NL Cy Young Award Contenders Right Now

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The Cy Young market is different from the MVP market in the sense that you can argue over who is “more valuable” in the context of their overall statistics, whereas Cy Young is more straightforward. The pitcher with the lowest ERA, most innings pitched and most strikeouts usually wins. Just knowing the basic pitching statistics can allow you to separate the real contenders from the ordinary. Since we are only around the 40-inning mark right now, and with MLB offenses around the league down significantly to start the year, there are 10+  contenders in each league right now for the Cy Young award. Some of these pitchers will drop off the list quicker than others. 

NL Cy Young Contenders (all stats thru Monday 5/9)

Corbin Burnes – 6 starts, 38.2 IP, 8 ER, 1.86 ERA/2.57 xERA/2.95 FIP/2.33 xFIP, 0.80 WHIP, 50 strikeouts/8 walks, 11.64 K/9, 5 home runs allowed.

Will Hill: + 550

DraftKings/BetMGM/Fanduel + 500

Superbook + 400

The reigning NL Cy Young winner has a sub-2.00 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP and 11+  K/9, so there is not much to dislike here. If I had to pick something it would be the five home runs given up over 38.2 innings. That’s a 1.16 HR/9 rate, significantly up from Burnes 2021 number of 0.38. His HR/Fly Ball ratio also has increased year over year from 6.1% to 16.1%. 

Burnes won the 2021 Cy Young award while only pitching 168 innings and with such a competitive field in 2022, I don’t see that happening again. If his HR/9 stays above 1.0 and the HR/Fly Ball ratio doesn’t drop to 2021 levels I don’t see Burnes winning back-to-back Cy Young awards, but he’ll remain a contender all season.

Verdict: I bet Burnes to win the Cy Young last season when his odds were above 30/1. Not going to get my money at 4/1 or 5/1 this year. 

Max Scherzer – 6 starts, 37 IP, 12 ER, 2.92 ERA/2.89 xERA/3.00 FIP/2.70 xFIP, 0.946 WHIP, 49 strikeouts/9 walks, 11.92 K/9, 5 home runs allowed. 

Will Hill/BetMGM/Superbook/DraftKings/Fanduel: + 500

Scherzer isn’t leading the NL in anything at the moment, but his numbers are respectable across the board. He has a slightly higher K/9 than Burnes and Rodon, with the same amount of home runs given up as Burnes, which makes it hard to nitpick too much through less than 40 innings for anyone.  

Verdict: Great numbers, but not a ton of value at 5/1 in a crowded field. Likely going to finish in the Top 3-5. 

Walker Buehler – 6 starts, 36.2 IP, 8 ER, 1.96 ERA/3.55 xERA/2.94 FIP/3.53 xFIP, 1.064 WHIP, 32 strikeouts/9 walks, 7.85 K/9, 2 home runs allowed.

Will Hill/BetMGM/DraftKings/Fanduel: 12/1

Superbook: 5/1

Buehler’s numbers are excellent so far and he has seemingly taken the reins as the Dodgers No. 1 starter. I say ‘seemingly’ because as you’ll see below, Buehler’s numbers aren’t better than Clayton Kershaw’s stats. Voters love narrative and, in this case, Kershaw nearing the end of his career might get him votes over a potentially more-deserving teammate. Buehler’s K/9 is lower than some of the other top-tier contenders, but he’s also doing a better job preventing home runs as seen with his 5.6% HR/Fly Ball rate compared to Burnes 16.1% and Scherzer’s 12.2%. 

Verdict: Superbook has Buehler too low priced too low but if I was betting on a Dodgers pitcher right now It would be Clayton Kershaw. 

Clayton Kershaw – 5 starts, 30 IP, 6 ER, 1.80 ERA/2.33 xERA/2.21 FIP/2.36 xFIP, 0/733 WHIP, 32 strikeouts/3 walks, 9.60 K/9, 2 home runs allowed. 

DraftKings/Fanduel 17/1

Will Hill: 16/1

BetMGM: 15/1

Superbook: 8/1

Kershaw came close to pitching a perfect game and saw his Cy Young odds drop from 100/1 to the current market prices. At the Superbook, they’ve been aggressive and dropped Kershaw under 10/1. Kershaw has given up the least amount of hits and has the lowest WHIP of all the NL contenders. If strikeouts is your top metric then Burnes, Scherzer and Carlos Rodon are likely ahead of Kershaw at the moment. But, Kershaw is making an early case to bring home his fourth Cy Young Trophy. 

Carlos Rodon – 6 starts, 35 IP, 7 ER, 1.80 ERA/1.98 xERA/1.17 FIP/2.29 xFIP, 0.914 WHIP, 53 strikeouts/12 walks, 13.63 K/9, 0 home runs allowed.

