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AL Cy Young Watch: Who Are the Riser and Fallers?

Updated AL Cy Young Odds and Contenders - Jake Odorizzi, Minnesota Twins

Sometimes the big boys start as favorites and end as favorites.

Other times, sleepers have the audacity to throw their name into the hat and challenge the favorites, such as Blake Snell did in 2018.

Just because you start as a favorite doesn’t mean you will finish there, and just because you start a sleeper doesn’t mean you’re out of the race.

Let’s check in on some of the risers and fallers in the Cy Young race so far this season and their latest odds provided by the best MLB betting sites.

*Stats courtesy of FanGraphs

Risers

Jake Odorizzi (+500)

If you found a way to locate Jake Odorizzi’s name on an odds board and pick him to win the AL Cy Young Award, kudos to you.

The Twins’ right-hander was once a top prospect coming up in the Royals system before being involved in a 2012 trade with the Rays, one that involved a handful of big leaguers such as Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, James Shields, and Wade Davis.

Odorizzi would be a steady, if unspectacular arm for the Rays from 2013 through 2017, posting an ERA-low of 3.35 and ERA-high of 4.14 during that time. That is certainly reliable for a middle-of-the-rotation arm, but few saw this 2019 performance coming.

All you have to do is compare his 2019 numbers to career numbers to see just how drastic the change has been.

Jake Odorizzi 2019 vs. Career
Timeframe ERA FIP K/9
2019 1.96 2.80 9.79
Career 3.82 4.13 8.43

Of course, it’s hard to envision the season ticking along at this clip considering some of the concerning peripheral numbers.

For instance, his xFIP of 4.25 is in another universe compared to that 1.96 ERA figure. xFIP is an extension of the FIP stat where home runs at pegged at a 10.9% HR/FB clip. In order words, it is calling for some serious regression in Odorizzi’s home run numbers as his HR/FB rate sits at a tiny 5.3% mark and well under the 10.3% mark he sports for his career.

With a 1.20 HR/9 in his career, we can see that Odorizzi has had some issues with the long ball. He owns just a 0.56 mark here in 2019. Considering Odorizzi remains one of the most fly-ball prone pitchers in baseball as his 50.7% fly-ball rate is the second-highest mark in baseball among qualified pitchers.

No one in the top 15 has a HR/FB rate under Matt Boyd’s 10.3%. Of the top 30, only Marco Gonzales (8.7%), Lucas Giolito (6.3%), Luke Weaver (9.5%) and Tanner Roark (6.1%) have a figure in single digits. Only Brad Keller and his 5.2% mark has a lower HR/FB rate than Odorizzi.

As a result:

It should be interesting to see how he fares once the inevitable regression kicks in. A pitcher that allowed more than 50% fly-balls is going to give up home runs, even if they sport an average HR/FB rate. Odorizzi’s career numbers are crystal clear evidence.

Nonetheless, he’s the biggest riser in the AL Cy Young race at this moment and currently the biggest competitor to Houston’s Justin Verlander (+125)

Lucas Giolito (+1000)

What a difference a year can make.

Giolito was once a prized prospect in the Nationals system, but Washington used him as a win-now trade piece in an offseason trade for Adam Eaton prior to the 2017 season. He made 24 Triple-A starts that season with Chicago’s system and even posted a 2.38 ERA in seven starts with the big club.

And then disaster struck.

Giolito was the worst qualified starting pitcher in Major League Baseball last season as he was torched for a 6.13 ERA and 5.56 FIP. The good news is he was rather resilient and took the ball 32 times last season, adversity that is no doubt helping his cause here in the 2019 season.

Here are his ranks from the 2018 season versus 2019 to give you an idea of the difference one season can make in professional sports.

Lucas Giolito 2018
Stat Number AL Rank
ERA 6.13 26th (last)
FIP 5.56 26th (last)
K/9 6.49 25th
Lucas Giolito 2019
Stat Number AL Rank
ERA 2.54 3rd
FIP 2.54 3rd
K/9 2.54 3rd
WAR 2.6 2nd

Simply unbelievable.

