MLB picks: Why Justin Verlander is better Cy Young bet than Dylan Cease ahead of Tuesday showdown

The 2022 Major League Baseball season has roughly seven weeks to go and while the most important item to track would be the standings, the individual awards are pretty fun in their own right. We looked at the MVP races in each league last weekso now let’s take a look at the Cy Young races.

All odds via Caesars Sportsbook as of Aug. 16.

American League

Top five favorites

Before we dive into where we stand, we should note that the Astros-White Sox game Tuesday night pits the top two favorites against each other. That should be fun.

Verlander is 15-3 with a 1.85 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 134 strikeouts against 24 walks in 136 innings. He’s coming off Tommy John surgery, is 39 years old and has won two Cy Youngs. He’s a future Hall of Famer. Yeah, I think all that matters, even if just a little bit and even if some voters wouldn’t admit that it subconsciously pulls them in his direction.

Cease is close behind in ERA and is second in the AL in strikeouts with 174. He has only thrown 128 2/3 innings to this point, however, but he also leads the majors with 55 walks issued. With it being this close, I think that will matter. I’d avoid Cease at these odds.

McClanahan has given up 11 earned runs on 20 hits in 16 2/3 innings in his last three starts. He’s already thrown 11 more innings than last season and we know how careful the Rays are with young arms. Especially at those odds, he’s a terrible bet.

Longshot value

Manoah’s Blue Jays’ teammate Kevin Gausman is the leader in Fangraphs’ version of WAR, thanks to a stellar 2.08 FIP, the best in baseball. He leads the AL in strikeout-to-walk rate, at 142 strikeouts and 21 walks in 122 1/3 innings. He’s not in the top 10 in ERA or WHIP, though, and he’s 8-9. I’m not sure how much just the FIP will move the needle. Regardless, he has a foundation that says +5000 might be worth a look here.

Gerrit Cole is down to +10000 and now has given up at least five earned runs in five of his 24 starts. He also leads the league in innings pitched and strikeouts while sitting sixth in WHIP. He’s close enough in the other big stats that a strong stretch run could get him into the mix, but, to be clear, he’s not there right now. This would be betting on a hot streak to close.

Let’s keep an eye on Shane Bieber. The 2020 winner is 4-0 in his last four starts with a 1.67 ERA. He’s fourth in innings, fifth in FIP, sixth in Fangraphs WAR, ninth in WHIP and seventh in strikeouts. The Guardians have a pretty easy remaining schedule, too, so it’s a good opportunity to rack up the stats and we know voters can be swayed with the late hot streak.

I’ll go with Gausman here, though the other two are certainly intriguing (Bieber more than Cole, if I had to rank them).

The pick

All roads lead to Verlander here. Yes, I’m counting on him holding up while McClanhan isn’t going to log too many more innings and Cease’s walks are a problem. In fact, after Verlander I’d bypass the other favorites and go straight to Gausman, Bieber and Cole.

National League

Top five favorites:

Alcantara is the overwhelming favorite and rightfully so. He has already thrown 173 innings, which gives him a lead of more than 20(!). No one in the AL has even hit 145 yet. He has three complete games while no one else more than one. He also has the best ERA at 1.92 while leading in WAR, ERA+ and win probability added. He’s 11-5 and the Marlins are 15-9 when he starts. When he doesn’t, they are 36-56. Where he doesn’t lead, he’s close. He’s fourth in WHIP, fourth in strikeouts, fourth in FIP and third in hit rate (hits allowed per nine innings).

If anyone has the stats to make a run at Alcantara, it’s Burnes, the 2021 winner. He’s third in ERA, second in WHIP, sixth in innings pitched and leads in strikeouts.

Basically, as reflected in the odds, it should be over. Then again, pitchers can be volatile and there remains the possibility that Alcantara either suffers an injury — which would still keep him in the mix, especially if he only starts misses a few — or has a few meltdowns that drag down his stat line .

Longshot value

Tony Gonsolin is 14-1 with a 2.24 ERA, so the more old-school fans and voters surely have their eye on him. He’s currently at +3000.

If there’s anyone who can get hot enough down the stretch to turn some heads, it would be Max Scherzer. He sits at +3500. Through 16 starts and 102 2/3 innings, he is 8-2 with a 1.93 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 126 strikeouts against 17 walks. He would need others above him to stumble and to get insanely hot, but it’s possible.

Aaron Nola sits at +4000. He’s second in Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR and third in Fangraphs’ version. He’s second in innings pitched, third in strikeouts, third in WHIP, third in FIP and has the lowest walk rate. He’s outside the top 10 in ERA, which is likely why his odds are so long, but it appears the problem there lies with his defense and newer-school voters will notice. The Phillies have an easy remaining schedule, too, as a bonus.

Edwin Díaz (+4000) is having an all-time great closer season, but I don’t think a closer has a shot at this award unless the starter field is void of great candidates.

Scherzer is the longtime pick here.

The pick

Alcantara. He’s a sure enough bet here that I believe any other bet is a loss and a waste of money.

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