A year ago, Houston’s Justin Verlander overshadowed his then teammate Gerrit Cole to win the AL Cy Young award. Now that Cole is the ace of the New York Yankees staff, he is the early favorite to win the award in 2020.
With Cole off to a fast start in the truncated 60-game MLB season in 2020, is there another pitcher or two that could challenge him in the AL Cy Young race?
The Sure Bet
There is a good reason why Cole is the +275 favorite to win this year’s AL Cy Young. The right-hander went 20-5 last season in Verlander’s shadow in Houston. Early in the 2020 season, Cole has already won his first two starts and even pitched a complete game.
What helps Cole’s quest for the Cy Young is a batting lineup that can produce runs. It also helps that the Yankees are the favorite to win the AL Pennant and one of the leading favorites to win this year’s World Series on a loaded betting board.
At +550, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber is the top challenger to Cole. In just two MLB seasons, Bieber is 26-13. Last season, the Indians hurler went 15-8 with 259 strikeouts in 214.1 innings pitched.
What was remarkable about 2019 was that Bieber actually started the season 5-8. He would go 10-0 over the latter half of the season. In his first start in 2020, Bieber pitched just six innings but struck out 14 and didn’t give up an earned run in earning his first victory of the year.
Verlander went 21-6 last season with an ERA of 2.58. He struck out 300 batters in 223 innings pitched on his way to earning the Cy Young last year. At +600, Verlander was a strong bet until he suffered a forearm strain in his first 2020 start.
Verlander pitched well going six innings, giving up just three hits and two runs while striking out seven and earning the victory. He is out indefinitely and some reports even had Verlander missing the rest of the season.
Best Longshot Bets
In searching for longshot bets that make sense for sports handicappers, it pays to look at a pair of pitchers that have won previous Cy Young awards – Blake Snell and Corey Kluber. Tampa Bay’s Snell won the award in 2018 after going 21-5 with an incredible 1.89 ERA. Snell is given +900 odds to win the award this year.
Kluber has won two Cy Young awards – 2014 and 2017, but has suffered from the injury bug lately. He won 20 games in 2018 but pitched just 35.2 innings in 2019. Don’t jump on the Kluber bandwagon this year either. He’s already on the 45-day IL and may miss the rest of the season.
The real value longshots might be a pair of Cy Young favorites’ teammates. In the Yankees’ rotation with Cole is James Paxton (+2200). The big left-hander quietly went 15-6 last season, his first in New York.
The other sleeper bet is Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton. The right-hander has posted double-digit wins in each of the past three seasons. Last year, his first in Tampa, Morton went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA on a staff that includes Snell and rising star Tyler Glasnow.
Morton sits at +1500 to win the 2020 AL Cy Young. The Rays should give the Yankees a run for their money in the AL East race.