Welcome to the next update of the MLB Award Index! Every two weeks, we will be taking a close look at what the index forecasts in terms of MVP and Cy Young voting, looking to find favorable odds on the betting markets, as well as create more accurate projections.
For more information on the basis of the index, and how it goes about projecting future award voting, I recommend you read my introduction piece on the tool. There was a lot of action that took place over the past two weeks, which caused a lot of movement in the betting markets. Were these movements justified? Let’s take a closer look!
Projections via Steamer Projections
Since our last update, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has greatly strengthened his MVP case, raising his index score from average for an MVP to winner to a standout candidate. However, as he continues to rise, so does Shohei Ohtani. The award index isn’t able to take into account the rarity of what he is doing as a two-way player, which means that this is not the obvious choice the index may make it out to be.
The most interesting development, though, might be what has changed outside the top two. Aaron Judge has really fallen, while Alex Bregman falls off the list entirely after going on the injured list with a quad injury, while others have risen tremendously. Does anyone even notice how productive Matt Olson has been? He’s hit for more power AND has cut his strikeout rate in half from the 2020 season, which is utterly absurd. Based on weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+), he’s 67% above league average! That deserves more attention. So does the performance of Carlos Correa, who may lead the league in Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), which would give him a potential edge in this race.
I’ve added Jacob deGrom to this, even though the award index is mainly for hitters when it comes to the MVP; he likely leads the NL in fWAR, giving him a strong chance at the MVP. That said, Ronald Acuna Jr. maintains his lead atop this list, with Fernando Tatis Jr. falling to the third with the inclusion of deGrom. The main faller would be Juan Soto, whose high ground ball rates have played a major role in a decrease of power. Really, the only reason he ranks this high is due to the likelihood he bounces back, which projections are taking into account.
AL Cy Young
“Sticky stuff” controversy or not, Gerrit Cole remains a clear favorite to win the AL Cy Young. Now, he doesn’t really stand out compared to previous Cy Young candidates, but the competition he faced even became weaker after the injuries to Shane Bieber and Tyler Glasnow. Just for the sake of a close race, let’s hope for either a quick recovery for Bieber or Carlos Rodon continuing to work deeper into games than expected.
NL Cy Young
Jacob deGrom is a far superior candidate to Cole currently, but it will ultimately come down to if he throws enough innings. He’s currently projected to throw 168 innings by Steamer, yet one more injury could prevent a historic season from having a happy inning. Plus, the competition he faces is much steeper than Cole. Zack Wheeler, Brandon Woodruff, and Kevin Gausman have all had exceptional seasons, and, to be honest, projections might be doing them a disservice. All have made some pitch-mix change that has taken their respective talent to another level, and it truly has been a joy to watch.
Best Value Bets
By comparing the implied odds each player should have versus their current odds, let us analyze the surplus value each player’s award-winning odds provide:
Guerrero Jr. is now recognized as the front-runner for the AL MVP award, meaning that the only edges to be gained there are with long shot bets. Both Olson and Correa are not receiving the recognition they deserve, so they might be decent hedges in case neither of the favorites come out on top. Of the two, Correa might have the better chance of winning because of the greater likelihood he leads the AL in fWAR, but Olson also has the longer odds. In the National League, Ronald Acuna Jr. is still not seen as the favorite for the NL MVP, and until that happens, he’s a value bet to make.
AL Cy Young
NL Cy Young
I’ve already recommended Wheeler and Gausman as pitchers whose odds present value, and there is still some surplus value left even after they aren’t seen as much as long shots; I wouldn’t recommend Trevor Bauer as much, given that he as much worse likelihood of winning.
The American League is where my lone bet recommendation comes from. Simply based on the poor quality of competition, Gerrit Cole’s path to winning the AL Cy Young is far easier than one is implied with his current odds. Yes, I know that the narrative regarding his usage of Spider Tack could hurt his case, though that isn’t enough for a far inferior candidate from being voted in. As long as he has plus-money odds, I’d look hard into investing in his stock.
- Bets To Make: Gerrit Cole To Win AL Cy Young (+174)
- Longshot Bets: Matt Olson To Win AL MVP (+8750), Carlos Correa To Win AL MVP (+6500)
- Bets To Monitor: N/A
Checking In on Previous Bets
We caught a tough break with both Max Muncy and Shane Bieber going on the injured list. With that mind, I am very encouraged by the results thus far. Acuna Jr. is the only healthy player who didn’t see their implied probability increased, and even then, his odds still present surplus value and barely moved. Investing in Guerrero Jr. before it was too late was a smart play, and is something I’m hoping for similar success with by doing the same with Gerrit Cole. As for the NL Cy Young, Kevin Gausman and Zack Wheeler have demonstrated the talent that made us intrigued with their odds in the first place, putting as in a good spot in the unfortunate event deGrom doesn’t win.
As the season progressed, there will be less chances to find surpluslus value at the top of the market. That is why I am so intrigued by Gerrit Cole’s current odds. It’s just hard to see another legitimate contender emerging, which hasn’t been factored in enough with the betting markets. Outside of that, we’re mainly looking at just long shot bets, but Gausman, Wheeler, and Acuna Jr. are all worthwhile bets as well should you have not bet them previously! We’ll be back two weeks from now to monitor how new developments have opened up potential opportunities in the betting markets. Until then, sit back and enjoy greatness!