Is the NL CY Young Award Max Scherzer’s to Lose?

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Football season is finally here, but let’s not forget that we still have several weeks left in the Major League Baseball season, too. The final few weeks should make for a fun viewing and betting experience with a number of playoff races set to come down to the wire.

While all eyes will be on the battle for the Wild Card spots in both leagues, we’ll also be keeping tabs on the races for the various individual honors. Shohei Ohtani has had the American League MVP award wrapped up for months, but just about every other individual awards race is still up in the air.

As has been the case for most of the season, there is no clear-cut favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award. Jacob deGrom looked like a lock for the first couple of months, but injuries have robbed the Mets’ ace of the chance to win it for a third time in four years. DeGrom hasn’t pitched since early July. Despite a ridiculous 1.08 ERA across 15 games, the right-hander is no longer listed among the potential winners over at BetOnline.

As of now, oddsmakers have three different pitchers with odds shorter than +200 to win the NL’s highest individual pitching honor.

Which is the best bet to take home the hardware as we prepare for the stretch run?

Burnes Making a Late Push

  • Corbin Burnes (+180)

The Giants and Dodgers have garnered most of the headlines in the National League this season, but don’t overlook the Milwaukee Brewers. Thanks in large part to a dominant pitching staff, the Brewers have made a mockery of the NL Central. As of this writing, Milwaukee owns a 14-game lead over the second-place Reds, and there is still an outside chance for the Brewers to take the NL’s top seed for the postseason.

Corbin Burnes has spearheaded the Brewers’ rotation all year long. After quietly posting a 2.11 ERA across 12 games last year, Burnes became an All-Star for the first time in 2021. So far this season, the 26-year-old is 10-4 with a 2.25 ERA in 25 starts. The right-hander’s 35.4 percent strikeout rate is tied with Max Scherzer for the best mark in the majors.

He got off to a blazing start to the season, as well. Burnes struck out 58 hitters before he issued his first walk of the year, which set a new major league record. Unfortunately, his record was broken less than a week later, when the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole recorded his 61st strikeout before issuing his first free pass.

Burnes hasn’t been able to maintain that incredible level of dominance all year long, but he did re-establish himself as a legitimate contender in his last start. On Saturday, Burnes struck out 14 Cleveland Indians without allowing a single hit in eight innings of work. He was lifted after throwing 115 pitches, but lefty Josh Hader was able to complete the no-hitter for the Brewers with a perfect ninth.

Burnes has now recorded at least 10 strikeouts in a game seven times this season, and he has only allowed a total of nine runs in his last seven outings. He’ll win a Cy Young Award at some point before he hangs up his spikes, but he’s still facing an uphill climb this season.

Buehler’s Consistent Dominance

  • Walker Buehler (+190)

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting rotation looks a lot different now than it did to begin the season. Let’s not forget that LA opened the season with Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Dustin May all in the starting five. However, things have gone awry in a hurry. May was lost for the season after tearing the UCL in his pitching elbow, while Bauer hasn’t pitched since June as a result of an ugly off-the-field matter. Kershaw, meanwhile, is set to start on Monday for the first time since July 3 after missing time with elbow trouble.

Julio Urias has been stellar in his own right, but Walker Buehler has been the anchor of Dave Roberts’ rotation all year long. The 27-year-old is 14-3 with a 2.32 ERA on the season. Most importantly, he has made 29 of his scheduled 29 starts. Availability has been Buehler’s most important attribute. The Dodgers have been able to rely on Buehler to go out there and get the job done every five days, which is no small feat given LA’s injury issues all year long.

The right-hander has pitched at least five innings in all but one of those 29 starts. His ability to eat innings has allowed Roberts to give his bullpen some much-needed R&R, as well. Buehler established himself as a potential frontrunner for the Cy Young Award as the season progressed, but his late-season struggles may ultimately cost him a chance at the trophy.

Buehler has a 7.20 ERA through his first two starts in September, though that number is heavily skewed by one particularly bad outing. Buehler was tagged for six runs on seven hits two games ago by the Giants, though he bounced back by holding the Padres to just a couple of runs on six hits in seven innings of work his last time out.

We’ll see what Buehler has left in the tank. His 186 innings so far this season is already a career-high, and he’ll have a few more turns through the rotation before the season is over with. Buehler should easily cruise past 200 innings by season’s end, which is rarefied air for pitchers in this day and age of heavy bullpen use.

Scherzer Carrying the Dodgers

  • Max Scherzer (+180)

With their starting pitchers dropping like flies, the Dodgers decided to get aggressive at the trade deadline. Shortly before the deadline passed, LA was able to hammer out a blockbuster deal to land All-Stars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals.

Turner has been excellent since arriving in LA, but Scherzer has been on another level entirely. On the season, the 37-year-old is 14-4 with a tidy 2.17 ERA. 19 of those starts came in a Nationals uniform.

Since arriving in Los Angeles, Scherzer has simply been the best pitcher in all of baseball. In eight appearances with his new team, Mad Max is a perfect 6-0 with an incredible 0.88 ERA. Scherzer has racked up 72 strikeouts while issuing just five walks. The Dodgers have won all eight of the games he has started, as well.

On Sunday, Scherzer became just the 19th pitcher in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts in his career. The right-hander struck out nine while allowing just one hit over eight innings. That lone hit was a double by San Diego’s Eric Hosmer in the eighth inning. Two starts ago, Scherzer returned to his hometown to strike out a season-high 13 Cardinals across eight more stellar innings.

Scherzer has three double-digit strikeout games since coming to the Dodgers, and he has recorded at least nine punchouts in four straight outings. While Buehler and a few other top pitchers may be struggling with endurance as the season progresses, Scherzer actually seems to be getting stronger.

Which Pitcher Will Claim the NL Cy Young?

Baseball is inherently unpredictable. Anything can happen over the final few weeks of the season. All it takes is one bad start for a pitcher to fall to the fringes of the race. Buehler was the betting favorite to in Cy Young before his aforementioned disastrous start against the Giants earlier this month.

MLB betting sites have Scherzer and Burnes listed as +180 co-favorites, with Buehler just behind them at +190. The way I see it, this is a mistake. Given Scherzer’s incredible late-season run, the newest Dodger could arguably be an odds-on favorite at this point. As a result, the current +180 odds are incredibly favorable.

Scherzer is no stranger to his award, of course. He won it in back-to-back seasons with Washington in 2016 and 2017, and he has been among the leading vote-getters just about every year over the past decade. Like Buehler, Scherzer’s ability to stay healthy and make just about every single scheduled start has been a massive boon for his Cy Young candidacy over the years.

At this point, the award is clearly Mad Max’s to lose. Burnes or Buehler may have something to say about that down the stretch of the season, but I would be all over Scherzer at the current +180 odds. Scherzer’s case will get stronger if the Dodgers ultimately overtake the Giants in the NL West, but he’s an awesome bet regardless of where LA finishes in the standings.

Which Pitcher Will Win NL Cy Young? –Max Scherzer (+180)
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

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