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NL Cy Young Odds Point Scherzer But Wait For Thursdays Start

Jesse Spector for Bookies.com

Jesse Spector  | 4 mins

NL Cy Young Odds Point Scherzer But Wait For Thursdays Start

When Max Scherzer returns to the mound for Washington on Thursday, having missed nearly a month with a strained rhomboid muscle, the three-time Cy Young Award winner will be looking to re-establish his case for a fourth, and the odds still like his chances of doing it.

Scherzer Has Strong Cy Young Case

Scherzer is listed at -143 to win the National League Cy Young this year, making him a slight favorite over Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is at -118. The reasons are clear: despite missing four weeks, Scherzer only trails New York Mets ace and 2018 Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom by five strikeouts, 194-189, meaning that he is well-positioned to lead the Senior Circuit in K’s for a fourth straight year, even spotting the field most of July and August. As it is, Scherzer is the National League leader in strikeouts per nine innings, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and FIP.

Scherzer’s 2.41 ERA is the best of his career, which is worth knowing because he has won the Cy Young before with ERAs of 2.90, 2.96, and 2.53. His current mark is tied with Atlanta’s Mike Soroka for second in the National League behind only Ryu, whose 1.64 mark looks untouchable and is his main argument against Scherzer and everyone else in the Cy Young race.

In addition to being able to come back build a case of dominance strong enough to overcome not winning the ERA title, which he’s never done anyway, Scherzer has an advantage in that he’s going to be pitching with the Nationals in the heat of the wildcard race, magnifying each of his remaining starts. Historically, Scherzer has been an excellent pitcher during the stretch run, even by his standards: he’s 25-14 with a 3.18 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings for his career in September (and regular-season October games), including one of his two career no-hitters.

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Ryu May Be Resting Down Stretch

Ryu, on the other hand, is at the top of the rotation for a Dodgers team that’s actually too good. Not only will Los Angeles have the West wrapped up before the fall equinox but the Dodgers will also have an incentive to avoid pushing the lefthander, whose injury history means he’s going to throw his most innings since 2013, if not of his entire major league career, and keep him fresh for the postseason. Considering that Ryu got knocked around in the NLCS and World Series last year, never making it out of the fifth inning of a start (he did blank Atlanta for seven innings in the division series), there’s a real concern there about having him at his best in October.

Between the two men at less than even money, Scherzer should be the pick, but it might be worth waiting to make sure he gets through that first start on Thursday with no ill effects. Having gone on the injured list in early July with a back issue and returning for only one start before returning to the shelf, Scherzer’s own body seems like his biggest obstacle to another Cy Young.

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If that’s the case, don’t count out deGrom at +900 after he edged out Scherzer for last year’s award. The Mets’ ace hasn’t lost since June 28, posting a 1.21 ERA over his last eight starts while holding opponents to a .180/.249/.246 line. A rocky start to the season might doom his chances of defending against Ryu, but pitching with the Mets in surprise contention – helping pitch the Mets into that surprise contention – could go a long way with the voters, especially if that ERA gap between him and Ryushrinks over the season’s final six weeks.

About the Author

Jesse Spector for Bookies.com
Jesse Spector
Jesse Spector writes about baseball for Bookies.com. A resident of New York, Jesse is a former baseball and hockey writer for Sporting News and the New York Daily News.