Back in spring training before the 2021 season, you couldn’t have placed a bet on Robbie Ray to win the American League Cy Young Award. A sports bettor could have gotten +8000 on Jameson Taillon, who hadn’t pitched in or won a game since May of 2019.
But Ray, a Toronto Blue Jays lefty entering his eighth season, was not listed among the candidates to win the award by BetMGM sportsbook.
What does that say about your chances to win a futures bet on an award? It doesn’t say much for the prognosticators of some sportsbooks, and it also reveals an opportunity for bettors to get money down on a pitcher who is in the midst of a great season.
In July, and again in August, Ray was brilliant. In August he had a 1.76 ERA, the second straight month he recorded a figure under 2.00 for Toronto. Still, oddsmakers gave Ray little love. As late as the third week of September, Bet MGM listed Yankees’ right-hander Gerrit Cole as the favorite to win the Cy Young.
This shows how a sportsbook can be swayed by its own preseason odds, and it gives bettors a chance to leverage that to get money down on pitchers like Ray who were under the radar at the start of the season.
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Best Strategy for Betting on Cy Young Award Winners
I’m old enough to remember when LaMarr Hoyt won the AL Cy Young in 1983. Or when Doug Drabek won the NL award in 1990. These names may be foreign to you, but just substitute Ray’s name for those pitchers, because they have much in common.
A pitcher, a decent one, can have a superb season. It happens a lot. Which means there are futures bets available for awards like the Cy Young every year, you just need to wait a few weeks into the season and pounce when that pitcher shows enough for a sportsbook to lay odds on him.
A second strategy is to ignore the favorite and look for a pitcher who consistently performs well and stays in the race, regardless of his bonafides. Last season, oddsmakers clung to Cole because he’s a $300 million pitcher and he’s finished in the top five in Cy Young voting numerous times. But, even as Cole remained the favorite, he was being outpitched by Ray, who was helping the young Jays drive to a playoff chase.
Ray is the fourth Toronto pitcher to win the Cy Young Award, joining Pat Hentgen, Roger Clemens, and Roy Halladay. Ray declined a one-year contract offer from Toronto after the season and is a free agent. It’s unclear whether he will return to the Blue Jays in 2022.