Shortly after the trade deadline, I went through e. The most wide-open race was the National League Cy Young and that remains the case here with just under seven weeks to play.
At the time of the last Awards Watch, I guessed that Cubs lefty Justin Steele would win in a hotly contested vote. We'll go in a different direction this time around. Instead of trying to figure out who would win a vote in the present, we'll grab the gambling odds and try to predict who is going to win.
As noted, it's a very crowded field that seems all over the place. There's a relatively large number of pitchers who could win it. There is, however, a group of five favorites before a bit of a dip in the odds. Those five:
- Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks: +175
- Logan Webb, Giants: +300
- Blake Snell, Padres: +320
- Spencer Strider, Braves: +600
- Justin Steele, Cubs: +700
Let's take a look at each of those five and then dig in on possible longer shots to win.
Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks (+175)
The All-Star Game starter is the favorite and, generally, that wouldn't be a big surprise. He actually was pretty mediocre for a stretch, though. From June 4-Aug. 1, Gallen made 11 starts and pitched to a 4.11 ERA. He's been great in his last two starts, though, so perhaps he's back on a Cy Young track.
Overall, Gallen is third here in WAR, fourth in ERA, first in WHIP, third in innings and third in strikeouts. He'd probably win the award if voting were held right now.
Gallen was very strong in the second half last season and he's still almost 30 innings away from his career high.
Will the schedule hurt? If Gallen stays on his current turn, he'll face the following the rest of the way: Padres, Rangers, Dodgers, Orioles, Cubs, Mets, Cubs, Yankees and Astros. Aside from the New York teams, that's a formidable bunch of offenses.
Logan Webb, Giants (+300)
Webb had a meltdown that did a number on his, um, numbers on July 22 (1.1 IP, 6 ER). He has a 2.20 ERA in four starts since then, though. He leads NL pitchers in WAR while ranking fifth in ERA, second in WHIP, first in innings, fifth in strikeouts and second in strikeout-to-walk rate.
A possible negative? Webb's next two starts are both against the Braves.
A positive is that he leads the majors in innings pitched and after having thrown 192 1/3 last season, he can likely breeze past 200 for the season.
Blake Snell, Padres (+320)
The 2018 Cy Young winner, Snell is looking to join Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer as the only pitchers to win a Cy Young in both leagues. That doesn't really matter here, but it's a fun trivia question.
Snell is second in NL pitcher WAR behind Webb, but leads in ERA. He is sporting the lowest hit rate in the league, though he leads the majors in walks. He sits second in strikeouts and ERA+, but lags behind a bit in innings (130, while Webb has 163).
If the Padres avoid shuffling things, Snell would get the Orioles, Marlins, Brewers, Giants, Phillies, Dodgers, Rockies (in SD), Cardinals and White Sox. In terms of opponent strength on offense, this is the weakest group we've listed so far.
If Snell can find a way to cut down on his walks -- and maybe he doesn't even need to -- he's a quality selection at these odds.
Spencer Strider, Braves (+600)
Strider is 13-4 and has an absurd lead in strikeouts. He leads the majors with 217 and Snell is second here in the NL with 171. This probably would've been enough to have a gigantic lead in the Cy Young race back in, say, the 1980s. Here in 2023, though, Strider isn't even in the top 10 in ERA or Baseball-Reference'sversion of WAR. He's fifth in WHIP, eighth in innings pitched and 10th in ERA+.
Strider gave up a lot of crooked numbers for a big portion of the season. From May 1-Aug. 7, he had a 4.57 ERA and gave up at least four earned runs in seven of his 18 starts.
If Strider gets to 300 strikeouts, that might clinch it. There have only been 15 300-strikeout seasons in the Wild Card era with Randy Johnson having five of those, Curt Schilling three and Pedro Martinez two. The others? Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
Of course, Strider already has his career high for innings pitched in a season. The Braves have postseason aspirations to juggle here when it comes to his workload, too.
Knowing that, I don't like these odds for Strider.
Justin Steele, Cubs (+700)
The lefty is 13-3 for a surging Cubs team, sitting second in ERA at 2.79. He's fifth in WAR and eighth in WHIP.
The rate stats and record are there, but Steele's minor injury earlier this season along with workload concerns are conspiring against him. He only has 126 innings pitched right now and that's a career high. The Cubs are going to try and juggle workload concerns with their hopes to win the NL Central. It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out, but it's hard to see him getting much over, say, 165 innings. Hell, maybe I'm wrong and he works up into the 175 range. If that's the case, he'll have a fighting chance.
Still, Steele would have a better chance of winning right now than he does at the end of the season, in my view. He is to be commended for a great season to this point and I trust he'll continue to throw well with the work he's given. I just don't think he's going to end up with the workload needed to top the rest of the crowd here.
Long shot: Corbin Burnes, Brewers (+2200)
Given the relative unreliability of the above group moving forward, there very well could be an opening for a longer shot to leapfrog everyone and take the hardware. In all likelihood, this would have to be someone with a strong foundation so far in addition to having an incredibly high ceiling.
We know Burnes has the ceiling, given that he won the Cy Young in 2021 and finished seventh last season.
So far this year, Burnes is 9-6 with a 3.60 ERA (119 ERA+), 1.08 WHIP and 146 strikeouts in 145 innings. In seven starts from July 1-Aug. 5, Burnes was 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 45 innings. If he did that in his next seven starts, he'd be approaching 200 innings for the season with an ERA around 3.20. He'll likely have topped 200 strikeouts, too.
This would very likely put him in range. If you don't believe in the top five, Burnes is worth a look.
Also: Zack Wheeler, Phillies (+1700)
Lottery ticket: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (+7500)
As the name implies, this section is extremely unlikely to hit. Some people like a little gambling sprinkle, though, so we'll humor them.
Kershaw has only made 17 starts with 100 1/3 innings pitched. Assuming he stays healthy the rest of the way, he can probably end up with 25 starts or so. It's hard to see someone winning this award in the neighborhood of 150 innings, but he has a foundation: 10-4, 2.51 ERA, 1.03 WHIP. Let's say he goes gangbusters the rest of the way and ends up something like 17-4 with a sub-2.00 ERA.
Given the rest of the field above and the chance all of them see a downturn -- and he would need to see a downturn from everyone mentioned above -- I suppose it's plausible to run with the belief that Kershaw could sneak in here for his fourth Cy Young. And hey, he's fourth in NL WAR right now.
The pick: Snell +320
This is an incredibly close race, so I'm swayed only by the remaining schedule for Snell vs. Webb and Gallen along with workload concerns for Strider and Steele. In fact, with the odds the way they are, I'd rather go with Burnes than Steele and Strider. That makes my top six, in order of preferences for gambling purposes to win the award would be:
1. Snell, +320
2. Webb, +300
3. Gallen, +175
4. Burnes, +2200
5. Strider, +600
6. Steele, +700
To be clear, I'm not predicting the order of finish. I'm ranking them in the order of how I'd want to bet on each to win. It's a good bet that Strider and Steele finish in front of Burnes at this point, but I think Burnes has a better chance to win, if that makes sense.