NL MVP odds: Can deGrom make history on the mound?

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The MVP award is for hitters, and the Cy Young award is for pitchers. That's how it's always been in the National League, where position players have earned MVP honors in 80 of 90 seasons and all but once since 1968.

Then someone like Jacob deGrom comes along and changes the calculus. After tossing 11 strikeouts over seven shutout innings against the Padres on Saturday, the Mets ace leads MLB in ERA (0.62), WHIP (0.57), strikeout rate (45.4%), and even fWAR (3.2) - more than any position player in the NL. Among pitching stats, deGrom leads in seemingly every conceivable metric, and second place isn't close.

As a result, he entered Thursday priced at +650 to win MVP - behind only Fernando Tatis Jr. (+300) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (+370) and well ahead of Kris Bryant (+1300) and Nick Castellanos (+1300). It doesn't hurt that, in a limited sample, deGrom is hitting better than all of them - his .391 batting average ranks second among all players with at least 20 at-bats.

So how does deGrom's season stack up to past MVP-winning pitchers? Here are his stats compared to the first nine appearances for every pitcher to win NL MVP since the award was introduced in 1931.

SEASON PITCHER ERA BAA K IP
2021 Jacob deGrom 0.62 .128 93 58
2014 Clayton Kershaw 2.93 .239 71 55.1
1968 Bob Gibson 1.34 .189 57 80.2
1963 Sandy Koufax 1.71 .156 60 68.1
1956 Don Newcombe 4.15 .253 32 56.1
1950 Jim Konstanty 2.70 .229 11 13.1
1942 Mort Cooper 1.61 .189 43 67
1939 Bucky Walters 3.03 .270 35 68.1
1936 Carl Hubbell 2.02 .232 25 62.1
1934 Dizzy Dean 3.75 .251 31 50.1
1933 Carl Hubbell 1.53 .203 41 58.2

If deGrom's numbers weren't impressive enough before, they're striking when compared to past MVPs. His ERA is by far the lowest of the bunch, and he also boasts the best batting average against and the most strikeouts - even while throwing fewer innings than some past winners.

Still, it's hard for a pitcher to win MVP regardless of their numbers. Consider Pedro Martinez's 1999 campaign, when he finished the season with a 2.07 ERA and a ridiculous 13.2 strikeouts per nine in the heart of the steroid era. He finished second in MVP voting. Gibson's 1968 season is arguably the best in MLB history, and he split six of 20 MVP votes that year.

DeGrom has better numbers than both through their first nine starts, which makes him a compelling play at a reasonable price. The safer money is still on Tatis, Acuna, or even Castellanos, who leads qualified NL batters in batting average (.355) and fWAR (3.1). If Castellanos can carry his current pace into July and August, he's worth a shot.

But so is deGrom, who is doing things we haven't seen in 50 years, or maybe ever. And if he maintains even 80-90% of this current pace across a full season, he'll reward bettors who take a chance on witnessing history.

Updated NL MVP odds (shorter than 100-1)

PLAYER ODDS
Fernando Tatis Jr. +300
Ronald Acuna Jr. +370
Jacob deGrom +650
Kris Bryant +1300
Nick Castellanos +1300
Jesse Winker +1800
Bryce Harper +2000
Juan Soto +2500
Trea Turner +2500
Freddie Freeman +3000
Mookie Betts +3000
Nolan Arenado +3000
Max Muncy +4500
Cody Bellinger +6000
Justin Tuner +6000
Corey Seager +6500
JT Realmuto +6500
Manny Machado +6500
Christian Yelich +8000
Javier Baez +8000
Pete Alonso +8000
Anthony Rizzo +9000
Ozzie Albies +9000
Rhys Hoskins +9000

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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NL MVP odds: Can deGrom make history on the mound?
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