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This era of professional baseball is best known for the ‘all or nothing’ nature of every at-bat. For the fifth straight full season in Major League Baseball, strikeout totals reached the 40,000 mark, with more than 5,000 home runs being hit.
Compared to the height of the steroid era in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, home runs are up about 10%. Over the same period, strikeouts have increased by nearly 32%.
The pitching talent in modern baseball is one reason for the meteoric rise in strikeouts. Velocity is a measurable stat that outlines this well. In just six seasons, the number of pitchers with an average four-seam fastball speed of 98 mph or higher more than doubled, according to Statcast.
Fifty-seven players saw an increase of 0.5 mph or more on their fastball velocity from 2021 to ’22, up from 31 players the year before. So, not only are pitchers entering the league throwing harder, but they’re continuing to gain more pitch speed over time.
We’ll see if a reduction in time between pitches and the severity of infield shifts will impact hitters’ ability to combat this pitching arms race in Major League Baseball.
In this preview of 2023’s Cy Young awards, we’ll recap last year’s winners, look at the favorites and long shots in both the American and National Leagues, and cap it off with some best bets with Opening Day approaching fast.
Let's take a look at the current odds for both the NL and AL Cy Young awards from our partners over at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Latest Odds from FanDuel SportsBook
Latest Odds from FanDuel SportsBook
The American and National League Cy Young winners were unanimous selections in 2022. Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros won the AL award for the third time in his career, and Miami’s Sandy Alcantara was named the NL Cy Young winner for the first time.
This is only the second time since the awards have been given that both winners were unanimously chosen, according to a boston.com piece from November. The last time was in 1968 when Denny McClain (DET) and Bob Gibson (StL) became the first duo to accomplish this feat.
Verlander had returned from missing nearly two seasons and undergoing Tommy John surgery. He led all of baseball in wins (18), ERA (1.75), and WHIP (0.829), was named an All-Star for the ninth time in a career dating back to 2005, and won the Cy Young the second time as a Houston Astro.
The first happened in 2019. He famously won pitching’s Triple Crown in 2011, leading the MLB in wins, ERA, and strikeouts to sweep his first unanimous Cy Young award. He was named AL MVP that season as a member of the Detroit Tigers.
Alcantara received his second All-Star nod in 2022 and put on a throwback performance that included league-leading totals in innings pitched, batters faced, and complete games to go along with his 14-9 record and 2.28 ERA. Only Chris Sale (2016) and Clayton Kershaw (2014) have matched his six complete games within the last decade.
Verlander and Alcantara will battle it out for the NL award this season from the same division, with Verlander signing with the New York Mets in the offseason. Alcantara is the current favorite to repeat in the National League.
Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, the 2021 NL Cy Young winner, is among the favorites with Verlander’s teammate Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young winner. The Verlander-Scherzer one-two punch at the top of the Mets rotation will feature a combined age and salary of 78 years and more than $85 million in the 2023 season.
Former Met Jacob deGrom will seek to fill the void left by Verlander in the American League. The two-time NL Cy Young winner spent nine years in New York and signed a five-year, $185 million contract with the Texas Rangers in December.
He’s the favorite in the AL, followed by Gerrit Cole (NYY), Alek Manoah (TOR), Dylan Cease (CHW), 2020 AL-winner Shane Bieber (CLE), and Yankees free-agent signee Carlos Rodón. In the offseason, New York spent $162 million to pry the two-time All-Star out of San Francisco.
We’d be remiss not to mention Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. The impending free agent and 2021 AL MVP set career bests in wins, ERA, innings, strikeouts, and WHIP in 2022 while also belting 35 home runs. He’s considered a top contender for the AL Cy Young this season, in addition to his annual MVP candidacy.
On the American League side, Framber Valdez looks set to assume the top spot in the Astros rotation in 2023. His odds are around the tenth-best in the AL after leading the league in innings in 2022 and winning 17 games.
New York Yankee Nestor Cortes was 9th in AL Cy Young balloting last season. He finished with a 2.44 ERA and notched 4.2 WAR, fifth among AL pitchers.
Lance Lynn of the White Sox is 40-1 after finishing third in 2021’s Cy Young race. He’s posted a 3.26 ERA over two seasons in Chicago. His teammate Michael Kopech returns from a knee injury that derailed his best pro season in 2022. Kopech has said he’d be ready for Opening Day.
In the National League, Julio Urias is 20-1 despite finishing third in the 2022 voting. After leading the NL in ERA, he signed a $14.25 million arbitration deal in the offseason.
Merrill Kelly of the Diamondbacks was top 25 in the majors in wins and strikeouts in 2022 while posting a career-best 3.5 WAR. He’s a 50-1 long shot this season in the first year of a two-year deal worth $18 million that was signed last April.
Rookie Kodai Senga of the Mets, four-time All-Star reliever Josh Hader, and three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw are all listed at 50-1 odds or longer.
Though there are a ton of solid arms to choose from, we employed a selective approach to our best bets process for the Cy Young award in each league. Check them out!
Two pieces of underlying logic go into this play. First, the last player to win a Cy Young Award in their first year with a team was the great Roy Halladay in 2010 for the Phillies. This anecdote leads us to steer clear of the favorite deGrom and the new Yankee, Rodón.
