2020 MLB Betting Preview: Cy Young Award Betting Odds, Picks & Longshots with Value
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Hader
I provided my 2020 Cy Young betting guide and wagers in early March.
In short, note that WAR, ERA, ERA+, WHIP, wins, IP, and FIP correlate most strongly with Cy Young winners.
At the time, I recommended betting on Walker Buehler (+750) and Trevor Bauer (+5000) in the NL, with Shane Bieber (+1600), Charlie Morton (+2500), Lucas Giolito (+2500), and Jesus Luzardo (+30000) in the AL.
All four pitchers, except for Buehler, have shortened substantially as a result of the 60-game season, and from that group of six, I would only still bet on Giolito (+1800) and Luzardo (+6000) at current odds.
Giolito, baseball’s former No. 1 pitching prospect, made some mechanical adjustments last offseason and combined that with some changes to his pitch mix and sequencing; thereby refining his command, optimizing his approach, and allowing his whiff rate to explode; ranking near the top of the strikeout-minus-walk rate leaderboard (24.3%, 6th).
His 15% swinging strike rate ranked sixth in MLB, just behind Jacob deGrom (15.4%) and his improvement only continued as the season went on:
- 1st Half: 3.94 xFIP, 3.16 K/BB, 20.6% K-BB%
- 2nd Half: 3.28 xFIP, 5.68 K/BB, 29.1% K-BB%
Luzardo is the second-coming of Johan Santana, and though he wasn’t expected to face any innings limit in 2020, that is no longer a concern with the shortened season.
If you don’t see me tweeting, “Happy Jesus Luzardo day” before each one of his 2020 starts, make sure that I am OK. I have been all-in on this prospect since I watched him dominate Double-A competition in 2018.
The soon-to-be 23-year old was dominant in the minor leagues, going 14-7 with a 2.53 ERA while averaging 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings, with 5.4 strikeouts per walk across all levels.
National League Cy Young Award Picks
- Yu Darvish (+2000)
- Josh Hader (+10000)
The only two futures that I recently added are two of my favorite bets for the upcoming season.
Yu Darvish is +2500 to win the NL Cy Young at MGM – and about half that price at seven other books where I checked to compare odds.
The righty only pitched in eight games in 2018, missing time with a variety of ailments, and he struggled during the first half of the 2019 season (5.01 ERA, 2.27 K/BB). Still, he was dominant over the final four months of the year, and particularly in the second half (81.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 7 BB, 118 K), walking 15 batters over his final 19 starts.
Yu Darvish, 4 Pitch Overlay (synced at release).
All Swinging Strikes.
Just wanted to see how much space that would cover. pic.twitter.com/1iiwWO7ngK
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 23, 2019
We’ll finish with my single favorite wager for this season, and I think the most logical +15000 bet I will ever make in my life – on Josh Hader to win the NL Cy Young.
The southpaw suffered some ill-timed blown saved last season, including a two-run ninth-inning lead in the NL Wild Card game to the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals, and even though his FIP regressed from 2.23 to 3.10, all signs point to him being just as dominant last season as he was in 2018.
His xFIP saw a less-dramatic rise, climbing from only 2.06 to 2.36 – still a significant difference from his 2017 debut (3.66 xFIP) – while his SIERA only moved from 1.70 to 1.78 (2.99 in 2018).
Hader was seemingly the victim of negative home run variance, as his home run per flyball rate finished at 21.4% – up from 14.5% – which is a significant factor for a flyball pitcher (career 51.6% flyball rate).
His statcast metrics also show some warts – with an increased exit velocity (+4.3 mph) and a hard-hit rate (+10.2%) compared to 2018.
But Hader also had the best first-pitch strike rate (63%), popup rate (21.4%), strikeout rate (47.8%), walk rate (6.9%), and swinging-strike rate (22.7%) of his career – improving each of those metrics over 2018.
Josh Hader is the only pitcher in the expansion era with at least 25 strikeouts in a span of 9 innings pitched.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) May 11, 2019
The Brewers have a relatively thin starting staff. Still, with Corey Knebel back in the fold to take over the closer’s role, Craig Counsell may feel freed up to use Hader more aggressively in the middle innings – which could increase his workload after seeing a dropoff in 2019 (from 1.48 innings per appearance in 2018 to 1.24 in 2019).
Given his strikeout rate, and high-leverage usage, Hader can rack up enough counting stats over 30 innings to make himself noticeable on the wins, saves, and strikeout leaderboards – and if he can post dominant ratios as he did in the first half of 2018 (1.50 ERA, 0.79 WHIP) or 2019 (2.25 ERA, 0.63 WHIP) while guiding the Brewers to a playoff spot, Hader can make the case that he impacted a higher percentage of games than any other pitcher this season.
As he enters his arbitration years, it might also be wise for the cost-conscious Brewers to use Hader aggressively this season and maximize his value before trading him to a club with deeper pockets.
2020 AL Cy Young Betting Odds
|Lance McCullers Jr.||+4000|
2020 NL Cy Young Betting Odds