Favored Cole Must Start Fast

Favored Cole Must Start Fast

Gerrit Cole in a Yankee uniform

Gerrit Cole finished second in AL Cy Young voting in 2019. Can he do one better in 2020? Photo by @FiresideYankees (Twitter).

  • The AL Cy Young odds have been updated for the first time since MLB’s 60-game season was announced
  • New York’s Gerrit Cole is still a heavy favorite
  • Who has the best chance of winning the award in just 60 games?

On June 24th, Major League Baseball finally announced that the 2020 season would consist of just 60 games, starting July 24th.

Shortly after the announcement, the MLB futures were updated to reflect the new reality, including the Cy Young odds.

In the American League, Gerrit Cole – the New York Yankees’ prized offseason acquisition – was a sizable favorite when the odds originally opened back in February, and his odds have only gotten shorter.

2020 AL Cy Young Odds

Player Current AL Cy Young Odds Opening AL Cy Young Odds
Gerrit Cole (Yankees) +270 +300
Justin Verlander (Astros) +588 +1200
Shane Bieber (Indians) +588 +1600
Lucas Giolito (White Sox) +1050 +2500
Mike Clevinger (Indians) +1075 +1400
Blake Snell (Rays) +1100 +1200
Tyler Glasnow (Rays) +1125 +1600
Jose Berrios (Twins) +1425 +2500
Charlie Morton (Rays) +1475 +2500
Corey Kluber (Rangers) +1875 +1800
Zack Greinke (Astros) +1875 +1600
James Paxton (Yankees) +2375 +1600
Shohei Ohtani (Angels) +2500 +2500
Frankie Montas (Athletics) +2700 +3300
Carlos Carrasco (Indians) +3375 +4000
Hyun-Jin Ryu (Blue Jays) +3400 +3300
Lance Lynn (Rangers) +3500 +2500

Odds as of June 29.

A normal Cy Young race is a war of attrition. Unless a statistical marvel emerges, pitchers have to both stay healthy (make 30-plus starts) and post elite stats. But this year, the best-case scenario is 12 starts, and that’s if teams don’t go crazy with rotations of six or more.

Who Else Is Moving Up?

The recent shift in the AL Cy Young odds also saw Shane Bieber move up the board. The Cleveland ace opened at +1500, improved to +900 in April, and is now tied with Justin Verlander as second-favorite at +588.

The 60-game bump also helped Lucas Giolito, Jose Berrios, and Charlie Morton, as the trio sit comfortably in the top ten.

2020 MLB MVP Odds Tracker

Hot Starts Key in AL Cy Young Race

Assuming the favorites make 12 starts apiece, they will all count extra – about 2.5 times extra (compared to a 162-game season). A couple clunkers and you’re immediately out of contention.

So how did some of the top arms fare to start the season last year?

April 2019 Stats

Pitcher Starts Record ERA WHIP SO/9
Gerrit Cole 7 2-4 3.95 1.038 13.5
Justin Verlander 7 4-1 2.45 0.864 10.8
Shane Bieber 5 2-1 3.68 1.057 10.4
Lucas Giolito 4 2-1 5.30 1.339 11.1
Mike Clevinger 2 1-0 0.00 0.500 16.5

There are some interesting trends here. For instance, Cole’s worst two months in 2019? April and May. Repeating that could doom his AL Cy Young chances.

But with the season starting in July, those splits could be worthwhile too. Weather is a factor for all pitchers, and some more than others.

July 2019 Stats

Pitcher Starts Record ERA WHIP SO/9
Gerrit Cole 5 4-0 1.85 0.882 13.5
Justin Verlander 5 4-1 2.25 0.875 13.8
Shane Bieber 5 3-1 3.00 0.917 10.3
Lucas Giolito 5 0-3 5.65 1.395 11.0
Mike Clevinger 5 4-0 1.74 1.032 11.9

You’d be forgiven for feeling some uneasiness backing Giolito. He was streaky in 2019, showing flashes of greatness, while also looking like the guy who got knocked around in 2018.

 Avoid Injury Risks in 2020

It goes without saying, but health takes on added importance in a significantly shortened season.

That makes James Paxton a name to avoid.

Yes, his arsenal is enticing at +2375 and he should be fully healed from his February back surgery. He has a lengthy injury history though, and this wasn’t his first back injury.

The same can be said for Mike Clevinger. He was stellar in 2019, but battled multiple injuries and underwent knee surgery in February. He’s enjoying a great three-year stretch, but these are fair questions to ask when considering the AL Cy Young award.

While not injury prone, we’re fading Shohei Ohtani here too. The two-way superstar is expected to pick up where he left off at the plate in the upcoming 60-game season, but he hasn’t pitched since September of 2018.

New Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon even used the word “hopeful” when describing whether Ohtani would be read to pitch by Opening Day 2.0.

But even if he is ready, don’t expect 12 dominant performances out of Ohtani as he knocks off the rust.

Who to Back in AL Cy Young Chase

As he settles in with his new club, Cole’s lack of value and struggles last April have us backing off of the favorite.

So instead we turn our attention to Bieber and Jose Berrios.

Both are young by major league standards (25 and 26, respectively) and both have steadily improved. They also have big hitters in their lineup that could stake them to big leads. Like it or not, win/loss records still matter to some Cy Young voters.

The price definitely makes Berrios the more attractive buy here.

Bryan Thiel

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