Is Spencer Strider A Rightful Favorite In NL Cy Young Odds?
For multiple months now, NL Cy Young odds have featured something close to a dead heat at the top between the Braves’ Spencer Strider and the Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen. A recent swoon by Gallen has caused Strider to pull ahead, albeit slightly. Let’s take a look at NL Cy Young odds and see whether Strider is rightfully favored. Click on any of the odds below to place a bet at the best sports betting sites.
NL Cy Young Odds Board
Where the AL currently has a bit of a slam dunk candidate in Gerrit Cole — a 10-2 record with a 2.64 ERA is hard to poke holes in — that’s decidedly not the case in the NL. The market sees the field narrowed to a default final eight. We can take a look at the red flags (or not?) involved with each candidate.
The longtime favorite, Gallen appears to have hit a bit of a wall. He has a 5.37 FIP in the second half. The long ball has been a major issue, with eight allowed in his past six starts. Gallen will need to find some way out of that rut, but he has allowed fewer than 3 ER just once in his past seven starts. He doesn’t have much wiggle room to continue this slide.
Additionally, the Diamondbacks have faded in a hurry and currently sit out of the playoff picture.
As detailed in this FanGraphs piece, Snell has a sky-high walk rate. He will have a tough time continuing to post anything near his 2.5 ERA without correcting that, but walks have always been his weak point. Additionally, he’s stranding 86% of his baserunners.
As one of the top regression candidates in MLB, he looks like the opposite of a buy. In fact, some of his projections aren’t much better than league average.
Webb has one of the more intriguing cases. He leads the NL in innings pitched and has one of the better track records, coming off back to back 4 WAR seasons. He should have another strong mark there around 5 WAR and has very good projections around a 3.4 ERA.
The only real risk I’m seeing here is the melding of his grounder-heavy approach (60.6% this year) with a Giants defense that has been solid this year but was atrocious last year. If things go south there, he could start racking up more earned runs.
Steele will lag behind the other candidates in innings pitched (he’s already just a few innings from a career high) and strikeouts. He has also outpitched his peripherals by a large margin, although pushing toward 300 career innings with such numbers, that may just be part of the package with him. Lacking name value and playing for a team battling around .500, Steele doesn’t appear to be a realistic candidate.
Entering the season, I had Burnes projected as the best non-deGrom pitcher in MLB. However, his strikeout rate has plummeted and that looks fully supported by a crash in swinging strike rate and chase rate. He has a weak 3.89 FIP which will result in a mediocre WAR number. He’s surging through the second half of the season but probably has too much ground to make up, and if he keeps pitching to a 4.05 SIERA, he won’t get anywhere near the requisite numbers anyway.
Like Webb, Wheeler looks like a reasonable longshot candidate. He has the track record, with three straight seasons of sub-3 ERA. He has the volume, coming off seasons of 32 and 26 starts and tracking toward something like a full load this year. And he has the fWAR lead by a large margin, with 4.3 leading the entire MLB and sitting 0.6 ahead of both Strider and Gallen.
The big issue here is a deficit in ERA, which is likely the No. 1 stat voters look at. Wheeler has been rather unlucky to post a 3.71 mark, but his ~3.3 projection should bring that down some.
While Luzardo is having an amazing season, I don’t view him as a remotely realistic candidate mainly because he has already set a career high by 25 IP. I’m not sure how much harder Miami can push him, particularly with the team tracking toward a playoff berth.
Strider: Best Of A Flawed Field?
Unlike most of the guys above, Strider checks almost all of the boxes in a top-tier Cy Young odds candidate. He’s going to lead the NL in strikeouts by a mile barring injury and looks like the favorite to lead in wins given he’s currently tied for the lead and has the best lineup in baseball backing him.
While he’s been unlucky to have a 3.61 ERA, he has the best projection of any of these pitchers going forward. Thus, he’ll likely finish with a strong mark here. As the ace of the consensus best team in MLB, he has the platform to remain at the forefront of voters’ minds as Atlanta waltzes into the postseason as the likely top seed.
The only remotely concerning part of Strider’s profile is the potential for his innings to be managed down the stretch. Still, with the rule of thumb being you can safely add 30 IP or so to a guy’s workload, Strider should finish right around where Corbin Burnes did in 2021. In that season’s voting, Burnes narrowly edged out Wheeler, and Wheeler’s campaign was stronger than any of this year’s candidates.
While I’d understand wagers on Webb or Wheeler as reasonable longshots, I think Strider is a fair amount more likely to win NL Cy Young than anyone else. TangoTiger’s projections, which have a strong history of identifying winners, agree that Strider is the top candidate. Those projections have Snell as clear second banana, and I’m notably lower on Snell’s chances for the reasons detailed above.
Therefore, I took a position on Strider at +250, as I think he should be closer to around 60% probability here.