The story in the American League this winter was about anything but pitching, minus questions about how many times Astros hitters will be plunked.
But that doesn’t mean sportsbooks aren’t preparing for what is likely to be a headline-grabbing Cy Young Award race that includes one clear front-runner but also a collection of pitchers ready to either reclaim or grab for the first time one of baseball’s highest honors.
Cole way in front, sportsbooks set specials
One former Astro to survive the sign-stealing scandal is right-handed Gerrit Cole, who signed a nine-year $324 million deal in the offseason with the New York Yankees. He is now the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history.
Sportsbooks believe that in year one Cole will live up to his momentous value.
It’s a prediction that follows a dominant 2019 campaign: 6.8 WAR, a 2.50 ERA, 212 innings pitched, a league-leading 326 strikeouts and a 0.89 WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched). His postseason was even better, featuring four wins and a 1.72 ERA.
His odds to win the 2020 AL Cy Young in 2020 range from +260 on 888sport and DraftKings, to +270 on FanDuel.
Cole’s upcoming season has even led to “Gerrit Cole Specials” on DK, including -139 for him to record 15 or more strikeouts in a game in 2020 and +2500 for Cole to record 20 or more K’s in a game.
Other bets on DK include Cole recording a no-hitter (+2000) and over/under season-long strikeout (273.5) and win (16.5) totals.
In comparison, FanDuel has his strikeout total at 280.5 and wins at 17.5, and less valuable bets on the same props presented by DK, including +1600 to throw a no-hitter.
Looking at the rest of the pack
Despite all that, Cole’s path to the Cy Young Award is all but assured.
Behind him in the sportsbooks are the last two AL Cy Young winners: Justin Verlander, who won in 2019, and Tampa Bay Ray Blake Snell, the 2018 winner.
It’s worth noting, however, that recent news indicates Verlander will start the season on the injured list following a mild lat strain. Still, DK has Verlander with its second-best odds, at +700, followed by the lefty Snell at +900.
FanDuel has taken a different approach behind Verlander (+850), going with another banged-up veteran in Chris Sale at +950, followed by Indians starter Shane Bieber (+1100), Snell (+1200), Rays’ number-two and number-three starters Tyler Glasnow (+1400) and Charlie Morton (+1500), and Indians’ pitcher Mike Clevinger (+1500).
What longshots could make a run?
One name that would provide bettors with major returns is Hyun-Jin Ryu, the runner-up in the 2019 National League Cy Young race after throwing 182 innings with the LA Dodgers and compiling a 2.32 ERA.
Ryu agreed to a four-year, $80 million contract in the offseason with the Toronto Blue Jays. The team change means Ryu will get much less exposure than he did on the West Coast, but the commanding, crafty lefty is likely to retain his pinpoint control and baffling arsenal that walked just 24 batters last year.
He sits at +4000 on DK and +5000 on FanDuel to win the AL Cy Young.
In addition, we all know that both bettors and voters like a good story.
In that vein, who would be a better story than two-way star Shohei Ohtani to dominate AL hitters in 2020?
Ohtani, who received Tommy John surgery in 2018, is expected to make his first start in mid-May, at which time he will look to build on the teasing relationship he has already given Americans, with his 97 mph fastball, strong hitting and blazing running speed.
His offense may not technically help him win the Cy Young, but it can’t hurt to be in the minds of voters more than once every five days. He sits at +5000 on both DK and FanDuel.