2020 MLB AL and NL Cy Young Betting Odds and Picks: Can Walker Buehler Challenge Jacob deGrom?


Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Walker Buehler

Similar to MVP voting, baseball writers have traditionally relied upon basic statistics, including Earned Run Average (ERA), strikeouts, wins, and innings pitched (IP) for Cy Young voting.

Still, the improvement of sabermetric analysis – with the development of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) – has altered the landscape of awards analysis.

More recently, Cy Young winners have trended downward in regards to total wins, strikeouts and innings pitched, but have seen an uptick in terms of strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) –  thanks to changes in the game; an increase in strikeouts league-wide, but also larger pitching rotations (the four-man rotation was standard until the 1970s) and reduced pitch counts per pitcher.

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Cy Young winners in the 1950’s had a mean of 22.8 wins, and 260 innings pitched with a K/9 of .579.

In the past decade, Cy Young winners have nearly doubled their strikeout rate (higher than 1.05 K/9), but are winning roughly three fewer games and throwing 30 fewer innings.

Listed odds via Westgate SuperBook

Cy Young and WAR

There is a clear upwards trend with regards to WAR and Cy Young winners – which mirrors the trend between WAR and MVP winners.

Until 2003, the Cy Young winner finished at least 1 WAR below the pitching WAR leader (for that league) 48% of the time.

Since 2004, that difference has only occurred five times – roughly 17% – a decrease of 31%.

In the past four seasons, seven of the eight Cy Young winners finished in the top three in their league in pitching WAR – the only exception being Blake Snell (2018).

Cy Young Award voting, like MVP voting, is entirely subjective – but modern writers seem to be paying more attention to sabermetrics when making their awards assessments.

Other Cy Young Data Points

Historically, four basic statistics correlate most strongly to Cy Young winners: Wins, ERA, Strikeouts, and Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP).

But a 2018 study, which incorporated advanced metrics, weighted WHIP and wins behind WAR, ERA, and ERA+ as the five most important factors in selecting Cy Young winners, with IP and FIP close behind.

As a result, let’s evaluate some top Cy Young contenders for 2020, using Steamer projections and the following data points:

  • Wins
  • WHIP
  • ERA
  • FIP
  • IP
  • Strikeouts
  • WAR

National League

In 2019, Jacob deGrom became the 11th pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Young awards, and he now has a chance to become the first pitcher since Randy Johnson (1999-2002) to win three in a row.

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