Superbook: 8/1

FanDuel: 7/1

You can’t ask a pitcher to do much more than a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP and a 13+  K/9 to lead the league in strikeouts. If the season ended today, Rodon would probably get my vote for first place. Unfortunately for Rodon (and Rodon bettors), the Cy Young is based off the entire season performance and not just the first 40 innings. My biggest concern with Rodon is his arm/elbow/shoulder health and if he can sustain this torrid pace for 4+  more months. I don’t think he can. Rodon has always had an electric arm, staying healthy is the problem. 

Verdict: The Superbook has aggressively dropped him to 8/1, while some other books have bigger odds. I think Superbook has the correct number here, and if you think Rodon will stay healthy for the entire season, bigger numbers have some value.

Pablo Lopez – 6 starts, 36 IP, 4 ER, 1.00 ERA/2.69 xERA/2.69 FIP/2.83 xFIP, 0.889 WHIP, 35 strikeouts/8 walks, 8.75 K/9, 1 home run allowed.

Will Hill/BetMGM/DraftKings/Fanduel: 20/1

Superbook: 14/1

Lopez has the misfortune of playing for the Marlins or else he would get more recognition and his odds would be much lower. Lopez’s numbers match up to every contender in the NL, with the main difference that he’s only averaging just under one strikeout per inning. But, he also leads the NL in ERA, so Lopez’s pitch mix is working for him so far and he doesn’t need to overpower guys with strikeouts the way Burnes or Rodon does. 

Verdict: A 1.00 ERA is hard to overlook but it would only take one bad start to see Lopez’s ERA spike. Given that he’s available around the same price right now as Carlos Rodon, I’d rather put money on Rodon. 

Joe Musgrove – 6 starts, 39 IP, 9 ER, 2.08 ERA/2.42 xERA/2.36 FIP/2.65 xFIP, 0.897 WHIP, 41 strikeouts/3 walks, 9.46 K/9, 3 home runs allowed.

BetMGM/DraftKings/Superbook/William Hill: 20/1

Superbook: 18/1

Another guy getting overlooked while other guys in the NL West (Buehler/Kershaw/Rodon) get all the press. Musgrove’s numbers are just as good as Kershaw or Buehler and he’s tied for the NL lead in innings pitched. 

Verdict: The 9+  K/9 ratio is impressive. It would not surprise me at all to see this number get shorter over the next month. Don’t think Musgrove is going to win in a crowded field unless the Padres win the NL West.  

Max Fried – 6 starts, 37 IP, 11 ER, 2.68 ERA/3.08 xERA/2.57 FIP/2.51 xFIP, 0.838 WHIP, 35 strikeouts/2 walks, 8.51 K/9, 3 home runs allowed.

Superbook 25/1

Will Hill/BetMGM/DraftKings/Fanduel: 20/1

The Braves ace is in a similar position to Joe Musgrove in that attention is being paid to other guys in his division (Scherzer, Lopez). Fried and his 17.5/1 K/BB rate is just being ignored. His 2.68 ERA is not bad by any means, and his 0.84 WHIP shows he’s pitching just as well as the other NL aces/contenders. 

Verdict: Good prices on Fried across the board right now. While the Braves might be the defending World Series Champions they are also trailing the Mets in their own division right now and with Max Scherzer, Pablo Lopez and soon Jacob DeGrom to contend with in the NL East, I’d probably pass here, even with a nice price like 25/1. 

Jacob deGrom – No stats, injured

Westgate: 100/1

Will Hill 60/1

BetMGM/DraftKings/Fanduel: 50/1

 

This season Jacob deGrom has decided to give the rest of the NL a two-month head start in the Cy Young race, but his window to seriously contend is rapidly closing as we get closer to June. It’s looking like deGrom, if fully healthy, will likely max out around 15-16 regular season starts. With most other starters projected to make around 25 starts, deGrom is not going to have a lot of wiggle room, but it's possible that he's lights out for all 15-16 starts and voters will have something to discuss. If deGrom is ready to go on June 1 and comes back with the 14.0 K/9 he averaged over the past two seasons, there will be some arguments that deGrom deserves the Cy even though he’ll max out around 100 innings.  

Verdict: I’m already in on deGrom at 100/1. Wouldn’t go crazy on DeGrom because it's likely he doesn’t pitch 100 MLB innings in 2022. But when healthy he’s the best pitcher in baseball and 100 innings of elite DeGrom might get voters attention. I’d rather have DeGrom healthy in September and out in April/May, than healthy in April/May and out in September. Voters will remember the last thing they see and the last thing they see in 2022 might be a healthy deGrom. 

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