American League Cy Young Award Odds

The Best of the AL Pitchers: AL Cy Young Odds

The name Cy Young fills baseball’s record books on two counts: Young himself was one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and the award for the best pitcher in every season is named in his honor. In a Hall of Fame career from 1890-1911, Young won a record 511 games in Cleveland, St. Louis, and Boston. Following Young’s 1955 death, the Cy Young Award has been given annually to the best pitcher in baseball. Since 1967, it has been awarded to the best pitcher in each the National and American League.

Multiple winners in the American League are rarer than one would expect. Roger Clemens, the most awarded pitcher overall, won six in the American League (Boston 3, Toronto 2, Yankees 1) and an additional one in the National League. Jim Palmer won three with the Orioles. Pedro Martinez won two in Boston (and one in the NL). Corey Kluber won two in Cleveland, Denny McLain two in Detriot, Bret Saberhagen a pair in KC, and Johan Santana doubled up in Minnesota. Overall, the Red Sox claim seven awards, the Orioles six, the Yankees, Tigers, A’s and Indians five each.

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Starters are Much More Likely to get the Cy Nod

The award has generally been given to a starting pitcher. The birth of the award preceded the evolution of the closer role and relief specialization by a decade. From the mid-70s to the early 2010s, there was also an award specifically for relievers. Only nine times in 118 awards, and only four times in the American League, has a reliever won the award.

Generally, a reliever must have an outstanding season in a year when no starter rises to exceptional level. The four AL relievers to have taken home a Cy are Rollie Fingers for the Brewers, Tiger Willie Hernandez, A’s Dennis Eckersley, and Yankee Sparky Lyle.

Performance and Votes Both Matter in the Award

In some years, the Cy Young winner is an obvious choice. Pedro Martinez put up two of the best seasons in modern baseball in in 1999 and 2000, going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 18-6 at 1.74 respectively. Sometimes two or three pitchers have outstanding seasons and it comes down to the voting, as in 2019 when Astros’ hurler Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA, 300 K) outpaced his teammate Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50, 326) by a mere twelve points in the voting. In other years, it takes a deeper dive into the stats to determine the winner.

Felix Hernandez toiled often in vain for a mediocre Seattle club for much of his career. In 2010, he went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts and a 105.7 WHIP in 249.2 innings. Even with a paltry 13 wins and a record just over .500, he was the overwhelming choice of the voters, besting David Price (19-6/2.72/188/1.193/208.2) and CC Sabathia (21-7/3.18/197/1.191/237.2).

Yet wins were the flavor du jour in 1990 when Bob Welch posted 27 wins, the most in the bigs since Steve Carlton’s 27 in 1972. Welch (27-6/2.95/127/1.223/238.0) had a WAR of only 2.9 that season, less than Clemens’ 10.4 (21-6/1.93/209/1.082/228.1) as well as the other five pitchers who received Cy Young votes.

2020 AL Cy Young Odds

Entering the 2020 season, the betting favorites for the 2020 American League Cy Young Award are 2019 runner-up Gerrit Cole of the Yankees (+300), Red Sox ace Chris Sale (+600), 2018 winner Blake Snell of the Rays (+1200), and 2019 winner Verlander (+1200). Longer shots to keep an eye on include Indians Mike Clevinger (+1400) and Shane Bieber (+1600), Ray Tyler Glasnow (+1600) and White Sox Lucas Giolito (+2500).