July Update on the 2021 NL Cy Young Race

By Anthony Haage in MLB
| July 14, 2021 5:41 am PDT

With the 201 MLB season at the halfway point, the Cy Young race looks done in the NL. Jacob deGrom almost has it won already, but several players are technically still in contention.

In this post, I break down the top 15 players in the race according to the odds and identify which ones represent the best bets.

Jacob deGrom (-1000)

Jacob deGrom is the extreme favorite for the NL Cy Young at the halfway point and is even the front runner for the NL MVP.

He’s having a remarkable season, and if you bet on him for the Cy Young before the year started, you’re feeling really good right now.

He has pitched 92 innings so far this season to a league-leading ERA of 1.08. He also leads the league in K/9 and strikeout percentage at an insane 14.28 K/9 and 45.1% K rate. He is steamrolling MLB hitters and even minor league hitters when he was down for a rehab start.

deGrom is allowing a minuscule batting average against him of .125, and he also has a 0.54 WHIP. He does not give away freebies at all with walks. His 3.4% walk rate is barely the second-lowest in the league, just behind Zach Eflin, who has a walk rate of 3.3%.

The 2018 NL Cy Young winner has yet to have a start this season where he gives up more than 3 runs. He has 12 out of 15 of his starts with 1 run or less given up. His SIERA is also a league-low 1.71, a mile lower than the next highest (Carlos Rodon 2.82).

deGrom should be able to easily win the Cy Young this season barring
a miracle.

If you want to root for deGrom in a bet, I recommend the MVP vote, where he is +105 instead of -1000.

Of course, if there is anything that betting tells us, it is that what seems impossible can always happen. If something were to happen to deGrom, like a long-term injury, it would open the door to the rest of the NL pitchers for this award.

Brandon Woodruff (+1500)

Brandon Woodruff is tied for next in line when it comes to favorites for the NL Cy Young. He is having an excellent season for the first-place Brewers and deserves a lot of credit.

He has the 4th lowest ERA in the MLB and a 7-4 record to go with it. Woodruff should be able to reach 15-18 wins easily this season, with his ability to pitch after the 5th inning and a great bullpen behind him.

Woodruff has the 8th lowest SIERA in the MLB, but his BABIP is very low at .205; second lowest in the league behind teammate Freddy Peralta (.182).

Players can have a very low BABIP because they are inducing soft contact, which is exactly what Woodruff is doing. His soft percentage is the 3rd highest in the league at 22.5%, and his hard percentage is 26.5%, which is the 7th lowest in the league.

Along with being able to induce soft contact, he can also strike batters out. He has a K/9 of 10.48, and that is a truly killer combination. He has 14 out of his 17 starts with 2 runs or less given up.

If Woodruff were in the AL, his odds would be way lower.

Kevin Gausman (+1500)

The Giants and Gausman lead the NL West, one of the toughest divisions in baseball. The Giants and their defense have brought them to the forefront of their division, even with powerhouses in San Diego and Los Angeles.

Gausman has a brilliantly low ERA of 1.74 in his 108.2 innings pitched so far this season. His ERA is second-lowest in the league behind deGrom. Gausman looks to have revitalized his career as his ERA is way below his career ERA of 4.01.

In 15 of his 17 starts, he has given up 2 runs or less, and righties can’t touch him (.132 batting average for righties against Gausman).

The Giants made an absolute burglary when they made the qualifying offer to Gausman and he accepted it.

Advanced statistics for Gausman imply that his revival is legit, too. His expected ERA is 2.70. Although it is higher than his actual ERA, it’s unlikely that he keeps it that low all year. He is barely allowing hitters to get a piece of him with a .156 batting average against him.

His SIERA is 14th lowest in the league (3.33), which isn’t an ideal thing for Cy Young betting, but it’s still impressive.

Zach Wheeler (+1800)

Someone who has a better SIERA than Gausman is Wheeler. Wheeler’s SIERA sits at 3.01, which is the 6th lowest in the league.

He also has a great ERA of 2.26, 10.91 K/9 (highest of his career), and 1.96 BB/9 (lowest of his career) in his 18 starts (119.2 innings) this season.

His 6-5 record is more of an implication on the Phillies as a whole, not Wheeler specifically. His batted ball percentages are amazing as well, with the second-highest soft percentage at 22.6%, just behind Ryan Yarbrough’s 22.8%. His 23.0% hard percentage is the lowest in the league.

These numbers imply good things in the future for Wheeler.

Corbin Burnes (+2000)

Corbin Burnes had the record for most strikeouts without a walk for a short while, right before Gerrit Cole beat him out. Burnes had an incredible streak of 58 strikeouts without a walk, which set an MLB record.  

