Should John Means have better odds to win the Cy Young? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Orioles starting pitcher John Means is having a stellar start to the 2021 MLB season. He's 3-0 with a 1.70 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 37 innings. He leads American League pitchers in WAR and is tied for the best WAR across all positions in the AL. His ERA+, which adjusts for the difficulty of different ballparks, is 244 (100 is average) which is third in the AL.
And yet, despite a statistically brilliant first month of the season, Means is just +5000 to win the AL Cy Young.
According to PointsBet, Means' odds put him in a seven-way tie for 15th-best in the AL alone. Some of the players ahead of Means make sense - Gerrit Cole is one of the best pitchers in baseball and is having a great start for the most famous team in the league. Shane Bieber is coming off a historic Cy Young season in 2020. Tyler Glasnow has been excellent.
But Means is also currently below Lucas Giolito, Casey Mize and Kenta Maeda, each of whom either has a negative WAR or an ERA above 5.00 (or both). He's also behind Shohei Ohtani, who has thrown just 13.2 innings. Means' odds are tied with Jesus Luzardo and Jameson Taillon, both of whom have negative WAR and an ERA above 5.00. And Luzardo is on the Injured List.
Part of the reason the odds are out of sync is Means' relative anonymity. Not only does he play for an O's team that has been in last place for most of his career, but unlike Mize and Luzardo, Means wasn't a big-time pitching prospect. Before making the team as the final man on the roster out of spring training in 2019, Means was considering retiring from the game.
He wound up making the All-Star Game and finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He hasn't looked back since, establishing himself as a deserving ace of the Orioles.
His numbers through the first month of the season are historic. They're the kinds of numbers that haven't been seen in Baltimore since Jim Palmer was on the mound, not in the broadcast booth.
And yet Means' phenomenal April has gone unnoticed everywhere but Baltimore. His odds have actually somehow gotten worse since Opening Day, despite a sensational first six starts.
Of course, it's still only six starts. The MLB season is a marathon, and the race is far from finished. And it's not like Means should necessarily be the top choice - Cole, Glasnow and Bieber are all thoroughly deserving of their spots as favorites.
But even though he'll never ask for it, Means has earned more attention as well. At the very least, he deserves to be considered a contender to bring home some hardware at the end of the season.