Giolito has found new life on his four-seam fastball with a 94.6 mph average on that offering this season compared to a 92.8 mark he averaged last season. He has completely ditched a sinker that he used 19.9% of the time last season and increased the used of that four-seamer along with a higher emphasis on his changeup, a pitch that he’s using almost a quarter of the time this season.

The 12.2 mph difference between his fastball and changeup has worked wonders for him in 2019. The changeup owns a whopping 4.23 pitch value/100 on the season while his slider is helping him rack up the punchouts as well with a 3.98 pitch value/100.

His swinging strike rate has spiked from 8.3% last season all the way to 13.3% in the 2019 season as a result of the offseason changes made to his repertoire and the new life on the pitches he struggled with last season.

Keep in mind this guy is just 24 years old. Getting knocked around in the big leagues as a 23-year-old, as he did last season, is nothing new. This is a tough league on young pitchers and the fact he took the ball 32 times for 173.1 arduous innings last season speaks plenty to his character and willingness to improve.

He may very well go from the worst pitcher in baseball last season to the best in the business this season when it’s all said and done.

Matthew Boyd (+1200)

Now fully emerged as the staff ace in Detroit, Boyd’s breakout season has arrived.

Like Odorizzi and Giolito before him, Boyd was a sought-after trade piece as a prospect as the Tigers nabbed him from the Blue Jays in the 2015 trade deadline deal that saw David Price land in Toronto.

With a 7.53 ERA in 12 big league starts that season and a 5.27 ERA as recently as 2017, Boyd’s Cy Young candidacy seemed light years away.

However, after improving across the board last season, Boyd has taken his game to a whole new level this season and came out of the gates roaring.

In his first two starts of 2019, Boyd put himself on the map not by allowing a nice four earned runs in 11.1 innings, but by striking out 23 over that stretch.

Boyd has been a consistent 7-9 strikeout pitcher since and sits with a 3.01 ERA, 2.75 FIP and 3.34 xFIP on the season to go along with a massive 11.24 K/9 clip.

His AL rank are as follows.

Matthew Boyd AL Ranks
Stat Number AL Rank
ERA 3.01 9th
FIP 2.75 2nd
K/9 11.24 4th
WAR 2.7 1st

There you have it. By FanGraphs WAR, Matthew Boyd has been the best pitcher in the American League this season and the second-best pitcher in baseball behind Max Scherzer and his absurd 3.4 WAR in the early going.

You are getting some really nice value here with Boyd at these odds considering he likely deserves the best results in the American League when you combine those FIP and WAR figures above.

He’s certainly worth a sprinkle despite pitching for arguably the worst team on the junior circuit.

Fallers

Trevor Bauer (+2500)

Bauer was very much in the conversation for the AL Cy Young in 2018 before landing on the DL (at the time) with a shin fracture after taking a line drive off the area on an August 11th start against the White Sox.

The Indians had waited a few years for Bauer’s stuff to break out and boy did it ever. He posted a tiny 2.21 ERA to go along with a 2.44 FIP and 3.14 xFIP to go along with an eye-popping 11.34 K.9 clip across 27 starts and 175.1 frames.

However, Bauer is looking much more like his previous self here in 2019.

His 3.87 ERA, 4.08 FIP and 4.47 xFIP from this season are much more in line with his 3.94 ERA, 3.84 FIP and 3.97 xFIP that he’s posted across his six-year career. Not terrible numbers at all, but not nearly good enough to put him into the Cy Young race.

Bauer has seen a spike in his home run rate this season thanks to more than a 6% increase in his fly-ball rate and almost a 4% increase in his hard-hit rate. His unsustainable 6.2% HR/FB rate from last year has normalized back to 11.8% and much more in line with his 11.1% career mark in 2019.

