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Gerrit Cole’s AL Cy Young Odds Shorten Again; Bieber’s Also Improve in Two-Horse Race

Sascha Paruk

by Sascha Paruk in MLB Baseball

Apr 29, 2021 · 7:07 AM PDT

Gerrit Cole, Pitcher, New York Yankees
New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the third inning of a spring training exhibition baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., Thursday, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
  • The AL Cy Young odds still show a two-horse race between Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber
  • Already the top-two favorites, both have seen their odds get shorter over the past week
  • Which one looks like better value at this early stage of the season?

The narrative surrounding the National League Cy Young odds is Jacob deGrom versus the field. In the American League, the race is decidedly more competitive.

New York’s Gerrit Cole and Cleveland’s Shane Bieber have been the top-two favorites since the preseason and, over the past 14 days, both have been trending even shorter.

2021 AL Cy Young Odds

Player  Odds
Gerrit Cole (NYY) +273
 Shane Bieber (CLE) +350
Tyler Glasnow (TB) +583
 Lucas Giolito (CHW) +1100
Lance Lynn (CHW) +1233
Jose Berrios (MIN) +1533
Hyun-Jin Ryu (TOR) +1567
Kenta Maeda (MIN) +2600
Carlos Rodon (CHW) +3333
Zack Greinke (HOU) +3667
Jesus Luzardo (OAK) +3933
Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS) +4433
Nathan Eovaldi (BOS) +4433
Shohei Ohtani (LAA) +4667
Frankie Montas (OAK) +4667

Odds represent averages as of April 27th, 2021.

Both Dominated in Head-to-Head Duel

Last Saturday, Cole and Bieber went tete-a-tete when the Yankees visited Cleveland. Bieber took the loss in a 2-1 game, despite scattering just four hits and two runs while striking out nine over seven innings.

Cole was full value for the win. He gave up just three hits and one run while fanning 11 batters over seven innings. Cole has now pitched 31.2 innings over five starts and given up a scant six earned runs (1.71 ERA) while racking up 50 strikeouts and surrendering just three walks.

Bieber has also made five starts. He’s pitched deeper into games (36.1 innings) and is fanning hitters at nearly the same rate (57 Ks) while keeping his walks and hits low (0.94 WHIP). But he’s sporting a 2.48 ERA, which is inflated by his lofty standards. In his Cy Young-winning 2020 season, he finished with a 1.63 ERA and 0.87 WHP.

The Odds and Probability

At their current odds, Cole (+273) needs to have a 26.81% chance of winning the Cy Young to be worth betting.  Bieber (+350) needs a 22.22% chance.

The next pitcher on the list, Tyler Glasnow at +583, is down at 14.64%. After him, there’s a precipitous drop to Lucas Giolito (+1100) at just 8.33%. But they way Cole and Bieber have started the season, plus their track records, makes it hard to look past the top two on the list.

Which of the two looks like the better option? For my money, it’s Cole at slightly shorter odds. Bieber put up shockingly good numbers in the shortened 2020 season. But take a look at the teams he faced. Of his 12 regular-season starts, ten came against Detroit (4.29 runs per game), Milwaukee (4.12 RPG), Pittsburgh (3.65 RPG), Cincinnati (4.05 RPG), Kansas City (4.13 RPG), and Minnesota (4.48 RPG). All of them were below-average offenses. (The league average was 4.65 runs per game).

The only above-average offense he faced was the  Chicago White Sox (5.10 RPG). He had mixed results: he gave four hits, two walks, and three earned runs over six innings in August and then held them to two hits, three walks, and no runs over five innings in September.

This season, the level of competition is going to ramp up as teams stray beyond their geographical rivals.

Cole, on the other hand,  made 75% of his 2020 starts against above-average offenses. Nine of 12 came against Toronto (5.03 RPG), Tampa Bay (4.82 RPG), Boston (4.87 RPG), Philadelphia (5.10 RPG), Washington (4.88 RPG), and Atlanta (5.80 RPG).

The year before, when pitchers were facing a broader range of teams, Cole was dominant over 212.1 innings (2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 326 strikeouts), finishing second in Cy Young voting to then-teammate Justin Verlander. Bieber, admittedly just 23 years old at the time, was spottier, posting a 3.24 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 259 strikeouts in 214.1 innings.

But the takeaway for bettors is that Cole has been more dominant in similar circumstances. Indeed, he had a sub-3.00 ERA and 275-plus strikeouts while pitching oer 200 innings in back-to-back years with Houston. Bieber has never done that.

There’s a first time for everything that happens. But not everything happens.

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