National League Cy Young Odds: Scherzer Becomes New Favorite

New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer catches the baseball in his glove with his left hand while warming up on the mound before the sixth inning of a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals
Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the injury status of New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who will be sidelined for at least the first month of the season. At the time of initial publication March 22, deGrom was favored in the 2022 National League Cy Young odds market.

Over the past five full Major League Baseball seasons — excluding the COVID-truncated 2020 campaign — three right-handed pitchers have claimed the National League’s five Cy Young Awards. So it was really no surprise to see that trio of pitchers topping the National League Cy Young odds market several weeks before the start of the 2022 season.

What might be a bit of a surprise? One of those hurlers — who was the overwhelming preseason favorite to take home the 2022 hardware — is already on the shelf with a shoulder injury, and it’s unknown when (or if) he’ll take the mound this season. That injury had a significant ripple effect on the National League Cy Young odds market, pushing a familiar face — who just happens to be a new teammate of the previous favorite — to the top of the odds board.

Props.com continues its comprehensive 2022 Major League Baseball betting preview with a breakdown of the top National League Cy Young candidates — all of whom happen to be right-handers.

Previous MLB Preseason Coverage:
AL Cy Young Betting Preview
AL MVP Betting Preview
NL MVP Betting Preview

National League Cy Young Odds

SP/RP Player Team Odds
SP Max Scherzer New York Mets +600
SP Corbin Burnes Milwaukee Brewers +700
SP Walker Buehler Los Angeles Dodgers +800
SP Zack Wheeler Philadelphia Phillies +1,000
SP Brandon Woodruff Milwaukee Brewers +1,000
SP Jacob deGrom New York Mets +1,200
SP Logan Webb San Francisco Giants +1,400
SP Sandy Alcatara Miami Marlins +1,600

Odds via DraftKings and updated as of 2 a.m. EST on April 7.

The (New) Favorite

New York Mets right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer grimaces as he reaches back and prepares to throws a pitch during a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals
Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

New York Mets RHP Max Scherzer (+600)

This was supposed to finally be the year when Max Scherzer didn’t have to shoulder the pressure of being the unquestioned ace of his team’s pitching staff. After signing a three-year free-agent deal with the Mets that will pay him more than $43.3 million per season, Scherzer was supposed to play Robin to Jacob deGrom’s Batman.

In tandem, the dynamic duo was expected to form the Mets’ most storied 1-2 rotational punch since the days of Dwight Gooden/Ron Darling (1980s) or Tom Seaver/Jerry Koosman (1960s/70s).

Then New York announced last week that shoulder discomfort would sideline deGrom for at least the first four weeks of the season. At that point, deGrom will be re-evaluated, so it’s completely unclear just how long the Mets will be without the 2018 and 2019 NL Cy Young winner. This after deGrom missed the entire second half of 2021 with elbow and forearm issues, which flared up after the 33-year-old put together one of the most dominant three-month stretches of any pitcher in recent memory.

With deGrom out indefinitely, Scherzer once again is charged with being the bell cow of his team’s pitching staff. He does so coming off one of the greatest age-36 pitching seasons in history, as last year he totaled 15 wins, a 2.46 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 236 strikeouts, 36 walks, and 11.8 K/9 rate. And he did it over 30 starts with two clubs (Nationals and Dodgers). That performance resulted in a third-place Cy Young finish for Scherzer, who won the AL honor with Detroit in 2013 and the NL award with Washington in 2016 and 2017.

Given his success in 2021, it makes sense that oddsmakers installed Scherzer as the No. 2 betting choice in the preseason NL Cy Young odds market — and that those same oddsmakers bumped Scherzer to the No. 1 spot upon deGrom hitting the shelf.

While Mets fans are undoubtedly bummed not to have their two stud aces firing on back-to-back days from the start of the season, they can at least celebrate this fact: Scherzer is 10-2 with a 2.14 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 125 strikeouts and 24 walks in 14 career starts at Citi Field.

Milwaukee Brewers RHP Corbin Burnes (+700)

After a terrific — albeit shortened because of COVID — 2020 season, Corbin Burnes solidified his position as one of the top pitchers in baseball last year, leading the NL in ERA (2.43), K/9 rate (12.6), FIP rate (1.63), and ERA+ (176). He also recorded 11 wins, posted a 234/34 K-BB ratio, and didn’t surrender a single walk until his sixth start. For all that, the Bakersfield, California, native won the Cy Young Award in his fourth full MLB season, with Scherzer and the next three guys on this list finishing directly behind him.

