Breaking down the Cy Young races
With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, there isn't much time left for players to pad their statistics for end-of-year accolades. Here, theScore looks at what each of the main contenders for the 2018 AL and NL Cy Young awards must do in order to walk away with the hardware.
Chris Sale, Red Sox
Sale has been eased along by the Boston Red Sox since coming off the disabled list, combining to pitch just four innings over his past two starts. Manager Alex Cora said the plan for Sale is to continue gradually increasing his workload and hopefully have him throw 100 pitches in his final start of the regular season, which is expected to be at Fenway Park against the New York Yankees. Sale is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA against the Bronx Bombers this year.
It's been another dominant campaign for the 29-year-old. Sale pitches better away from Boston but still thrives at Fenway Park, and both splits are improvements from last year. He's expected to take the mound once more at home after a road appearance in Cleveland. The southpaw will be making just his first start at Progressive Field this year, which might be a good thing for his Cy Young chances. He's 2-4 with a 4.63 ERA in 14 career appearances - seven starts - at the ballpark.
Odds to win: -250
During his first season with Boston in 2017, Sale finished second to Corey Kluber for the Cy Young. Despite this, he entered 2018 as the favorite to take home the award and OddsShark lists him as the top betting choice to secure the honor with the campaign nearly over.
What Sale needs for Cy Young
Innings. After Sunday's outing against the New York Mets, Sale's totaled just 150 this season. No Cy Young winner has pitched fewer than 198 1/3 innings since reliever Eric Gagne in 2003. Sale's gone 32 consecutive frames without giving up a run, last allowed a home run on June 1, and has an AL-best 1.92 ERA, so he's got plenty of credentials. However, it's also possible that he won't pitch the necessary 162 innings needed to qualify for the ERA title, which could be a major blow to his chances.
Blake Snell, Rays
Snell is expected to make three more starts to close out what has been a tremendous third campaign in the big leagues, and luckily for him, scheduling is on his side. The 25-year-old's three starts should be against clubs below .500 with two of them coming against the Toronto Blue Jays; a team Snell was perfect against over five innings in August.
Snell is unreal at home, which bodes well for his expected final start of the year, but before completing the regular season in his comfort zone at Tropicana Field, he'll have to take on the unexpected. The lefty has never pitched at hitter-friendly Globe Life Park where the Texas Rangers own a wRC+ that is 17 points higher than on the road.
Odds to win: +900
Before the season got underway, Sports Betting Dime had Snell's chances of winning the Cy Young equal to those of Kendall Graveman and Jordan Zimmerman. A lot has changed since, with Snell in the mix as a top contender for the award. With a perfect finish, the current 19-game winner could end the campaign with the most wins since Rick Porcello in 2016, the same year the Red Sox right-hander took home the Cy.
What Snell needs for Cy Young
Avoid meltdowns versus bad teams. Snell may not have the strikeout numbers of Sale (13.3 SO/9) or Justin Verlander (12.0 SO/9), but he's ranked among the AL's best in several of the league's other most important categories.
Snell's in a good spot to surpass Sale, especially if the Red Sox lefty doesn't accumulate enough innings pitched to secure the ERA title, so he may just need to avoid poor performances against subpar teams in Texas and Toronto.
Justin Verlander, Astros
Verlander's expected finish to the season has him squaring off against two teams eliminated from the playoff race. And fortunately for the 2011 AL MVP, he's owned the two clubs. The 35-year-old is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA and a complete-game shutout against the Los Angeles Angels this season, while his numbers at Camden Yards in Baltimore have been impressive throughout his career (8-1, 2.63 ERA, 1.01 WHIP in 10 starts). It also doesn't hurt that the Orioles have scored the fewest runs in the AL.
Home-field advantage in the postseason might not actually be the best thing for the Astros on days which Verlander pitches. While the veteran still performs well at Minute Maid Park, his club actually wins far more frequently away from home on his starts. One of the key differences between Verlander's success on the road versus at home is that he's allowed more long balls in Houston (19) than in opposing parks (9).
Odds to win: +600
Verlander is an annual favorite to win the Cy, and he's already got one under his belt. He's finished in the top five for the award five other times. So, it was no surprise that he entered the campaign as a top-three betting favorite and still remains there with the season winding down.