His advanced statistics also imply that his 2.36 ERA should be even lower (expected ERA at 1.68).  He is giving up the 6th lowest batted ball, hard percentage in the league at 26.4% (among pitchers who have pitched 80+ innings).

Burnes is blossoming into one of the best pitchers in the league and is fitting right into Milwaukee’s stellar starting rotation.

In 11 of his 15 starts, Burnes has given up two runs or less. His K/9 is second best in the league, right behind Jacob deGrom at 13.14.

Yu Darvish (+2500)

Darvish is having a great season since being traded to San Diego. He has a shining ERA of 2.65 and a 7-3 record in 17 starts (102 innings).

He was dominant in 2020 for the Cubs, but they opted to get some prospects and Zach Davies in return for Darvish, who threw to an ERA of 2.01 that season.

Darvish has tons of pitches he can utilize, and he has never had a K/9 lower than 10.00 in his 9 seasons in the MLB. In 13 of his 18 starts, he has given up two runs or less.

He also has reverse splits when it comes to righties and lefties. Lefties are hitting worse than righties against him (.194 versus .228). Darvish’s 3.30 SIERA is also 13th lowest in the MLB.

He should continue to have a great season for the Padres, and his +2500 price is deGrom’s fault more than anything else.

Walker Buehler (+3500)

Buehler has a 2.49 ERA in his 17 starts (108.1 innings) this season. His K/9 are the lowest of his career, and his ERA is the lowest of his career.

  • His 8.4% barrel rate is 22nd highest in the MLB, which is not good, but he has given up less than 3 runs in 12 of his 17 starts.
  • His expected ERA is 3.54, which is significantly higher than his actual ERA.
  • His BABIP is lower than his career BABIP (.232 versus .260).

Buehler may not be in for such a successful second half. It would be hard for him to win the Cy Young when his advanced statistics imply a tough road ahead.

Max Scherzer (+3500)

Scherzer finds himself in the Cy Young discussion every year. The three-time award winner finds himself at +3500 odds this season. Besides the fact that Scherzer gave up a Slam Diego to a Padre’ relief pitcher, he has been having a great season.

  • He has a 2.66 ERA with 7 wins and 4 losses in his 17 starts.
  • He has given up 2 runs or less in 14 out of those 17 starts.

An odd parallel to his 2017 Cy Young season is his fastball velocity is the same. The 36-year-old can still throw hard and effectively at a 4-seam fastball velocity of 94.3, the same as in 2017.

A bad sign for him is that he is giving up the 5th highest barrel rate in the MLB at 10.3%. Scherzer needs to find a way to stop getting barreled up, but other than that, he’s been great.

He could have a shot at his 4th Cy Young award if he stays steady throughout the rest of the year and deGrom slows down.

Jack Flaherty (+5000)

Jack Flaherty has only pitched 62 innings so far this season due to his oblique injury. He is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break, but he’s going to have to dominate in order to have a chance at the Cy Young.

He has a 2.90 ERA in his 11 starts this season with an outstanding record of 8-1. His 8 wins are tied for 8th most in the entire league, even though he has thrown for almost 30 fewer innings than everyone above him.

If Flaherty were to keep up this pace of wins in the second half, that might boost his chances of winning the Cy Young.

This could all come down to how he performs after returning from injury and if his ERA can stay this low. He has an expected ERA at 4.58, and that would be lucky.

He might not be so fortunate in the second half. He is an extremely risky option at this point in the season.

Freddy Peralta (+5000)

Freddy Peralta is having a breakout season. He has an impressive K/9 at 12.16 and is the 7th highest in the MLB. An interesting note about Peralta is that his BABIP is the lowest in the entire league at .173, beating out his teammate Brandon Woodruff in that category.

He has an outstanding ERA at 2.23, and his expected ERA checks out at 2.56. He has only given up more than 2 runs twice in his 16 starts. He’s proven himself this season, and the Brewers are reaping the rewards.

Peralta can be a great dark horse pick for the Cy Young this season if he can stay at his current pace.

His BABIP will be the main thing to keep an eye on; it will not benefit him if it stays below the .200 mark for an entire season. His 3.44 SIERA is 16th in the league as well, so Peralta could be an interesting player to bet on for this award race.

Trevor Rogers (+5000)

Rogers got rocked in his first season in the MLB (ERA at 6.11), but he righted the ship this season. He has a great ERA of 2.22 and is looking more like the player the Marlins drafted #13 overall in 2017.

Still only 23 years old, Rogers’ career averages are probably not close to what they will be by the end of his career.

