MLB Odds: Early Cy Young Contenders

(Arturo Pardavila III, via Wikimedia Commons)

A week ago, we looked at the race for the MLB’s home run title and, mostly, how difficult it was to project whose production could continue over the course of a season. Today, we shift focus to pitchers; that’s gotta be easier right?

The early Cy Young race does have a few players who were off the radar heading into the season, but the preseason favorites still remain at the top. Helping us handicap the race is the fact that we’re working with fewer appearances: the best pitchers in the game are making 33 starts per season (barring injury). So we’re about 15-percent way through the year for many of these guys; that’s not an insignificant sample size.

Through the first month of the season, some ridiculous numbers are being put up by the game’s best arms. Noah Syndergaard hasn’t walked a single batter; Ervin Santana has surrendered just three runs over his first five starts; and Chris Sale is on pace for 358 strikeouts, a number only Randy Johnson has managed to top in the modern era.

When it comes to sustainability, we know that guys like Santana and Chase Anderson won’t keep this up for the whole season, despite a few great outings to start the year. Their ERA’s will drift over 3.00 as the season wears on. But the dominance we’re seeing from Sale and Syndergaard should remain a storyline throughout the summer of 2017.

Sale is continuing to assault the strike zone at his usual rate but with outstanding Red Sox fielders behind him, the results are going to be superior to his Chicago days. To Sale’s credit, he’s also fanning more batters than usual, which explains why he’s boasting an FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 1.13 through four games. Even if he has some lulls over the year, the supporting cast will help Sale finish near the top in wins, a category that Cy Young voters love.

It’s tough to imagine anyone in the American League challenging Sale across a whole season, unless Dallas Keuchel’s shoulder lasts the season. The Astros’ ace has come out looking like his 2015 self after injuries derailed his 2016 campaign. But while his success has returned, his velocity still hasn’t, which seems like a problem that will rear its head at some point.

In the National League, things won’t be so easy for Syndergaard. Despite Thor throwing lightning better than ever, he’ll have to hold off challenges from previous Cy Young winners Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. Both have hit the ground running this season, and have a far more trustworthy pedigree than hot starters like Anderson and Mike Leake.

So one month in, what do the odds in the Cy Young race look like? Let’s examine.

Odds to win 2017 NL Cy Young

  • Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: 2/1
  • Noah Syndergaard, Mets: 5/2
  • Max Scherzer, Nationals: 4/1
  • Jon Lester, Cubs: 9/1
  • Chase Anderson, Brewers: 25/1
  • Mike Leake, Cardinals: 25/1

Unlike the ridiculous turnover in the AL Cy Young (12 straight different winners), the NL has seen far fewer surprises. Sure, there’s a random R.A. Dickey every once in awhile, but mostly, the pitchers deemed the best at the start of the year remain the best at the end. Kershaw might just be the best ever.

Odds to win 2017 AL Cy Young

  • Chris Sale, Red Sox: 1/1
  • Dallas Keuchel, Astros: 13/2
  • Ervin Santana, Twins: 10/1
  • James Paxton, Mariners: 12/1  
  • Coery Kluber, Indians: 16/1
  • Yu Darvish, Rangers: 20/1
  • Marco Estrada, Blue Jays: 20/1
  • Jason Vargas, Royals: 30/1

Guys like James Paxton, Jason Vargas and Marco Estrada could win the award if they stay hot and Sale falters, but they don’t possess the stuff to go out and steal the Cy Young from Sale if he keeps doing what he’s been doing. Perhaps a big bounce back from Corey Kluber after a rough start could make this race interesting? Otherwise, Sale should cruise to his first ever award.