What Verlander needs for Cy Young
Continued September dominance. It's not too often that Verlander goes through a bad stretch, but in August it appeared like his Cy Young chances were over following six starts and a 5.29 ERA, which included nine home runs allowed. The hard-throwing right-hander has rebounded in September, posting a perfect 3-0 record with a 1.71 ERA so far. His lead in the AL strikeout race and a career-low 1.6 BB/9 should help this case, too.
Jacob deGrom, Mets
Two more starts for MLB's ERA leader against teams he's familiar with in Washington and Atlanta. While deGrom has just one win in seven combined starts against the two clubs this season, he's only allowed eight earned runs across 46 1/3 innings against them.
The two-time All-Star hasn't pitched a bad game in 2018. In fact, deGrom's worst start of the year came against the Miami Marlins in April when he allowed four earned runs - the only time he's done that all season. deGrom is slightly better at home, but it really doesn't matter. He's allowed three earned runs or less in 27 consecutive starts with 13 of them on the road.
Odds to win: -150
Entering the season, Noah Syndergaard had the best odds among Mets starters to take home the Cy, but that was short-lived thanks to deGrom's historic campaign. Even with just eight wins, deGrom has done too much in other categories to be overlooked and is the betting favorite to take home the honor.
What deGrom needs for Cy Young
While deGrom's lack of run support has left him thin in the win column, he's clearly been the best pitcher in the game. But, a couple more wins couldn't hurt his chances. Earning those victories will likely be left in the hands of the Mets' offense, however, which isn't desirable. When New York scores 3 or more runs, deGrom is 8-2. Anything less, he's 0-7.
Max Scherzer, Nationals
Scherzer's final two starts should come against teams he's had no trouble with, in New York and Miami. The Nationals ace is probably thanking his lucky stars he gets one more outing against the Marlins, too. He's a perfect 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts against them in 2018.
Like deGrom, Scherzer has performed well in nearly every spot he's pitched this season - with SunTrust Park and Citizens Bank Park being the only exceptions. His final two starts are expected to be at home where he's been tremendous, averaging 12.3 strikeouts per nine and owns two complete games - one a shutout.
Odds to win: +120
Winning back-to-back Cy Youngs usually makes a pitcher the betting favorite entering a season. Scherzer began the year in this spot and has been on top or close to it throughout most of the campaign. He is deGrom's closest competition for the award.
What Scherzer needs for Cy Young
Two strong outings. The Nationals aren't eliminated from the postseason just yet, but the likelihood of them making the playoffs sits at 0.2 percent, according to FanGraphs. Scherzer hasn't helped their chances, either. Mad Max is having his worst month of 2018 in September, authoring a 5.40 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He lasted just four innings and allowed six earned runs in his last start against the Atlanta Braves. This needs to change if he wants to win his third consecutive Cy Young; a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Randy Johnson won four straight from 1999-2002.
Aaron Nola, Phillies
The darkhorse appears to be trailing, but three consecutive stellar outings could give Nola a shot at the Cy. These performances must continue if the Phillies want to have any shot of making the playoffs. Nola is the right guy to have on the hill against the Braves and Mets, too. In eight combined starts against the two clubs, Nola's allowed just 13 earned runs in 50 1/3 innings.
There appears to be a trend with Cy Young contenders; they're equally as strong at home and on the road. Nola is no exception. He may strike out more hitters at Citizens Bank, but his road WHIP is tops in the NL among starters and second in MLB to only Sale.
Odds to win: +900
Entering 2018, Nola's chances of winning the Cy were equal to Jon Gray's and about three times worse than Tyler Chatwood's. Nola has since skyrocketed into the favorites column after dropping his ERA from 3.54 to 2.42 and improving in several categories including wins, starts, innings pitched, and FIP.
What Nola needs for Cy Young
For DeGrom and Scherzer to fail, plus a turnaround finish. Nola appears to be a long shot to take home his first Cy Young, but he's not completely out of the race. His bad September (11 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings) hasn't helped his case, but lackluster performances from deGrom and Scherzer accompanied by three strong outings to finish his year could give Nola the boost he needs.
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