Rays southpaw Shane McClanahan is the consensus favorite to win the 2022 American League Cy Young. The 25-year-old is priced around +200 at most sportsbooks. McClanahan has been dominant, leading the Majors in ERA and xERA after markedly increasing the strikeout rate and decreasing the walk rate from his underwhelming rookie campaign. The Rays have one of the best records in 2022 when it comes to opponents scoring a run in the first inning, only bested by the Phillies and the Dodgers.
McClanahan is certainly a deserving frontrunner in the AL Cy Young race, though bettors should exercise some skepticism at such a short price. His 110.2 inning pitched is quickly approaching his tally of 123.1 from 2021, which is the highest in his career, at any level. On top of that, a .245 BABIP allowed suggests that he’s ridden some luck thus far this season.
Just behind McClanahan in the eyes of the bookmakers is future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander of the Astros, whose odds of winning the award are as low as +270, at Caesars, BetMGM, and DraftKings.
Outside of the Tommy John surgery which limited him to a single appearance across 2020 and 2021, Verlander has no such durability concerns. Since his return to the mound this season, the 2011 and 2019 Cy Young winner has been back at his best, sitting behind only Kevin Gausman and McClanahan in fWAR.
Though Verlander has outperformed his xERA and FIP by a considerable margin and benefitted himself from some BABIP luck (.235), Verlander’s other underlying numbers, including a strikeout rate (26.1%) better than his career mark (24.7%) and a near-career-low walk rate (4.7%) are still strong. Plus, if the AL Cy Young race stays close, and Verlander maintains this level of performance, the narrative around his season will definitely work in his favor.
Again, he’s made just one start since 2019. There was understandably a lot of uncertainty about how effective Verlander would be in 2022. It’s safe to say he’s exceeded all expectations. Back in June, Verlander stopped the Yankees in a 15-game winning streak on home turf in a classic Yankees vs Astros game. Over several innings, Justin Verlander conceded only 4 hits and a single walk, leading them to a 3-1 victory.
While voters have leaned more heavily on analytics in recent years, a high win total and a big innings count in a comeback season will come into play. There’s value backing the nine-time All-Star to pick up a third Cy Young at +260.
Shohei Ohtani and Gerrit Cole slot in at third and fourth in the latest odds. Ohtani has been exceptional of late, allowing just two earned runs in his last six starts. He’s the owner of the second lowest xERA in the Majors and is as short as +600 (at Caesars) to win the award.
Cole, meanwhile, is down in 10tth in fWAR among AL starters. His numbers are still stellar, of course, but he’s not striking as many out as he did during his Astros peak, and has allowed more hard contact than expected, sitting in the 37th percentile in barrels allowed.
Ohtani is rightly the frontrunner to win AL MVP race, and his superlative performances on the mound are part of that case. He absolutely deserves to be in the Cy Young conversation. However, his pitching can be streaky, as evidenced by his three starts with four or more earned runs allowed in 2022.
As for Cole, his price is too short to be a good wager right now. He’s already 1.5 off the fWAR lead, and may not even end up as the best starter on his own team, given how Nestor Cortes is pitching.
The next two names in the betting are where the best value lies. Dylan Cease is +1100 at SugarHouse and BetMGM, while Gausman, the fWAR leader among AL starters, is +3000 with FanDuel and Caesars.
Gausman doesn’t have standout expected numbers, but he’s pitching with better command than ever before. His splitter-slider combination off of a mid-nineties fastball is tormenting hitters – to the tune of a 100th percentile mark in chase rate, and the AL lead in FIP. There’s definitely value here at such a long price since, unlike in eras past, his 6-7 record shouldn’t be a major factor for voters.
Where Gausman is building on a breakout in San Francisco last year, the White Sox’ Cease is enjoying his first year of elite performance. Cease leads the Majors in strikeouts, with a 2.15 ERA, and an xERA that trails only those of Ohtani and McClanahan, and has allowed just three earned runs across his last 10 starts.
Walks remain a problem for Cease (10.6% walk rate), but he ranks among the best pitchers in the sport in the quality of contact allowed. Upping the use of his slider – which is one of the nastiest pitches in the Majors – has worked out in a big way, as he’s currently got a massive 36.6% whiff rate. Add it all up, and that +1100 price looks awfully inviting.
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