A little more than a month ago, Tampa Bay left-handed pitcher Shane McClanahan had an 11-1 record and a snazzy 2.12 ERA, and he was atop the odds board to win the American League Cy Young award in 2023.
Then, in late June, he suffered mid-back tightness in a game vs. Kansas City, wound up on the 15-day IL on July 1, and didn’t pitch again until after the All-Star break.
Houston lefty Framber Valdez then evolved into the unanimous favorite in early July with his then-MLB-best ERA of 2.49, before seeing his production slip thanks to an ankle injury that caused him to forgo his start in the All-Star Game.
Now surging to the top of the betting board is New York Yankees star right-hander Gerrit Cole, who was the preseason co-favorite at +700 to win the award with now-injured Texas righty Jacob deGrom.
But those aren’t the only guys who are having strong seasons. Toronto’s Kevin Gausman and Texas’ Nathan Eovaldi are solidly in the running for the trophy, too.
And there remain a couple of pitchers with long odds who seem to have great value for bettors. More on them later.
Odds to Win 2023 American League Cy Young
|Kevin Gausman||Blue Jays||+600||+550||+550|
Cy Young Voting Background
As mentioned in previous analyses, when it comes to Cy Young voting, what seems to attract the eye of Baseball Writers’ Association of America members are win totals. Over the previous 12 years, the AL honor has gone to a pitcher who had the most victories or tied for the most.
As of this update, three AL pitchers have 11 victories (McClanahan, teammate Zach Eflin, and Eovaldi), tied for the MLB lead.
2023 Cy Young Favorites
Gerrit Cole, Yankees (+180, DraftKings)
Cole is 9-2 for a team that’s 44-45 when he’s not on the mound. His ERA of 2.78 is second-best in the league. And he never comes out of games early, throwing at least 90 pitches in 20 of his 21 starts. In the other, he had 80.
Two other aspects of his game also have been impressive: He’s giving up far fewer homers than last season, and of his four starts this season with 10-plus strikeouts, two have come since the All-Star break.
He must have recharged with seven days between starts over that time.
This season he’s thrown only 13 home run balls over 129.1 innings. Last year in 219 innings, he yielded 36, including three in the postseason. That was just two off tying for the MLB gopher-ball lead.
Of course, these days with such short odds the betting value is minimal.
Framber Valdez, Astros (+500, FanDuel)
Valdez, who is 8-6, was a +2000 preseason choice but was listed at +200 a week and a half ago.
But in his past four starts with the ankle issue, he’s had an ERA of 5.79 and has seen his overall earned-run number jump to 2.94, which slots him only fourth in the league. But the six-year veteran did match a career high with 13 Ks in 6.1 innings vs. the Angels on July 15.
In those recent starts, he has yielded at least four earned runs three times, including four on Friday to the league’s worst-hitting team, Oakland. In his first 15 starts this year, he had one such game.
And on top of the sprained right ankle, he’s also been dealing with a cramping issue with the right calf.
His next start is tentatively set for Wednesday against Texas, the AL’s top-hitting team.
Shane McClanahan, Rays (+500, FanDuel)
Despite not earning a victory since June 16, he’s one of the three AL pitchers tied for the league lead. His 2.89 ERA is a notch better than Valdez’s.
Since McClanahan came off the IL, he’s made two starts — one good, one dreary.
Last Monday he showed his pre-injury form by holding high-octane Texas to three hits and two earned runs in six innings. But he didn’t get a decision in a 3-2 loss.
Then, on Saturday, he was a 6-5 loser at home to Baltimore, yielding a season-high five earned runs in only four innings. If there was sort of a silver lining, it was that he lasted 86 pitches, his most in a game since getting hurt.
Until he strings together a couple of strong outings, steering clear of him for now seems the right thing to do.
Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays (+550, DraftKings, PointsBet)
Gausman, 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA, has been a workhorse for the Jays, with an average of 99.6 pitches in his 20 starts.
His current claim to fame is his 12 strikeouts per nine innings norm, which is tops among AL starters. That’s up from an average of 10.6 his previous two seasons.
Since a three-game slump of sorts in mid-June, he has snapped back with four solid outings in which he had an ERA of 2.79. But his record hasn’t reflected that type of success because the Blue Jays went scoreless in two of those games, dropping his record from 7-3.
With Toronto having the third-best hitting team in the AL, that recent non-support from the offense isn’t likely to continue.
Nathan Eovaldi, Rangers (+800, DraftKings)
Eovaldi (11-3) opened as a +7000 pick to win Cy Young honors and has steadily climbed the betting boards.
Raising eyebrows is his league-best 2.69 ERA, which is remarkable since he never had a number lower than 3.33 in his 12-year career.
But reports mentioned that he had a noticeable drop in his velocity in his recent outing and that he would skip his next scheduled start. Hmm.
It won’t help Eovaldi’s run support with Corey Seager (second on the oddsboards for AL MVP) going on the IL with a sprained thumb and American League RBI leader Adolis Garcia getting hit with a pitch on his right hand Saturday. He sat out Sunday’s game.
Longshots to Consider for AL Cy Young in 2023
Zach Eflin, Rays (+15000, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet)
These odds seem wildly high for a guy tied for the MLB in wins (11-5) and who has a respectable 3.36 ERA.
If his last outing is an indication, he might have a strong finish on the horizon.
On Saturday, he held AL East-leading Baltimore to two hits in seven innings of a 3-0 victory. It was Tampa Bay’s only triumph in the four-game home series.
He’s worth keeping an eye on.
Felix Bautista, Orioles (+10000, FanDuel)
Baustista, who leads the league with 28 saves, has a 0.92 ERA and an outrageous average of 17.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
He’s got a chance — though remote — of becoming the first relief pitcher since 2003 to win a Cy Young when the Dodgers’ Eric Gagne had 55 saves and a 1.20 ERA.
AL Cy Young Odds FAQ
Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 season. He had 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA.
Boston’s Pedro Martinez received the award in 1999 and 2000.