MLB Award Index Update: All-Star Break

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

AL MVP

At this point, it’s clearly a two-man race for the AL MVP. Since our last update, Shohei Ohtani’s rise up the MVP Index has been massive, and considering that an objective tool can’t demonstrate the rarity of what he’s doing as a two-way player, I’d be comfortable saying he’s the favorite. That said, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. still ranks as an above-average MVP candidate in a neutral year, so let’s not act like this race is decided.

NL MVP

I opted to wait an extra week for the next update, which, of course, means we need to start the NL MVP award talk by addressing Ronald Acuna Jr.’s devastating injury. To be frankly honest, it was a struggle to watch baseball for a while after seeing the Braves’ star outfielder tear his ACL in Miami on Saturday. Baseball will definitely not be the same without one of the top premier talents and a true face of the game, and his significance on the growth of baseball cannot be emphasized enough.

With Acuna Jr. out for the season, that makes it a two-player race between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jacob deGrom. Could you imagine if the two MVPs are a two-way player and a pitcher putting up unprecedented production? deGrom is projected to finish around two wins higher in Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), but pitchers don’t have much of a track record winning this award, while Tatis Jr. is also having a fantastic season. Although he doesn’t rank as an above-average MVP candidate, the combination of home runs and the position he plays should allow him the appeal to all crowds (traditional and sabermetric), and he obviously has popularity on his side.

AL Cy Young

To be frank, this is not the three-player competition many make it out to be. I get that Gerrit Cole isn’t the most popular player right now due to him essentially being the face of baseball’s “sticky stuff” scandal, but with Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber injured, he doesn’t have any competition. Cole and Carlos Rodon are projected for somewhat similar fWAR totals, but Cole has him greatly beat in the following statistical projections: innings pitched, strikeouts, baseball-reference WAR. Basically, the key cumulative metrics all favor the Yankees’ ace. Remember, this isn’t just a one-half race, so Rodon’s limited track record eating innings combined with the White Sox being in a much better position from a standings perspective needs to be taken into consideration; they might be tied on the first sprint, but Cole looks extremely likely to win the marathon.

NL Cy Young

Speaking of New York aces establishing themselves as the clear Cy Young award winner, there’s Jacob deGrom …… and everyone else. That said, I do want to make sure what some of the other National League pitchers are doing. All of them would be extremely tightly matched with Cole, and deserve a lot of recognition. All three of them will likely pitch around 200 innings, strikeout at least 230 batters, and will finish with a higher bWAR and similar fWAR than Cole. Can we give the NL two winners?

Best Value Bets

AL MVP

NL MVP

Unsurprisingly, in two-player races, the player with worst odds presents better values. I will concede that the index doesn’t properly value Ohtani, but, even then, what Guerrero Jr. is doing this season cannot be overlooked- should Ohtani slip, he’s an exceptional MVP candidate. He is going to rank elite in practically every cumulative offensive category, after all, and the possibility of Ohtani struggling down the stretch is greater than implied currently.

As for the National League, it’s too tightly contested to be laying money with either candidate, so Tatis Jr. provides more value currently. I’ll gamble on a position player for the MVP over a pitcher any time, given the lofty standards needed for pitchers to win the award. deGrom is the favorite, yet by a smaller margin than the betting markets have it placed at.

  • Best Bets: Fernando Tatis Jr. (+223), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+230)

AL Cy Young

NL Cy Young

I already went into detail as regards to why Cole is underpriced. Hopefully, you were able to bet on him before you had to lay money to bet on him, but he’s still a quality pitcher to place stock in. As for the National League, I mentioned wanting to have some sort of contingency in case deGrom somehow can’t win the award, and Brandon Woodruff doesn’t offer value there. Instead, look towards Zack Wheeler and Kevin Gausman. With worse odds and a slightly better index score, I’d side with Wheeler, who will finish much higher in terms of fWAR based on projections and also will be ahead in strikeouts, yet both have constantly been quality bets for some time now for a reason.

  • Best Bets: Zack Wheeler (+1900), Gerrit Cole (-126)

Checking In on Previous Bets

Obviously, injuries have hurt us here with Acuna Jr. and Bieber, but I remain encouraged by the rest! Even with Ohtani cementing himself as the favorite in the betting markets for AL MVP, Guerrero Jr.’s odds are still better now than they were before, and Cole is someone you have to lay money to bet on now. Also, between Gausman and Wheeler, we’re already well-covered in terms of long shots in the NL Cy Young voting, though it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to hedge with deGrom offering any value anytime soon. Between this and Tatis Jr. in the MVP markets, it’s looking like fading the Mets’ ace will be a theme moving forward.

Overview

There was certainly a lot of turnover in the NL MVP odds with Acuna Jr. going down for the season with a torn ACL, making Tatis Jr. go from overpriced to underpriced. He’s the best “new” bet to make, though Guerrero Jr., Gausman, Wheeler, and Cole also offer value. At this point, there aren’t many long shot bets to make, meaning that focusing on advantages with the top-tier candidates has to be the ultimate priority. That’s exactly what we’ll do in a month with out next update. Until then, sit back, and enjoy the show!

Note: Please Remember To Bet Responsibly. This Is Simply Me Aiming To Identify Value on The Betting Markets, In an Attempt To Predict Closing Line Value. Sports Are Subject a Lot Of Random Variation, So I Always Caution To Partake In Betting In as Wise of a Way as Possible.

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