MLB.com Cy Young Poll Shows Clear Favorites; Do Odds Match Voters?
Perhaps in the spirit of ESPN’s popular polls that affect NBA MVP odds, MLB.com has gotten into the act with a midseason Cy Young poll in both the National and American League. An early June poll for the prestigious award revealed the current state of the races.
Similar to the aforementioned NBA polls, bettors can use the MLB.com poll to help with betting on Cy Young odds. Let’s take a look at how the voters ranked the league’s top arms, and compare that to market prices.
Note that unlike the NBA poll, MLB.com does not provide the polling difference between the pitchers in terms of overall points, only first-place votes. Thus, we do miss some of the nuance regarding the magnitude of differences in the standings. One other note to keep in mind: bettors were instructed to factor in not only season to date results, but what they expected to occur for the rest of the season.
AL Cy Young Poll: McClanahan Clear Frontrunner
We’ll start with the AL Cy Young polling and odds.
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Both the market and the Cy Young poll voters have a clear agreement at the top of the board. Shane McClanahan has done enough to cement himself as the early favorite. The Rays southpaw also leads in Tom Tango’s Cy Young tracker. He’d surely win the award if the season ended today, but teams have yet to even reach the halfway point. There’s still a long way to go.
If a warning sign exists, McClanahan’s ERA estimators are notably weaker than what he posted last year. However, he still has monster swinging strike and chase rates. Expect continued excellence.
After that, we find a notable disagreement between voters and market. Gerrit Cole remains a clear cut No. 2 in the market. The estimators are also a bit down on Cole’s work, tagging him with a ~3.7 mark. However, projecting forward, one can always expect Cole to lead the league in starts, strikeouts and innings pitched. No other pitcher can match his consistency in these areas.
Meanwhile, Nate Eovaldi has put together a banner season and earned the voters’ acclaim. Pitching for the surprisingly contending Rangers helps his campaign greatly. Note, however, that Eovaldi has only made a full season’s worth of starts once in the past six non-COVID years. He also projects notably worse than the other top arms, sporting a career 4.04 ERA.
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Gausman, Ohtani Early Snubs?
Two players got snubbed from the voters but still have plenty of market love.
I recommended bettors look into a wager on Kevin Gausman for AL Cy Young when he had double-digit odds a couple of weeks back. Since then, the Blue Jays ace faced Milwaukee and Houston. He went 13.2 IP with 24 strikeouts and one earned run. That’ll play, and his odds have subsequently been cut roughly in half.
However, note that this polling took place before Gausman’s high-profile demolition of Houston, and he still got three first-place votes. Were a Cy Young poll revote to take place now, Gausman () would almost certainly find himself in the top five. He continues pacing the league in WAR.
Shohei Ohtani () continues his unprecedented two-way dominance. He’s now favored over the field in AL MVP odds. He has accrued more WAR as a hitter than pitcher, however. But, he still has very strong projections and has added a new wrinkle this season.
His heavy usage of a sweeper (43% usage, career 32.7%) has given batters fits as far as trying to square up the baseball. Ohtani has allowed an absurdly low average exit velocity of 84.5 mph. For reference, anything lower than 87 mph is generally outstanding. And this in a season where contact on the baseball has produced more damage than in prior years.
Our Eli Hershkovich recommended longshot Joe Ryan Cy Young odds before the start of the season. He still sits fourth among AL starters in FIP, and fifth in Fangraphs’ FIP-based pitching WAR metrics.
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NL Cy Young Poll: Gallen, Strider Jostling For Lead
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Unlike the AL race, where even McClanahan hasn’t really separated himself in the market, the NL Cy Young situation revolves around two clear favorites. However, the voters and the market disagree on which one has pole position at the equivalent of the first turn. Spencer Strider and Zac Gallen are dueling for the award, with the market preferring Strider slightly.
Gallen has the voters’ eye, though. He also has the numbers, co-leading the MLB WAR race along with Gausman from the AL.
But while Gallen has reached a new level with a career-best 2.23 FIP, he has notably weaker projections than those of Strider. The Braves fireballer doesn’t have the track record of Gallen (around 200 IP compared to more than 500), his extreme strikeout rate (14.6 K/9) has the computers more convinced he can continue to dominate. The Braves’ atrocious defense (27th in Statcast’s Outs Above Average) could hurt him, but it’s possible they revert closer to their above-average 2022 numbers as the season continues.
Interestingly, Tango’s numbers prefer Marcus Stroman to both of the favorites. The market still has the diminutive sinkerballer as a longshot. He won’t come close to racking up the strikeout numbers of the other elite arms. Plus, the Cubs look headed for an unexciting finish around .500, which could lead to Stroman getting traded, typically a death knell for MLB award candidacy.
Elder, Kershaw Getting First-Place Love
Ageless Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw got a bit of first-place love with one vote. The market, however, has much more robust confidence in the three-time Cy Young Award winner (). Initially not even considered the ace of the staff — Julio Urias drew the opening day start — Kershaw must now carry an injury-ravaged group.
While Kershaw still has an enviable combination of to-date numbers and projection, the biggest roadblock to his candidacy will be a seemingly inevitable injured list trip. In his past six non-COVID seasons, Kershaw has only qualified for the ERA title (162 IP) twice. Even in those seasons, he missed multiple starts due to minor ailments. Only longer average starts got him over the qualification line.
If you’re looking for a down-ballot longshot punt, then the voting tells you to try Braves youngster Bryce Elder (). He’d likely need an injury to Strider to open up any hope. But, Elder actually drew even more first-place votes (three) than did Kershaw.
Elder boasts a lovely 2.26 ERA. However, it does appear to largely be a mirage. He has similarly pedestrian strikeout numbers to Stroman, sharing a reliance on weak grounders. Even there, Statcast hasn’t been impressed with his work, tagging him with a 4.16 xERA.