  • His K/9 is above average at 10.91.
  • His 5.5% barrel rate is 8th best in the entire league.
  • Rogers has yet to have a start where he allows more than 3 runs and have less than 5 strikeouts.

The Marlins should be excited about Trevor Rogers and his potential to take a win in the Cy Young race.

Trevor Bauer (+5500)

Bauer’s odds would have looked way different if he wasn’t placed on administrative leave. It looks like Bauer’s investigation is going to take a while, and his leave has already been extended another 7 days.

Last year’s NL Cy Young winner could still get suspended if he doesn’t face criminal charges.

Bauer was pitching to an ERA of 2.59 this season but was getting barreled more than any other pitcher in the league at 10.6%. If you were to place a bet on Bauer, you would need many things to happen for him to win.

He would first have to return from administrative leave in a very quick fashion and avoid any suspension charges. He would have to focus on avoiding barrels when or if he returns to the lineup.

Bad news for bettors who picked him for Cy Young before the season began.

Joe Musgrove (+7000)

Joe Musgrove threw the first no-hitter in San Diego Padres history and ended their streak of being the only team without a no-hitter in the MLB. Besides the no-hitter, Musgrove has still been impressive for the Padres.

  • He has a 2.97 ERA in his 94 innings pitched this season.
  • He has a record of 5-6, which does not represent how well he has pitched this season.
  • His expected ERA is also in a good range for him at 3.29.
  • He has given up 10 of his 31 runs in his last two starts, but he’s been solid overall.
  • His K/9 is also pretty good at 10.53.

Musgrove may need a couple more no-hitters to win the Cy Young. Even then, he may not even beat out his teammate Yu Darvish in the race for the award.

Clayton Kershaw (+7000)

The three-time Cy Young winner and one-time MVP finds himself as a long shot to win the Cy Young again this season. Kershaw was just placed on the IL with a forearm injury, and the Dodgers will be without another starting pitcher.

  • The 33-year-old has a 3.39 ERA this season with a 9-7 record in 18 starts.
  • 10 of those starts saw him give up 2 runs or less.

Kershaw’s advanced statistics imply he should have been performing better than he actually was. His expected ERA was lower than his actual ERA (3.39 versus 3.03).

He would have to return from injury quickly and dominate like his usual self to have a shot at the award this season.

Ian Anderson (+8500)

The young Braves pitcher finds himself as the 15th most favorited for the NL Cy Young award.

In his 32.1 innings pitched last year, he pitched to an impressive ERA of 1.95, but this season his ERA jumped to 3.27, which is probably more likely to what kind of pitcher he is.

  • He has given up 3 runs or less in 12 of his 17 starts, and has never given up more than 4 runs in a start.
  • He has also been better on the road than at home with a 2.57 ERA away and 4.03 ERA at home.
  • His expected ERA is higher than his actual ERA at 3.88, so he may be getting a little lucky so far this season.

The former #3 overall pick is still only in his second season, and he may be too much of a long shot to win the Cy Young this season. The Braves should be excited for his future, though, as he can sharpen his skills and potentially win a Cy Young later down the road.

Betting on the 2021 NL Cy Young Race

Safest Bet

  • Jacob deGrom (-1000)

Hopefully, you placed a bet on deGrom before the season started because he’s dominating the MLB right now. There is no other pitcher in the MLB who is even close to him in the odds leaderboards, and he even leads the NL MVP odds.

deGrom is having an unreal season, and it would be an extremely risky decision to pick someone else to win this season. It is disappointing to see that one person is dominating the NL Cy Young race, but it’s also amazing to see how well deGrom is doing.

Possible Winners at Great Odds

  • Brandon Woodruff (+1500)
  • Corbin Burnes (+2000)
  • Yu Darvish (+2500)

If you dare to pick someone other than Jacob deGrom this season, these three players have highly profitable odds.

The Brewers’ pitchers are having incredible seasons, and they could find themselves closer to the top if they keep up this pace. Darvish is no joke either in San Diego, and he could be a great underdog option if deGrom slows down or misses time.

Dark Horses

  • Max Scherzer (+3500)
  • Freddy Peralta (+5000)

Scherzer probably wasn’t expected to be a dark horse coming into this season, but here we are. He still has tremendous talent and is a top pitcher in the MLB whenever he is on the mound. He can finish closer to the top this season again.

Peralta is having an outstanding breakout season and is another Brewers pitcher on this list.

The Brewers starting pitching has been dominant and it’s no surprise they have so many pitchers in the Cy Young race. If he stays the course, he may surprise us all and snag the award away from the others.

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