One of my favorite MLB futures picks is the Cy Young Award and thanks to MLB betting sites we get a mid-season chance to nab some value with some of the top arms in baseball and their chances to win the top individual pitcher’s award in the game.
I have a value pick for both the American League and National League that I believe need to be locked in now in order to maximize your return when it’s all said and done.
Let’s get into the picks and see if we can make ourselves some money in the long term!
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
**Stats courtesy of FanGraphs and are as of 6/5/19
Gerrit Cole (+1600)
Cole was once one of the favorites to win the AL Cy Young to open the season but has since slipped due to a combination of poor luck and surprise contenders from around the junior circuit, but I believe he can get right back into the race in no time.
First, let’s example the numbers.
Cole didn’t example come out of the gates firing he posted a 3.95 ERA in the month of April, largely on the back of an eight-run implosion in Texas against what has become a very good Rangers offense back on April 20th.
He allowed two runs or fewer in four of his next five starts, but he once again ran into trouble against the White Sox in late May, a game in which he yielded six earned runs in just five innings of work against a mediocre-at-best White Sox offense.
Cy Young winner don’t often give up 14 runs in a span of two separate starts, but Cole’s underlying numbers need to be considered in order to see the value in this play.
His surface 3.94 ERA is not Cy Young worthy, but let’s check out the whole picture when it comes to the big right-hander.
|Gerrit Cole vs. the AL|
If xFIP and it’s pegging 10% HR/FB rate had its way, Cole would have the best ERA in the American League which would obviously make him a serious contender to take home the Cy Young.
He’s somehow improved on the massive 12.40 K/9 clip he posted in his first season with the Astros while simultaneously lowering his walk rate to the tune of 2.32 walks per nine after a fine 2.88 BB/9 figure in 2018.
However, the issue is Cole has allowed home runs on 21.9% of the fly-balls he’s surrendered this season, more than double the 10.8% mark he owns for his career. He had an even 10% HR/FB rate in 2018.
The end result has been a 1.62 HR/9 figure that is sure to come down. And when it does, his ERA will follow.
I’d rather not see Cole allowing 5.2% more hard contact this year than last, but he’s actually surrendering fewer fly-balls this season with a 37% fly-ball clip compared to his 42.7% mark a season ago which would have qualified him as a fly-ball pitcher.
Fewer fly-balls and a huge HR/FB rate is certainly going to have that number come down towards his career mark and improve his ERA when that happens.
There’s also that skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) of 2.71, the best mark in the AL.
According to the FanGraps sabermetric library, SIERA attempts to answer the questions: what is the underlying skill level of this pitcher? How well did they actually pitch over the past year? Should their ERA have been higher, lower, or was it about right?
In contrast to FIP and xFIP that focus on strikeouts, walks and home runs, SIERA adds in a complexity in an attempt to more accurately model what makes a pitcher successful.
In other words, the skills that Cole uses in his performance this season warrant the best ERA in baseball, as does his xFIP while he’s simply blowing the opposition away with those nasty strikeout totals.
No, Cy Young voters don’t vote based on xFIP, SIERA or a whole lot of advanced metrics in general.
The point I’m making here is that these ERA estimators are telling us Cole should have an ERA among the best, if not the best in the American League.
Pitchers outpitch their ERA estimators all the way, and in Cole’s case, they also lag them with poor luck, in his case a super-high HR/FB rate that’s driven his ERA in the wrong direction.
However, if those estimators prove true over the next four months of baseball, Cole’s numbers could very well end up being the best in the business in the junior circuit.
At +1600 odds, you should be willing to roll the dice on a pitcher that is going to be on the rise, perhaps at lightning speed, in the near future.
Max Scherzer (+800)
No, the odds aren’t as attractive as Cole’s, however, the symptoms Scherzer is suffering from are much the same.
Before we get into any numbers with Mad Max, realize that his odds have slipped from around +200-250 before the season began all the way down to +800 as we speak.
I mean, Zach Davies has a better ERA and according to the odds is more likely to win the award at +750, but let’s be real here.
The one thing Scherzer has working in his favor is his past. He won the award once in Detroit in 2013 before coming to Washington and winning the Cy Young twice more in back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017. He’s finished now lower than fifth in Cy Young voting every year since that first win in 2013 and finished second only to Jacob deGrom in 2018.
Voters are familiar with him. That, along with his pure reputation as the best pitcher in the world, are an incredible aid to his chances.
Now, the numbers.
Scherzer has seemed more hittable this season than in years past as his sky-high 3.06 ERA might suggest. I mean, it’s higher than the highest ERA he’s had as a National in five years – 2.96 – so he must be having a down year, right?
A simple glance at his NL ranks clearly show he’s the best pitcher in the National League and the world at this moment.
|Max Scherzer vs. the NL|
The only stat on the planet that tell us Scherzer isn’t the hands-down best pitcher in the NL in 2019 is his ERA, an increasingly unreliable stat thanks to items like BABIP, strand rate, and HR/FB rates.
I agree, this is very much a results-based business and Scherzer’s results appear to be the sixth-best in the league and his ERA will factor into the year-end vote to be sure.
However, it’s the first week of June. These ERA estimators have almost four full months to correct that ERA figure to the best in the business, although he’ll need some regression from Hyun-Jin Ryu’s silly-good 1.35 ERA to this point.
Don’t let the record fool you either. Jacob deGrom won the 2018 NL Cy Young with a 10-9 record thanks to receiving some of the lowest run support totals in the game.
Scherzer is receiving just 3.46 runs in support per game thanks to the Nationals’ inability to hit right-handed pitching to this point. Somehow, despite all the numbers you see above, the Nationals are just 3-10 in games started by Scherzer in 2019. The Mets were 14-18 in deGrom’s triumph last season.
Regardless, I’m going with what the numbers tell me here.
Right now, Ryu, Luis Castillo, and Davies all have a better shot to win the award according to the odds at BetOnline.
However, if the season ended today, the only real competition for this award would be Ryu due to that ridiculous ERA. The voters aren’t going to vote for Castillo and especially Davies to win the award over a guy that’s in the competition every year and has won it three times in the last six seasons.
With just one guy standing in his way, I’m betting on Max. At +800 odds, you are getting some fantastic value on the best pitcher in the National League today.