NL Cy Young odds update: Reigning winner Burnes favored to repeat
Brewers ace Corbin Burnes won one of the closest NL Cy Young races in league history last year. However, it won't be so close this time around if he keeps pitching like he has through his first 11 starts in 2022.
The reigning Cy Young winner is the favorite (+375) to defend his crown after a scintillating start to the season. Through 11 starts, he's spun a 2.50 ERA - just off his MLB-best 2.43 ERA from a year ago - and leads the NL in WHIP (0.922), strikeouts (84), and strikeout rate (31.3%) while posting a paltry 4.9% walk rate.
Batters haven't just struggled to generate runs against Burnes; they can't even make contact. The Brewers star boasts the lowest contact rate (65%) of any qualified MLB starter, and he leads the NL in swinging-strike rate (16.6%) and CSW% (33.5%), which is a catch-all metric that measures effectiveness at throwing strikes.
That hasn't been an issue for Burnes, who has a whiff rate of at least 46% on three of his five main offerings. That doesn't even include his filthy cutter, which has coaxed 32 punchouts through 68 1/3 innings. That said, Burnes has been hit much harder on that pitch and across the board, and his elevated FIP (3.14) suggests some regression could be coming.
If that's the case, which pitchers are most likely to usurp him? Here are the current odds to win NL Cy Young and a few names to keep an eye on:
Sandy Alcantara, Marlins (+550)
Alcantara was our favorite dark-horse pick to win NL Cy Young before the season. Despite a slow start to the campaign, he currently ranks second in the NL in ERA (1.81) and is finally showing just how dominant he can be.
The Marlins ace owned a 3.03 ERA on May 6 following a short outing in which he threw just seven swinging strikes. Since then, Alcantara has been virtually untouchable: he's posted a 0.69 ERA with five quality starts and a 40-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and batters have made contact on only 76.3% of swings in the zone, best among qualified NL starters.
Alcantara has long had dominant stuff, but he's struggled to command his fastball and didn't force the hand of opposing batters often enough. That clearly isn't the case anymore after generating at least 20 swinging strikes in two of his last three starts. If this pace continues, he won't be second fiddle in this market for much longer.
Carlos Rodon, Giants (+1200)
There was a time earlier this season when Rodon was the favorite to win this award. However, one bad start against the Cardinals (8 ER in 3 2/3 innings) has sullied his overall stat line. Still, there's a lot to like about Rodon's profile and his upside over the final four months of this season.
The Giants ace still ranks second in the NL in strikeout rate (30.4%), just behind Burnes, and he's also second in FIP (2.50). In fact, if you took out his disastrous start in St. Louis, he'd own a 2.28 ERA and likely be priced in the Burnes and Alcantara range.
Alas, he's a dangerous dark horse in the market thanks to his elite strike-throwing ability and consistent production on the mound. He's held eight of 10 opponents to two or fewer runs and allowed three or fewer runs in half his starts. One blip has affected his current price, but don't be surprised if Rodon's season-long production vaults him back up this list.
Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks (+1700)
Could this finally be the year that Gallen (2.40 ERA) gets his due as one of MLB's best young arms? He missed the first couple of weeks of this season but has been electric since, holding nine of 10 opponents to two runs or fewer while generating at least 13 swinging strikes in each of his last nine starts.
Walks have been an issue lately, though Gallen has mostly been able to work around them by using his ability to force soft contact. The Diamondbacks ace came into the league as a first-pitch strike machine. If he gets back to his aggressive ways early in the count, he's got a shot to make a legitimate run at this award.
C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at email@example.com.