It’s been almost three months since Dylan Cease allowed more than one earned run in a start — the longest streak by any player in MLB history. So why isn’t he the AL Cy Young favorite?
That’s a question that’s becoming increasingly hard for oddsmakers to answer amid a historic stretch for the White Sox ace, who is priced just behind current favorite Justin Verlander (-130) at BetMGM ahead of their showdown on Tuesday. Cease (+165) is closing in on the three-time award winner, while former favorite Shane McClanahan (+900) is the only other player priced shorter than +3500.
And if current trends prevail, it’s only a matter of time before Cease seizes the top spot after one of the best 14-start stretches we’ve ever seen.
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AL Cy Young odds and the case for Dylan Cease
Just three months ago, none of this felt possible. Cease entered the year among the Cy Young favorites, but a rocky start to the season was punctuated by a miserable seven-run outing in three innings on May 24 — ballooning his ERA to 4.24, seventh-worst among qualified AL starters at that time.
That’s when Chicago’s flame-throwing righty turned up the heat. Since that start, he’s allowed a combined six earned runs in 82 innings, striking out 103 of the 327 batters he’s faced (31.5%) to carry the White Sox to an 11-3 record in those 14 starts. His 0.66 ERA is the lowest by any AL pitcher over a 14-start span in the last century, and his 14 consecutive starts without more than one earned run is an MLB record.
Really, the only knock on Cease at this point is his command: his 3.85 walks per nine innings is worst among qualified starters, and that hasn’t gotten much better during this historic run. That said, walks are only an issue if they turn into runs, and Cease has done a masterful job preventing that. His 84.1% strand rate ranks third in the majors, and in his 10 starts with at least three walks, he’s allowed more than one earned run just once.
Unsurprisingly, Cease’s Cy Young odds have steadily shortened amid his record-setting run, though not as sharply as you might expect. He was still dealing as a +1500 dark horse until late July, when oddsmakers priced him shorter than +1000 for the first time since mid-May. And it wasn’t until his most recent start that he jumped McClanahan to set up a two-man race with Verlander down the stretch.
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There’s a compelling case to be made for the Astros ace, who leads all qualified AL starters in ERA (1.85) and ranks second in fWAR (4.0). Yet Cease has an advantage in FIP (2.75), xERA (2.60), xFIP (3.12), and SIERA (3.19), and he’s leading all starters in both leagues in strikeout rate (33%) and K/9 (12.2).
Those two will face off on Tuesday when the favored Astros take on the host White Sox. Surely this race won’t come down to one afternoon clash in August, but shutting down the AL’s top seed opposite the current Cy Young favorite would be the ultimate exclamation point for the young ace to finally claim the top spot in this race.
And if Cease keeps pitching as he has over the last three months, oddsmakers won’t be able to ignore him for much longer.