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A pitcher for MVP? Bieber could do it

By Jason Weingarten  () 

All bets are risking one unit unless specified. For the purpose of this column, one unit is equal to $500.

NL MVP

DraftKings (last week’s numbers in parentheses)

Fernando Tatis Jr. + 275 (+ 350)

Mike Yastrzemski + 550 (+ 450)

Mookie Betts + 550 (+ 550)

Charlie Blackmon + 1500 (+ 750)

Bryce Harper + 1300 (+ 1300)

Trevor Story + 1500 (+ 2000)

Corey Seager + 3300 (+ 3300)

Juan Soto + 2500 (+ 4000)

The NL MVP front-runner is still Fernando Tatis Jr. The only player I’m seriously considering this week is Juan Soto, but I bet him last week at 25-1. The Nationals were 12-20 and need to jump the Mets, Marlins and Phillies in the standings for Soto to have a serious shot at MVP. But if the Nationals get into the playoffs, I think Soto would get serious consideration. 

Tatis: 37 games, 46 hits, 38 runs, 13 home runs, 33 RBIs, 7 stolen bases, 17 walks, 42 strikeouts, .313/.395/1.055

Soto: 24 games, 33 hits, 21 runs, 11 home runs, 25 RBIs, 1 stolen base, 13 walks, 13 strikeouts, .367/.452/1.252

There is a lot to like with Soto’s numbers, even though he had played 13 fewer games than Tatis. Soto missed eight games early in the season, and that will hurt his gross numbers.

The Dodgers’ trio of potential MVPs — Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager — could make cases with an excellent final 25 games. But I think it’s more likely they will take votes away from each other.   

AL MVP

Brandon Lowe is the new AL MVP favorite at DraftKings, and it’s easy to see why. He has been the best player on a Rays team that is projected to win the AL East over the Yankees, the preseason AL World Series favorites. Lowe is worthy of consideration with a .273/.371/.983 batting line and 28 runs, 10 home runs and 17 RBIs. 

The White Sox’s Jose Abreu is second at + 550. His 32 RBIs put him only one behind Tatis for the MLB lead, and his 12 home runs left him one behind Tatis, Luke Voit and Nelson Cruz. 

Mike Trout is + 600, but I’m starting to think he is looking at a runner-up finish this year. It’s hard to see anyone, even Trout, winning MVP on a 12-24 team. That also makes me wonder why Anthony Rendon is listed with the fifth-lowest odds at + 750. If Trout probably isn’t going to win, Rendon has virtually zero chance. 

Kyle Lewis is next on the list at + 750, which is another number I don’t understand. Lewis has been great and is definitely in the top two for AL Rookie of the Year, but the Mariners outfielder has almost no shot to win the MVP on a 15-22 team with about a 0.7% chance at a playoff spot. That number is laughable, as is the + 1200 at BetMGM.

That leaves two final serious contenders — Shane Bieber at + 650 and Nelson Cruz at + 1000. Bieber wasn’t listed for MVP until last week, when DraftKings finally added him at 40-1 and quickly dropped him to 12-1 and then the current number + 650. I was lucky to get $300 at 40-1 on Bieber to win the AL MVP when it opened last week. I saw it as high as 20-1 at BetMGM, where it is currently + 700. 

After 35 games, Cruz was tied for the MLB lead with 13 home runs, and his batting line was very respectable at .311/.404/1.068. Cruz is currently + 1000 but should be listed with lower odds than Lewis and Rendon, who have no shot. Trout will get consideration because he’s Trout, as will Lowe because he’s the best player on one of the top teams in the AL. I think the AL MVP winner will come from the AL Central winner. If the Indians win, it will be Bieber. If the White Sox win, it will be Abreu. And if the Twins win, it will be Cruz. 

NL Cy Young

Yu Darvish and Max Fried have seized the NL Cy Young lead after seven starts. Jacob deGrom and Trevor Bauer are in contention, and Clayton Kershaw is lurking in the background. 

