Let's state the obvious for sports bettors when it comes to wagering on the baseball odds to win the American League and National League Cy Young Awards. We all know who the favorites will be: the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (the 2013 winner) in the Senior Circuit and the Tigers' Justin Verlander in the AL.
There will likely be a few other guys also available at prices in the ballpark of +1000 at sportsbooks. There's Washington's Stephen Strasburg and St. Louis' Adam Wainwright in the NL, and Detroit's Max Scherzer (the 2013 winner), Tampa Bay's David Price, Seattle's Felix Hernandez, Texas' Yu Darvish and the L.A. Angels' Jered Weaver in the AL. Clearly the American League has a better crop of candidates.
What fun is it to break down the favorites? Here are two pitchers in each league who could be solid longer-shot bets on baseball futures to win the Cy Young Awards. It can happen: Scherzer was a long shot last spring, and the Mets' R.A. Dickey was a journeyman entering 2012 when he became the first knuckleball winner of the award.
Sensing A Rays Trend
The Rays' Price is a stud and will get a mammoth free-agent contract in the 2015 season -- he also could be traded midseason to an NL team so you would automatically lose any AL Cy Young bet on him -- but he wasn't even the best lefty starter on his own club last season. That would be Matt Moore, who finished 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 150.1 innings.
Moore was brilliant the first two months last season and didn't lose his first game until June 4. That started a rough patch in which Moore was 2-3 with an 8.39 ERA that month. Moore bounced back by going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in July before missing all of August with a sore elbow. He closed the season 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA in September. So throw out July and Moore never had a month with an ERA worse than 3.30. An added bonus: He likely will slot in as the team's No. 3 starter because the Rays don't want Price and Moore in consecutive starts since they are both southpaws. Wouldn't you take Moore against any other team's No. 3 guy?
Tampa Bay made one of the great trades of the last offseason in dealing workhorse starter James Shields to Kansas City in a package led by minor-league outfielder Wil Myers, who would become the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year. The Rays traded Shields in large part because they knew he would be a free agent after the 2014 season and they couldn't afford him.
Always jump on a guy like Shields in a contract year -- they tend to play through minor injuries because of the carrot of that big contract. Shields was 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA and led the AL with 228.2 innings last year. After the All-Star break, he was 9-3 with a 3.06 ERA. The Royals could be a playoff team this season.
Tough To Bet Against Kershaw, But ...
The Dodgers' Kershaw looks like Sandy Koufax right now but expectations also will be sky high after his monster deal and there could be voter fatigue. Thus ...
Remember how dominant Atlanta's Kris Medlen was in the second half of the 2012 season after he returned from Tommy John surgery? Medlen made his first start in nearly two years on July 31 that year -- he did pitch in relief earlier -- and was the NL's best pitcher the rest of the way, not losing once. Medlen wasn't quite as dominant last season but still pretty strong: 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA. Now that he's an extra year removed from surgery, his stuff could be better and the Braves figure to win plenty. It would seem fitting for a Brave to win the Cy Young the year both Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine enter the Hall of Fame.
Johnny Cueto is considered the Reds' ace, but Mat Latos tied for the team lead with 14 wins and topped the regular starters with a 3.16 ERA in 2013. After the All-Star break his ERA was 2.68, but Latos didn't get great run support. Latos has been very durable so you shouldn't have to worry about a DL stint. His worst career full-season single-season ERA is 3.48. The Reds should also score plenty of runs behind Latos, and they have a great bullpen. Sports bettors should back him on baseball odds at home as Latos was 9-2 with a 2.77 ERA at supposedly hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. A 20-win season could be in the cards and that's usually a lock for Cy Young consideration.