Finding Value in the Updated Betting Odds for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award

With one month to go, who has the edge in the race for the National League Cy Young award?

Starting pitching isn't what it used to be.

Oh sure, there are still a ton of great starting pitchers in baseball, and one could argue the stuff the elite arms possess now is better than anything we saw even 20 years ago. So many pitchers are throwing in the mid-90s, with sharper breaking stuff and devastating changeups, and it's hard to see how any big league hitter is able to even make contact sometimes. But the complete game is disappearing, as are shutouts, and some teams have begun using relief pitchers to begin games, bringing in their "starter" in the third or fourth inning to finish up, a new tactic called bullpenning.

So when we get good old-fashioned pitchers' duels, like we've seen between Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola over the last couple weeks, it's notable. When these two arms met last week in Washington, it was the first matchup between starters with at least 150 innings and a sub-2.25 ERA since the St. Louis Cardinals' John Tudor faced the New York Mets' Dwight Gooden back on Sept. 11, 1985. So it comes as no surprise that along with the Mets' Jacob deGrom, these three pitchers are the leading candidates to win the National League Cy Young Award this year.

All three pitchers pitched on Tuesday night, with Scherzer and Nola squaring off against each other for the second time in five days. Did the outcome of those contests shift the balance of power? Is deGrom still the top candidate? What does Vegas have to say?

Comparing all three pitchers together produces some pretty eye-popping numbers.

Jacob deGrom 6.9 7.4 174.0 1.68 2.89 2.07 31.5 5.9 .203
Max Scherzer 5.8 8.0 186.2 2.22 2.75 2.75 34.3 6.2 .179
Aaron Nola 5.7 8.9 176.0 2.10 3.49 2.62 25.8 6.8 .194

A clear case can be made for all three starters, but if you're placing bets, which one is the smartest play?

Vegas Odds

The latest odds come from and are as of August 22.

Pitcher Team Odds
Jacob deGrom Mets -150
Max Scherzer Nationals +120
Aaron Nola Phillies +900
Miles Mikolas Cardinals +1200
Patrick Corbin Diamondbacks +1200
Mike Foltynewicz Braves +1800
Zack Greinke Diamondbacks +1800

According to Vegas, this is a two-man race between the favorite -- deGrom -- and Scherzer, with Nola well behind with the third-best odds.

That matches a recent informal poll of BBWAA writers who also made it clear that this is a two-man race for the hardware. They gave deGrom 20 out of 31 first-place votes, with Scherzer getting the other 11. Nola did not receive a single first-place vote, though for what it's worth that poll was taken before Nola outdueled Scherzer for the second time.

The Case For deGrom

deGrom is simply having a historic season. While he is third in Baseball Reference's version of wins above replacement (bWAR), he is first in Fangraphs' (fWAR), at 6.9, which is far better than Scherzer (5.8) and Nola (5.7). He is the only NL pitcher with an ERA under 2.00 (1.68) and has the best FIP (2.07) of anyone in the National League.

On Tuesday night, deGrom outdueled the rejuvenated Cole Hamels, pitching 8 innings and giving up 1 run on 8 hits with 10 strikeouts and 1 walk against one of the best offensive clubs in baseball. He has the lowest walk rate of the three and is putting together a season that is basically unmatched.