Cole a Massive +225 Favorite to Lead MLB in Strikeouts; Scherzer Has Second-Best Odds at +550

Gerrit Cole with the Yankees
Gerrit Cole is a heavy favorite to lead the MLB in strikeouts in the 2020 season, coronavirus and all. Photo by @FiresideYankees (Twitter).
  • New Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is favored to lead MLB in strikeouts for a second straight season
  • The Nationals’ Max Scherzer led the National League in strikeouts per nine innings last year
  • The odds for the top-25 favorites to win the strikeout title can be found below

Gerrit Cole proved during the offseason that strikeouts pay.

Cole led the major league with 326 Ks last season while helping the Houston Astros reach the World Series.

The right-hander then received the richest contract in Major League Baseball history for a pitcher, a nine-year, $324-million deal from the New York Yankees in free agency.

Cole is favored to repeat as MLB’s strikeout leader this season – whenever it winds up starting.

2020 MLB Strikeouts Leader Odds

Pitcher Odds
Gerrit Cole (Yankees) +225
Max Scherzer (Nationals) +550
Justin Verlander (Astros) +900
Jacob deGrom (Mets) +1000
Trevor Bauer (Indians) +1500
Justin Bieber (Indians) +1500
Jack Flaherty (Cardinals) +1800
Lucas Giolito (White Sox) +1800
Yu Darvish (Cubs) +2500
Austin Nola (Phillies) +2500
Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) +2500
Luis Castillo (Reds +3000
Walker Buehler (Dodgers) +3300
Mike Clevinger (Indians) +3300
Patrick Corbin (Nationals) +3300
Tyler Glasnow (Rays) +3300
Charlie Morton (Rays) +3300
Robbie Rays (Diamondbacks) +4000
Blake Snell (Rays) +4000
Lance Lynn (Rangers) +5000
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) +6000
Eduardo Rodriguez (Red Sox) +6000
Jose Berrios (Twins) +7500
Sonny Gray (Reds) +7500
Corey Kluber (Indians) +7500
Brandon Woodruff (Brewers) +7500

Odds taken April 11.

Cole King of Ks

The Yankees are counting on Cole being the dominant pitcher who can push them over the top.

While New York has won an MLB-record 27 World Series titles, they have not been to the Fall Classic since 2009 when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies. The 2010s were the first full decade in which the Yankees didn’t reach the World Series since the 1910s.

And Cole is quite happy to be a Yankee.

Cole’s 326 strikeouts last season came in 212.1 innings, which works out to 13.8 Ks per nine innings. It was the second straight season in which Cole led the American League in K/9 as he had a 12.4 mark for the Astros in 2018.

Getting to 300 strikeouts this year seems like an impossible task as it is highly unlikely MLB will get in much more than a 100-game season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, K/9 is a strong indicator of a pitcher’s dominance and a useful tool in predicting strikeout totals – regardless of season length.

Scherzer Still Strong

Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer is the oddsmakers’ second choice to lead MLB in strikeouts.

That is quite logical considering Scherzer topped the National League in punchouts for three straight seasons from 2016-18 and led all of baseball in 2016 and 2018.

He showed how dominant he can be in Game 2 of last year’s National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Scherzer was limited to 27 starts last season because of a back injury. However, he still led the NL in strikeouts per nine innings at 12.7, whiffing 243 batters in 172.1 innings.

Though Scherzer also had a scheduled start pushed back in last year’s World Series, durability had never been an issue before 2019. He made at least 30 starts in each of the 10 previous seasons.

Verlander Now Healthy

One pitcher who is being helped by the start of the season being delayed is Astros right-hander Justin Verlander, the third choice of oddsmakers in the strikeout derby.

Verlander injured his right groin early in spring training and originally planned to try to pitch through the injury this season. However, once MLB suspended spring training on March 12, he decided to undergo surgery and is now expected to be ready whenever the season opens.

Despite being 37, Verlander is still one of the game’s premier power pitchers. Last season, he had 300 strikeouts in 223 innings. He is also a five-time AL strikeout champion, including finishing first in 2018.

Not only is he a great pitcher but is charitable and married to a supermodel.

Since being traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Astros late in the 2017 season, Verlander has averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 73 starts.

Ray Lurks as Sleeper

Looking at the rest of the field, one pitcher who stands out as a value play is the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray at +4000. The left-hander has averaged 12.1 K/9 over the last three seasons and fanned 235 in 174.1 innings last season.

It doesn’t hurt that Ray is entering his final season before free agency and will be pitching for a big contract.

However, it is hard to go against the chalk here. Cole is 29 and his career has taken off over the last two seasons.

The odds might be low at +225 but it still looks like a good price.

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