AL Cy Young Odds, Picks | Best Bets for Shohei Ohtani, Kevin Gausman, More
Michael Owens/Getty Images. Pictured: Shohei Ohtani
Historically, four basic statistics correlate most strongly to Cy Young winners: Wins, ERA, strikeouts and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).
However, there has been a clear upwards trend in recent seasons regarding WAR and Cy Young winners — which mirrors the trend between WAR and MVPs.
Until 2003, the Cy Young winner finished at least 1 WAR behind the pitching WAR leader (for that league) 48% of the time. Since 2004, that difference has only occurred six times (19%), a decrease of 29%.
Twelve of the past 14 Cy Young winners have finished in the top three in their respective leagues in pitching WAR — the only exceptions being Blake Snell (2018) and Robbie Ray (2021).
Here are my projected pitching WAR leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at FanDuel:
AL Cy Young is the most wide-open race of all the awards in 2023, and I Initially spread across eight pitchers before spring training, three of whom (Carlos Rodon, Luis Severino and Triston McKenzie) are already injured. I would avoid all three pitchers at this point.
From a projections standpoint, my favorite bet is Shohei Ohtani, who only ranks behind Jacob deGrom in average WAR contributions among all pitchers in baseball.
Since he’s part of a six-man rotation, Ohtani won’t generate more than 29 starts or 175 innings pitched – and any missed starts would cut into his win probability more significantly than it would for other pitchers – but Ohtani was a top-three starter last season (2.65 xERA) with increased emphasis on his breaking stuff. And given deGrom’s injury concerns, Ohtani has a serious case for favoritism. And I much prefer his Cy Young odds to his MVP odds.
From a scouting standpoint, my favorite bet is Cristian Javier, who was arguably a better pitcher (2.43 xERA) than Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (2.66 xERA) last season, albeit in fewer innings and including relief stints.
From June 13th onward, Javier ranked second in strikeout rate and fourth in K-BB% among 58 qualified starters — and then he dominated in the postseason, too (12 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 16 K). Only his fastball and slider have proven to be above-average offerings; if Javier finds a third pitch (he throws a curveball or changeup around 12% of the time combined), he might turn into the best starter in the game.
I divide pitcher WAR by 10 IP because it presents a similar scale to position player WAR divided by 25 PA, and I generally look to select pitchers above 0.20 WAR per 10 IP as Cy Young candidates.
From the remaining AL pitchers, Kevin Gausman (0.22) and George Kirby (0.20) fill out my card. Gausman finished second behind Verlander in AL pitching WAR last season and projects in the top six by both average and overall production for 2023; Gausman has a very high floor.
Kirby offers substantial upside relative to his projected innings pitched (150). He’s very efficient, and there’s a universe where he logs closer to 190 innings this season. A four-win season would put Kirby in the conversation at long odds.
Cy Young Bets
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