He’s inducing ground-balls at just a 37.1% clip and his SIERA (skill-interactive ERA) is a so-so 4.22 compared to 3.21 a season ago.

Time isn’t exactly ticking on Bauer as he’s still just 28 years old, but after a big breakout last season it’s certainly been a disappointing first couple of months to the 2019 season. He’ll have to turn things around in a big way in order to get his name anywhere close to the top of the Cy Young conversation.

Blake Snell (+2000)

Snell didn’t exactly come out of nowhere to win the 2018 AL Cy Young, however, after posting a 4.04 ERA, 4.19 FIP and a big 4.11 BB/9 rate in 2017, he wasn’t exactly a pre-season front-runner, either.

After winning the award last season thanks to an eye-popping 1.89 ERA and 11.01 K/9 clip while lowering his walk rate to 3.19 per nine, Snell was one of the favorites to take home the award again this year.

His 3.06 ERA, 3.01 FIP, and 2.69 xFIP looked mighty good entering Tuesday’s contest against Detroit, as did his 12.11 K.9 clip and 2.48 BB/9 rate, however, Snell was tattooed for six earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work to the lowly Tigers to raise that ERA to 3.68 on the season.

Few times, if ever, so Cy Young winner allows six earned runs to one of the worst offenses in baseball.

Please Note:

It’s actually the second time this season he’s allowed at least six earned runs in a game after allowing seven to the Royals to open up the month of May and it’s the third time he’s allowed at least five after allowing five to Houston on Opening Day. For comparison, Snell didn’t allow more than five earned runs in any start last season and twice allowed five, all before May 14th. He’s done so three times by the first week of June here in 2019.

It’s also hard to get as lucky as Snell did last year. Yes, it takes a superstar to post a 1.89 ERA in general and his 2.95 FIP and 3.16 xFIP are also extremely attractive figures. However, he had an eye-popping strand rate of 88% and a BABIP against of just .241. This season, the strand rate has somewhat normalized to a tick under 79.9% and his BABIP sat at .302 entering Tuesday’s start against the Tigers.

He’s one heck of a pitcher and could get back into the conversation with a big summer, however at this pace, Snell won’t be a part of the Cy Young conversation again this season.

Gerrit Cole (+1600)

Cole raged war on the American League in his first season in the junior circuit last year when he posted a 2.88 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and a 3.04 xFIP to go along with a huge 12.40 K/9 clip. If it weren’t for Snell and teammate Justin Verlander’s somehow superior seasons, the award was Cole’s to win.

This season, the result is still good, to be sure. He sits with a little bit of an elevated 3.94 ERA, but also a 3.27 FIP and stout 2.50 xFIP while he’s somehow managed to increase his strikeout rate to a gaudy 13.44 K/9 to lead all of baseball.

However, Cole has been bitten by the long ball this season with a big 1.62 HR/9 which has that ERA figure sitting miles above his 2.50 xFIP. He’s allowed home runs on 21.9% of his fly ball this season, a figure that is sure to come down towards his 10.8% mark as the year moves along.

That said, Cole is allowing 5.2% more hard contact this season than last and his curveball hasn’t done much for him with a negative pitch value on the season, albeit by the smallest of margins with a -0.01 pitch value/100.

With all that in mind, while Cole’s odds have slipped and he, therefore, belongs in the fallers side of the equation, he seems like the best bet to turn things around.

His advanced stats this season tell us he is pitching better than he did last year. His SIERA of 2.71 in 2019 is better than his 2.91-mark last season and his 56 xFIP- is better than the 72 he posted in 2018. He’s also allowing 5.7% less fly-balls than he did last season, but the home run number has spiked.

The strikeouts are up and the walks are down. His 70% strand rate should improve as well, likely closer to the 74.3% mark he owns for his career.

Cole may be hurt by a high ERA and some bad luck at the moment, but he seems like a really nice pick if you plan on looking for top-notch value in this year’s AL Cy Young race.

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Author Details
Brenton Kemp

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.

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