Second, team record is becoming less and less of a factor in voting. Alcantara won last year with his team going 69-93, and the White Sox are projected to finish around .500 in 2023.
A season after finishing runner-up in the NL Cy Young race, Fried is primed to win. The lanky lefty has an ERA of 2.68 in over 400 innings since 2020. In addition, he’s got the extra incentive of being in another contract year after signing a 1-year, $13.5 million deal this offseason.
He has not played on a multi-year contract since his big league career began, and we expect him to build a strong case for entering free agency as a reigning Cy Young winner in 2024.
The MLB season is two weeks old, and there has already been some movement to the Cy Young award odds after teams have gone through their rotations multiple times.
In the American League, Shohei Ohtani (+600), Luis Castillo (+1200), Cristian Javier (+4000), and Framber Valdez (+2500) are among the risers on the list. Ohtani is seventh in the majors in strikeouts, Castillo has yet to give up a home run, and Valdez has allowed just four earned runs through 19 innings of work.
Carlos Rodón (+3500) and Alek Manoah (+8000) have dropped from this AL contender list. Manoah has worked 14 ⅔ innings and allowed eight earned runs across three starts, while Rodón likely won’t see the field until mid-May as he rehabs a forearm strain on his throwing arm.
On the National League side, Spencer Strider (+700), Julio Urias (+750), and Zac Gallen (+850) have had it going early in the season and are among the favorites at this early stage. Strider is right up there with Sandy Alcantara (+1000) atop the list and leads the league with 27 strikeouts, while Gallen got beat up in two road starts but recovered with a scoreless outing in his first win of the season over seven innings.
Atlanta’s Max Fried (+1500) and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes (+1800) have not gotten off to the start they hoped for. Fried left early in his first game due to a hamstring injury that will keep him out for another few weeks, and Burnes had given up ten earned runs in 9 ⅓ innings of work before hurling eight shutout innings in his first win of the season against the Diamondbacks.
We’ll continue monitoring the performance of these top candidates as the 2023 season matures...
In contrast with the MVP awards, we have ourselves a couple of good old-fashioned pitcher’s duels in the Cy Young races this season.
Starting on the American League side, Houston’s Framber Valdez (+245) and New York’s Gerrit Cole (+250) are 1a and 1b on the list. Valdez has shot up the odds list on the strength of a career year in which he’s top three among AL starters in WAR, ERA, and innings and ranks fifth in strikeouts. Cole tops all pitchers with 4.0 WAR while leading the AL in innings pitched and posting a 2.78 ERA.
The two arms giving chase are Kevin Gausman (+360) and Shane McClanahan (+475). Gausman, the Blue Jays ace, is overpowering hitters and leads the AL with 153 Ks and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Tampa’s McClanahan leads all of baseball with 11 wins and a 2.53 ERA.
As for the National League, Spencer Strider (+210) is pitted against Zac Gallen (+250) in a tight race with the red-hot Blake Snell (+550) and Logan Webb (+750) within range. Strider is blowing away batters at an unparalleled clip in 2023 (14.3 SO/9) and leads the NL with 11 wins. Gallen is tied for that league lead in wins for a pleasantly surprising Diamondbacks club.
San Diego’s Snell is 5-1 with 91 strikeouts in 58 innings over his last 10 starts, leading the league in punchouts during that stretch. To close out the NL, Webb is one of 14 pitchers to throw a shutout in 2023, and he leads the NL in pitching WAR on the season.
No sport is more passionate about its history than baseball. Because of that, it pays for baseball bettors to study up on their MLB history. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions that we get about the Cy Young Award.
Have a question related to the Cy Young Award that you'd like to see answered in this section? Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]
The first-ever Cy Young award was won by Don Newcombe, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1956. However, it's worth noting that the first Cy Young awards were given out in both the American League and National League that year, and the winner of the first-ever National League Cy Young award was Don Drysdale, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The player who has won the most Cy Young awards in baseball history is Roger Clemens, who won the award a total of seven times during his career. Clemens won the award in 1986, 1987, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001, and 2004. However, it's worth noting that there is some controversy surrounding Clemens' legacy, as he was later accused of using performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
Cy Young was a legendary American baseball player and pitcher who played from 1890 to 1911. He was born Denton True Young on March 29, 1867, in Gilmore, Ohio, and received his famous nickname "Cy" due to his hometown being located near the town of Cyclone, Ohio. Young played for five different teams during his career, but he is most closely associated with the Cleveland Spiders and the Boston Red Sox. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball, and he holds numerous records that still stand today, including the all-time record for career wins with 511. In honor of his achievements, the Cy Young Award was established in 1956 to honor the best pitchers in Major League Baseball each season.
Yes, it has happened a few times in baseball history that a player has won both the Cy Young Award and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award in the same year.
The first player to accomplish this feat was Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. Since then, a total of 11 players have won both awards in the same season. The other players to achieve this are:
It's worth noting that in some years, a pitcher may have won the MVP Award without winning the Cy Young Award, or vice versa.
The team that has had the most Cy Young award winners in Major League Baseball history is the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a total of 12 different pitchers winning the award a combined 13 times. The Dodgers' Cy Young winners include Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Eric Gagne, Clayton Kershaw, and others.
The Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants are tied for second place, with seven different pitchers from each team winning the award a total of nine times. Other teams with multiple Cy Young award winners include the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cleveland Indians, among others.