Bettors Take Note: Fading Former Cy Young Winners Provides Sizable Profit

Darin Zank

Thursday, July 16, 2015 1:52 PM UTC

Thursday, Jul. 16, 2015 1:52 PM UTC

Cy Young Award winners rank among the best pitchers in baseball, but they also often come with big prices when they pitch. Does betting value reside in fading former award winners?

Winning a Cy Young Award brings instant prestige and cache to a pitcher. But with that recognition comes a few things unwanted, as far as baseball bettors are concerned, namely high prices on award winners' mound outings. Which makes us wonder; might we find betting value in fading former Cy Young Award winners?


What It All Comes Down To: The Money
Into the recent All-Star break last year's Cy Young winners, the Dodgers' Clay Kershaw and Cleveland's Corey Kluber, ranked dead last and second-last on the MLB pitchers' money chart. If you had placed $100 on both those guys each time out you'd be down about $2,300. On the other hand, if you had bet against them each time out, and taken the tasty prices, you'd be up about two grand.

However, we should also point out that last year Kershaw, who was already a Cy Young winner, led all starting pitchers in earning money, making almost 16 units.

Much of those money numbers have at least as much to do with the betting prices posted on the games as with how those pitchers are performing in those games. If the Dodgers win two of every three Kershaw starts, but they're favored by -200 every time out, all they're doing is breaking even, as far as the money is concerned.

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A Division
For many former Cy Young winners still active, their status as such doesn't mean squat anymore. Guys like RA Dickey, Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Bartolo Colon, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, all former winners, are priced accordingly, from what we can tell, because the luster has worn off their award-winning seasons.

But guys like Max Scherzer, David Price, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke, along with Kershaw and Kluber, are all highly regarded by MLB odds makers and bettors alike, because they're still at the top of their games.


This Season
Into the break Price led the MLB pitchers' money chart at a shade under +11 units, as Detroit has won 15 of Price's 18 starts this season. And Seattle is 12-6 in the King's starts, up about four units, which ranked in the top 30.

At the other end of the spectrum, as mentioned above, Kluber ranks dead last among all ML starting pitchers at -14 units, as the Indians, thanks mainly to some very poor run support, have lost, amazingly, 14 of his 19 starts. And Kershaw ranks second-to-last in money at -9 units, as Los Angeles has split his 18 starts.

And look at Dickey, Peavy, Verlander and Sabathia; Toronto, with one of the best offensive attacks in the game, is just 7-11 in Dickey's starts, down about 4.5 units; San Francisco is 0-4 in Peavy's starts, also down about 4.5 units; Detroit is 0-5 in Verlander's starts, down five units; and the Yankees are 7-10 in Sabathia's starts, down over five and a half units.

We'd have no problem fading any of those guys right now; too bad the prices we'd get, especially against Verlander and Sabathia, wouldn't be what they were just a couple seasons ago.


The Old Man
Colon owns the oldest award among active Cy Young winners, receiving his back in 2005 while with Angels. It's been a long road since then for Bartolo, fighting through injuries, having some success the last few seasons with the A's and Mets. This year the Mets are 9-8 in Colon's starts, up about a unit and a half.


Reputation and Pricing
Here's an example of how the prices affect the bottom line.

San Francisco is 8-7 in Lincecum's starts this season, producing a profit of a little more than one unit. The Giants have been lined as underdogs in nine of Lincecum's starts. Meanwhile, Washington is 11-7 in Scherzer's starts, but only up about one unit, because the Nats have been favored in all but two of his 18 starts. For what it's worth, they lost both those games.

Of course, Lincecum isn't what he once was, and Scherzer right now is one of the best in the game. And we all know that, bettors and oddsmakers alike, so their pricing is probably accurate.

Also, the Dodgers are 12-6 in Greinke's starts, but only up about two units.


Bottom Line
Generally speaking, former Cy Young winners are probably over-valued, in no small part because of bettors' perception. Smart baseball bettors, though, see through the list of past accomplishments, are able to size up the here and now, and by doing so can find value fading former award winners.

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