MLB AL CY Young Odds Update: Justin Verlander Now Leads a Crowded Field

Justin Verlander now leads a crowded field for the Cy Young Award. Ryan Kirksey breaks down the candidates' updated odds for the MLB American League Cy Young Award.
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MLB AL CY Young Odds Update: Justin Verlander Now Leads a Crowded Field

Justin Verlander is now leading the way in the MLB American League Cy Young Award race. He has taken over from Gerrit Cole. But a few pitchers are on Verlander's heels. We break down the latest MLB AL Cy Young odds.

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Kevin Gausman Cy Young Odds: (+1000, Previous: Unranked) (Bet $100 to win $1000)

Gausman comes charging into the Cy Young conversation as one of the most dominant AL pitchers in the early part of the season. Among all AL qualified pitchers, Gausman ranks first in innings pitched, second in strikeouts, sixth in ERA, and first in walk rate. He has not allowed a single walk all season and his xFIP (1.60) shows that he should have an ERA better than the one that is already elite (2.27).

As a newcomer to the AL and the American League East, there was a lot of conversation about how he would fit in after his breakout year with San Francisco in 2021. Facing the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays on a regular basis is a tough gig. But Gausman is taking advantage of the depressed run environment and is putting up the best strikeout rate and ERA of his career.

The scary thing is his BABIP allowed is an unusually high .383, so his luck could get even better over the course of the season. He is certainly worth a few units being thrown his way as it's clear the AL is giving him no problems.

Gerrit Cole Cy Young Odds: (+900, Previous: +450) (Bet $100 to win $900)

At this stage of the season, even just the slightest drop from expected or previous production can lengthen your odds do double their previous levels in a matter of a couple of weeks. Cole's numbers look good-not-great to start the year. The 3.00 ERA is fantastic, but the 10.1 K/9 and 3.75 BB/9 are all out of line with previous seasons.

There are signs of life for Cole, however. His flyball rate is down seven percentage points from last year so even though his HR/FB rate is up a tick, he is still only at 1.13 home runs allowed per nine innings. The fastball and slider are as fast as ever, so the average start may just be attributed to the increase in walks.

The Yankees lead Major League Baseball in wins which means Cole is likely going to be part of this discussion throughout the entire season if they keep up this pace. It won't take much improvement for these odds to start shortening again. I have him a tier below a couple of players on this list, but he might even make for a better betting case now at +900 with decent numbers than he did at +450 with no data yet.

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Dylan Cease Cy Young Odds: (+900, Previous: +3000) (Bet $100 to win $900)

In the last version of this column, Dylan Cease was coming in around +3000 and was my Longshot Pick to bet for the AL Cy Young. I hope you were paying attention, because he has shot up from outside the top six candidates to being tied for third, just slightly behind the top two. I'm here to tell you, I think he is going to climb even higher.

As much as I dig into Cease's numbers in his five starts this year, I can only really find a couple of small nits to pick in his performance. First, his BABIP allowed is .250 which is under the league average (.286) but not by a crazy amount. Second, his HR/FB rate is a minuscule 3.7%, which will likely go up. But he is giving up fewer fly balls this year than in year's past.

Everything else is trending in the right direction. Walk rate, strikeout rate, groundball rate, first-pitch strike rate, contact rate, and hard-hit rate are all better than in previous seasons. If he maintains his current 4/1 strikeout to walk ratio, this is a player who is going to be in the thick of the Cy Young race all the way to the end. There is still time to buy in at this level, but the window is closing.

Shane Bieber Cy Young Odds: (+800, Previous: +800) (Bet $100 to win $800)

Bieber holds steady in the odds as oddsmakers and bettors wait to see if some of the early-season success is for real, especially considering some of the underlying metrics. Bieber only has a 1-1 record on the year, but his ERA is at 2.45 and he isn't walking anyone at all. But some analysts think those numbers are a mirage and might crumble at some point. Count me as one of them.

Bieber's K/9 has fallen from a career 11.19 to just 8.90 this season. Much of that is due to the velocity on fastball and changeup. His fastball clocks in at 91.4 mph this season, down from 92.9 mph last season and 94.3 in 2020. His changeup is down more than a full mile per hour as well. He also is allowing fewer ground balls and more flyballs than las year, which is a dangerous combination. Now allowing over 40% flyballs, it's flirting with danger considering the swing-for-the-fences mentality taking over MLB.

I'm much higher on Cease and Verlander than Bieber for the balance of the year. He may right the ship and get his advanced numbers to line up with his baseball card stats, but I think Bieber will end up being more "good" than "elite" this year.

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Justin Verlander Cy Young Odds: (+800, Previous: +2000) (Bet $100 to win $800)

Verlander is the second holdover from the last iteration of this piece who has seen their odds shorten significantly in the past three weeks. It makes sense seeing how his 1.73 ERA is fourth-best in the league and his fastball velocity is back over 95 mph post-injury.

In the first look at these odds before the season began, I postulated that perhaps "with two years of rest on his 39-year-old arm, he may be able to reach back and give us a vintage performance despite being up there in age." Verlander is proving to be ageless at this point and is showing no ill effects from the Tommy John surgery that kept him out most of the last year and a half. Knowing that the Astros are likely making the playoffs, oddsmakers are quickly shortening his odds as he builds an early case that he is still the best pitcher in the AL. He also still presents a buying opportunity as part of this tightly-bunched group. But I count Verlander as one of just a few pitchers I expect to separate from the pack as the season moves forward.

MLB AL Cy Young Odds Update

PlayerOddsPrevious Odds
Gerrit Cole+450+900
Justin Verlander+800+2000
Shane Bieber+800+800
Dylan Cease+900+3000
Kevin Gausman+1000Unranked

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Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.

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