DeGrom has benefitted from starting against the Marlins four times in seven starts. But he was leading the NL with 58 strikeouts and had a 1.76 ERA, third behind Darvish’s 1.47 and Fried’s 1.60. Fried and Darvish had six wins each, compared with deGrom’s two. But deGrom is the reigning two-time Cy Young winner, and in a close race his previous wins might help push him over the finish line again. 

Bauer had a chance to solidify his Cy Young case last weekend but instead pitched 5.1 mediocre innings against a good Cubs team and gave up three earned runs on two home runs, four hits and two walks with five strikeouts. The start raised Bauer’s ERA to 2.13, and I would classify it as not good enough. Bauer will have four or five more chances to jump back into the race, but he’s clearly behind two if not three others. 

Kershw had a 1.80 ERA over 30 innings with four wins in five starts. He had given up 19 hits and four walks while striking out 33. Kershaw has an outside chance at passing the other contenders. Like deGrom, he has the name recognition, but unlike deGrom, you can still bet Kershaw at widely available 25-1 odds (BetMGM and DraftKings).

AL Cy Young

Gerrit Cole had a 3.91 ERA and led MLB in home runs given up with 12. That’s not going to win the Cy Young. Shane Bieber is the AL Cy Young front-runner with six wins in eight starts and a 1.20 ERA over 52.2 innings. He had given up 30 hits and 13 walks while striking out an MLB-leading 84 batters. The runner-up in strikeouts was Lucas Giolito with 66. Bieber is running away with the AL Cy Young. This is Bieber’s award to lose, and it will likely take an injury for someone to pass him. 

Giolito pitched a no-hitter last week, which was enough to drop his Cy Young odds from 25-1 to 5-1. But he’s still on the outside looking in when comparing his numbers with Bieber’s.

If Bieber would somehow fail, Lance Lynn would have a serious case, even though he pitches for the going-nowhere Rangers. Liam Hendriks also still has a chance, but the A’s had been quarantined for several games and he hadn’t had a chance to pitch very much. Hendriks is still in the picture. 

I don’t see anyone outside Bieber, Lynn, Hendriks and maybe Giolito, Cole or Kenta Maeda making serious cases down the stretch. 

NL ROY

I think the race is between Dodgers starter Dustin May and Padres utility player Jake Cronenworth.

May had started seven games. His 1-1 record wasn’t as impressive as his 2.83 ERA over 35 innings. His 1.17 WHIP was excellent. The only knock was the lack of strikeouts, with 23 total and a 5.9 K/9. He had averaged 98.8 mph on his four-seam fastball, which puts him in deGrom territory (98.5). May is doing well but is not running away with it. 

Playing all over the field for the Padres, Cronenworth had 36 hits in 31 games with 20 runs and 17 RBIs and a .356/.411/1.034 batting line. He deserves serious consideration, but I’d vote for May because I think a pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA on the best team in baseball is slightly more impressive than Cronenworth’s hitting line on the second-best team in the same division. But it’s a very close race.

AL ROY

A similar race is brewing in the AL, where Luis Robert and Kyle Lewis have distanced themselves from the field. 

Lewis: 43 hits, 29 runs, 8 home runs, 21 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, 21 walks, 38 strikeouts, .328/.418/.945

Robert: 36 hits, 22 runs, 10 home runs, 24 RBIs, 4 stolen bases, 10 walks, 41 strikeouts, .298/.348/.960

I think Robert has the edge by virtue of being on a playoff team, while Lewis is batting third for a team with a projected 0.7% chance at a playoff spot. Lewis is having a very good rookie season, but I don’t think he’ll hold off Robert over the final 25 games.   

Recap

$300 to win $12,000 on Shane Bieber AL MVP

It was a pretty slow week for betting. I bet a total of $300 and now have a bet a total of $27,221.36 in MLB futures.

 

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