What will Burnes do for an encore? Can he improve upon last year’s output of 19 starts with two or fewer earned runs allowed? What about career legacy? Actually, “legacy motivation” shouldn’t be an underrated factor here. Winning one Cy Young is obviously great, but it pales to the accomplishments of Scherzer and deGrom — the last two aces to collect NL Cy Youngs in back-to-back campaigns (2016-17 for Scherzer/2018-19 for deGrom).

Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Walker Buehler (+800)

It’s shocking that Walker Buehler has yet to post a top-3 finish in NL Cy Young voting (although he got close last year, placing fourth). Since 2018, the Vanderbilt product has notched two seasons of 14-plus wins, two years of a sub-3.00 ERA, two campaigns of 200-plus strikeouts, two years of a 10.0-plus K/9 rate, and three seasons of a sub-1.00 WHIP.

If fully healthy, the eminently bankable Buehler (16-4, 2.47 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 212/52 K-BB ratio last year) could be the Cy Young front-runner by the All-Star break. As the unquestioned ace of the talent-rich Dodgers, the 27-year-old Buehler is seemingly ready to flirt with 20 wins and 250 strikeouts this season — without sacrificing his elite-level ERA and WHIP tallies.

The Dark Horses

Philadelphia Phillies right-handed starting pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves
Image Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies RHP Zack Wheeler (+1,000)

Zack Wheeler (14-10, 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 10.4 K/9 rate) finished second to Burnes last year in Cy Young voting, after going 14-10 with a 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 247 strikeouts against just 46 walks. But in the minds of many, Wheeler had the superior season. He led the NL in innings with 213.1 — or 46.1 more than Burnes — as well as shutouts (2), complete games (3), strikeouts (247), and pitching WAR (7.6).

At age 32, Wheeler is a well-preserved workhorse who stands to benefit from the Phillies’ offseason upgrades to its bullpen. It’s hard to believe, but Philly’s bullpen blew 37 save opportunities last season. Cut that number modestly in half, and maybe Wheeler’s flirting with 17-20 wins in 2022.

Milwaukee Brewers RHP Brandon Woodruff (+1,000)

While he might not have the name recognition of other National League Cy Young odds favorites, Brandon Woodruff has been a remarkably consistent asset for Milwaukee. Over the last three seasons, he’s posted a cumulative 3.00 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 rate. Last year, the burly right-hander finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting … despite a 9-10 record.

To reach the next strata of fame, however, Woodruff might need to replicate his dominant opening three months from last year: In 16 starts from April through June, the Mississippi State product went 7-3 with a 1.87 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and .156 opponents’ batting average.

New York Mets RHP Jacob deGrom (+1,200)

As the 2021 season approached the All-Star break, deGrom was a virtual shoo-in for his third Cy Young award. Through his first 15 starts, the Mets’ ace had posted these otherworldly numbers: 7-2 record, 1.08 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 146 strikeouts, 11 walks, and a 14.3 K/nine-inning rate.

Then came the injury bug. A midseason forearm strain halted deGrom’s run at history — namely Bob Gibson’s modern-day record 1.12 ERA set in 1968. Although it looked at times like deGrom would make his way back to the mound before season’s end, it never happened. Still, the incredible stats he put up in those 15 starts remained front-of-mind for many Cy Young voters: Despite not throwing a pitch after July 7, deGrom still finished ninth in NL Cy Young voting.

Given his preseason odds, it’s clear bookmakers believed the award once again would be deGrom’s to lose. Then came last week’s news about his shoulder. And yet despite being sidelined for a minimum of a month, deGrom still has the sixth-best odds to win the 2022 NL Cy Young.

That deGrom is still slotted ahead of such talents as rising stars Logan Webb of the Giants (+1,400) and Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins (+1,600) — as well as hard-throwing proven veterans like San Francisco’s Carlos Rodon (+1,800) and Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (+1,800) — tells you just how respected the right-hander is.

If deGrom gets the green light by, say, mid-May — and, most importantly, doesn’t suffer any setbacks — there’s no reason to think he couldn’t become a serious contender by season’s end. After all, NL Cy Young voters, bettors and oddsmakers don’t tend to count out pitchers who have posted ERAs of 1.70, 2.43, 2.38 and 1.08 over their previous four seasons — as deGrom has done.