with 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The next closest is Arizona Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray (12.0 strikeouts per nine innings) who is currently +7000 to win the Cy Young (FanDuel).
But have bettors and/or oddsmakers fallen victim to recency bias, overreacting to the historic month? Several Cy Young predicting formulas think so.
Cy Young Predictors Feel Differently
Tom Tango’s Cy Young formula puts Scherzer (58.8) just over three points ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu (55.5), but others disagree.
Emphasizing past results to predict Cy Young balloting, baseball statisticians Bill James and ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer laid out a formula in their 2004 book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. While the formula reflects Cy Young voting better before 2006, it puts Scherzer behind both Ryu and Atlanta’s Michael Soroka. Ryu is +180 at DraftKings (use our DraftKings Sportsbook promo code to get these odds).
James has since updated his methodology with the Bill James Season Score. With the Season Score, Scherzer’s 174.5 points are 12 points behind Ryu’s 186.7. San Diego Padre’s Kirby Yates, who is +15000 at DraftKings compared to +7000 at FanDuel, is only slightly behind Scherzer with 167.1 points.
Despite the flashy odds, you’re throwing money away trying to cash a long shot ticket on Yates. Yates has only pitched 41 innings this season and could play in the American League before the trade deadline.
Behind Yates, you’ll find Soroka again and the Diamondbacks’ Zach Grienke, each at 157.8 points. Grienke is +2300 to win the award at FanDuel while Soroka is +2200 (DraftKings). A factor worth considering is that Grienke, like Yates, might also suit up in an American League uniform before the July 31 trade deadline.
Scherzer’s to Lose
It’s hardly surprising to find Scherzer in this position a year after leading the National League in complete games, wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, batters faced, and WHIP. What is surprising is to find early-season co-favorite deGrom, who Scherzer finished runner-up to in 2018, at +3500. The reigning Cy Young winner has struggled in 2019 after the Mets ponied up to sign deGrom to a five-year extension worth $170 million.
This season, Scherzer is on pace to put up career-bests in home runs allowed per nine innings (on pace for 0.6; career-best is 0.7) and FIP (on pace for 2.01; career-best is 2.09). Additionally, FanGraphs projects Scherzer to lead the league in Wins Above Replacement with 8.2.
While Cy Young predictors imply there’s some value on a dark horse like Soroka, a better bet is to back Ryu if you want to fade Scherzer. Still, if Scherzer closes the deal in the statistics mentioned above, it’s tough to imagine anyone other than Scherzer walking away with the National League Cy Young Award this year.
If it does, in fact, play out as the odds suggest, Scherzer will pass guys like Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez and Clayton Kershaw to join Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens as the only pitchers to win the Cy Young Award at least four times.
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Top Photo Credit: (Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)