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Gerrit Cole Opening +250 Favorite to Win AL Cy Young; Reigning Champ Verlander a Distant +800 Bet

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Gerrit Cole opened as the leader in the AL Cy Young odds. Is he the smart play, or do some current and former teammates have better cases? (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
  • The New York Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to the largest contract ever given to a pitcher this off-season
  • Cole finished second in AL Cy Young voting to Justin Verlander
  • After landing with the Yankees, could Cole land his Cy Young award?

Gerrit Cole got what he wanted. He’s a New York Yankee. But with that come expectations for both the team, and Cole.
After all, why else would you hand him a nine-year, $324-million contract and not expect a Cy Young?
That’s at least what Vegas is thinking. Cole led the AL in ERA and strikeouts last year, and at just 29, should be operating at the height of his powers.
With many thinking the Yankees are a lock to make the World Series, should we feel the same way about Cole’s Cy Young chances?

2020 AL Cy Young Odds

Pitcher 2019 Record ERA Odds at Bovada
Gerrit Cole, NYY 20-5 2.50 +250
Chris Sale, BOS 6-11 4.40 +500
Justin Verlander, HOU 21-6 2.58 +800
Luis Severino, NYY 1-1 1.50 +800
Mike Clevinger, CLE 13-4 2.71 +1200
Corey Kluber, TEX 2-3 5.80 +1200
Blake Snell, TB 6-8 4.29 +1200
James Paxton, NYY 15-6 3.82 +1400
Tyler Glasnow, TB 6-1 1.78 +1400
Shane Bieber, CLE 15-8 3.28 +1400

Odds taken Feb 5th

The easiest way to figure out how significant the addition of Cole is, is by looking at the 2020 AL Pennant odds.

New York opens as heavy favorites for two reasons. One is that they added the best pitcher on the market. The second is that in doing so, they weakened the Houston Astros. On average, the Yanks opened at a minuscule +134.

The Astros, despite being embroiled in controversy, sit at +335.

Sink or Swim in AL East for Cole

Sure the allure of the Yankees is tough to turn down. And pitching with a lineup as powerful as the one the Pinstripes will trot out is enticing too.

But the AL East is notorious for chewing up pitchers and spitting them out. For every arm that thrived in one of baseball’s toughest divisions, there are two or three that have fallen flat.

And despite the stunning trade of Mookie Betts, there’s still plenty of firepower on opposing clubs.

Gerrit Cole’s Career vs AL East

Opponent Starts Record ERA WHIP K/BB HR
@ Yankee Stadium 1 1-0 4.50 1.50 8/2 1
Baltimore Orioles 2 0-0 1.38 0.78 18/1 1
Boston Red Sox 5 2-1 3.60 1.13 31/5 4
Tampa Bay Rays 4 0-2 3.51 1.09 37/9 3
Toronto Blue Jays 2 1-0 4.91 1.18 16/3 1

Understandably, having spent just two seasons in the American League, there isn’t a ton of Gerrit Cole vs the AL East.

Even when it comes to his new park, Cole has pitched there just once in the regular season, back in his second year in the league. He pitched there in the playoffs this past season, striking out seven but walking five over seven shutout innings.

If you’re looking for a comparable of what could be in store for Cole’s numbers, maybe fellow Cy Young candidate James Paxton is the place to look.

James Paxton Career vs 2019

Career
VS
2019

0.8 Home Runs/9 Innings 0.8
0.529 Home Runs/Start 0.793
117 ERA+ 116
3.13 FIP 3.86
8.1 Hits/9 Innings 8.2

In his first season with the Yankees, Paxton’s ERA was higher than it had been since 2015. But it wasn’t that significant considering it rose from 3.76 to 3.82.

After spending six seasons in a pitcher-friendly park though, there were adjustments in some key areas for Paxton. The home run numbers went up in his transition to the AL East, which is something that could be in line for Cole.

Cole Still Headlines Field

Unless the wheels completely fall off in year one, Gerrit Cole is still the rightful AL Cy Young favorite. Yankee Stadium shouldn’t change him that much.

Justin Verlander is another year older, and it’s fair to wonder how long his unparalleled dominance can keep going. His teammate Zack Greinke is a better investment at +2000.

Cole’s teammate Paxton is a different tier of starter in the AL hierarchy, and after an injury-plagued 2019, a wait-and-see approach with Luis Severino may be a good play early on.

There are two names with longer odds that stand out behind Cole: Blake Snell and Shane Bieber. But if you’re looking for an early play in the AL Cy Young race, Cole is your safest bet.

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