It was a close race in last year's NL Cy Young balloting, and the same looks to be the case this time around. Check out our surprise pick to beat the MLB odds and win it in 2016.
How tough was the race to win the 2015 National League Cy Young? It was so closely contested, even by going 18-2 with a 1.15 ERA over his final 23 starting assignments, Jake Arrieta had barely enough to beat out the competition.
Yes, the Chicago Cubs have indeed reaped their rewards from the trade to acquire Arrieta from the Baltimore Orioles a little less than three years ago. All it cost the Cubs was Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger (who?), and Chicago also received reliever Pedro Strop in that deal. Arrieta made a quick climb from being something of a disappointing prospect in Baltimore's system to the ace of the North Side rotation.
Arrieta's 2015 performance was one for the books, both literally and figuratively. Things started off a bit slowly with the Cubs 5-5 and the right-hander 4-4 over his first 10 starts while he compiled a 3.18 ERA. It was pretty much all gravy after that with 18 wins from June on, finishing first in complete game shutouts (3), second in ERA (1.77), third in strikeouts (236) and second in WHIP (0.86). The former TCU Horned Frog also brought home the bacon against the MLB odds with nearly a 14-unit return on the season.
Taking home the NL Cy Young stopped a 2-year run with the hardware for Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, and current baseball futures odds have pegged Arrieta as a +700 choice to enjoy his own back-to-back run with the honors. The Cubs are favorites to win both the NL and World Series this time, and that $7 payoff on Arrieta looks mighty tempting.
Can Kershaw Win His 4th NL Cy Young?
The numbers Arrieta put up over the final four months last year sealed the deal for him to win the NL CY, but what also helped a little was his closest competition, Kershaw and Zack Greinke both pitching for the same team out in LA. Those two simply vying for who was the best arm for the Dodgers split some of the votes, but the pair has been split up this time around after Greinke fled Tinseltown for the desert via free agency.
Despite finishing second in the voting to Arrieta a year ago, Greinke is further back on the odds to win this time, his +2000 payback ninth among pitchers listed at BetOnline. He was trying to become only the sixth pitcher to pick up Cy Young awards in both leagues, and gave it his best shot with 19 wins, an NL-leading 1.66 ERA and career bests in both strikeouts (225) and WHIP (0.84). Whether or not Greinke can come close to repeating any of those numbers now sporting an Arizona jersey remains to be seen.
Kershaw was trying to win his third consecutive NL Cy Young, and fourth in five seasons, but finished third in last year's voting behind Arrieta and Greinke. The LA southpaw is toting the biggest chalk on the 2016 list at +175, and he'll be pitching to a lot of -175 or higher moneylines this season. Kershaw was favored by at least -130 in each of his 33 starts last season, the Dodgers winning 22 of them only to leave his backers more than 5 units in the red.
Will Bumgarner & Giants Pull Their Usual Even-Year Stunt?
Sitting behind Kershaw and Arrieta on the MLB odds this time are three hurlers listed at +1000. One of those, Matt Harvey of the Mets, you can go on and cross off the list after he was diagnosed with some blood clot issue, which scares me off him completely.
The other two are Washington's Max Scherzer and San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner who placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 2015 voting. Of the two, I like Bumgarner best since this is an even-numbered year and we all know what the Giants do when that happens.
A little further back is my MLB pick to take home the trophy. Jacob deGrom was seventh on the 2015 ballot; it was only his second MLB season, and the righty shrugged off all of the sophomore slump talk following his 2014 NL Rookie of the Year honor. deGrom will shine brightest in a talented New York Mets rotation, and he's going at +1400 to add to his trophy case.
MLB Pick: Jacob deGrom (+1400) at BetOnline