Why Mac Jones is Worth an MVP Flier

The big news as I write this midday Tuesday is coming out of New England where Patriots coach/general manager Bill Belichick decided to cut Cam Newton and award the starting quarterback job to rookie Mac Jones.

This caused Jones’ Offensive Rookie of the Year odds to crash from this morning’s odds of 10-1 and 8-1 down to anywhere from 400 to 250. If you were awake early and able to grab Jones 1000 or 800 for Offensive Rookie of the Year, you made a decent bet, but those numbers are long gone now and I couldn’t advocate taking any rookie other than Trevor Lawrence at less than 400 odds.

But I don’t have a problem making a small bet on Jones to win the MVP. It sounds crazy and it probably is, which is why I said I’m making a small bet on it and not dumping money on it, but rookie or not, I think 100-1 is a good price for any starting quarterback, especially the one being coached by Belichick.

Jones is 75-1 to win NFL MVP at FanDuel and 100-1 at DraftKings and Westgate Superbook. BetMGM currently doesn’t have NFL futures available. I bet $250 at 100-1 and I think Jones is a better bet, or rather, has a better chance of winning NFL MVP than quarterbacks with lower odds such as Drew Lock at 65-1. Who’s betting that?

Carson Wentz at 50-1? I’d rather have Jones. Tua Tagovailoa at 40-1? Sam Darnold 6500? Joe Burrow and his gimpy leg at 40-1? I’d rather have Jones.

The Patriots’ win total is 9.5 and their “make-the-playoffs” odds at DraftKings are Yes 115, No -135. It’s easy to envision a scenario in which the Patriots reclaim the AFC East from the Bills and Mac Jones is starting his first career playoff game this season. I think 100-1 is the highest MVP odds we are going to see on Jones all season.

Most passing yards: Trevor Lawrence 5000

I made a similar bet last year, putting money on No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow to lead the NFL in passing as a rookie. The reasoning here is simple. The Jaguars are a bad team, which means they will be playing from behind most games and will have ample garbage time for Lawrence to pile up stats. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Lawrence attempt more than 40 passes a game every week. I also don’t think Urban Meyer is going to do well coaching in the NFL, but that’s another column for another day.

Lawrence will likely follow the pattern of Burrow, who in 10 starts before blowing out his knee last season, attempted 404 passes with a low of 34 and a high of 61. With health and 17 starts, Lawrence could easily be the first rookie quarterback since Peyton Manning in 1998 to lead the NFL in passing yards.


AL Cy Young

FanDuel odds

Gerrit Cole -175

Lance Lynn 260

Robbie Ray 350

Carlos Rodon 1300

Shohei Ohtani 3600

Odds off the board at BetMGM and DraftKings

The AL Cy Young market has sort of sorted itself out with Lance Lynn going on the injured list and Gerrit Cole finishing August with back-to-back six-inning shutouts against the A’s and Twins. Cole finished August with a 0.51 ERA over 17 1/3 innings with 24 strikeouts.

I think Carlos Rodon spent too much time on the injured list and Shohei Ohtani had a chance to make a late run before he gave up four earned runs in a start against the Orioles last week. Ohtani needed to rebound with a strong start against the Yankees this week, but a wrist injury will prevent Ohtani from making a serious run for the Cy Young in September. He will have to settle for MVP only.

With Lynn on the IL and likely headed for a down-ballot Cy Young finish, Cole’s main competition is Blue Jays starting pitcher Robbie Ray, who pitched 41 innings in August with a 1.76 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Ray was available as high at 100-1 as late as the All-Star break and with a strong finish might swipe the award from Cole. Below are Cole and Ray’s season-long numbers.

Cole: 13-6 W/L, 24 starts, 148 innings, 46 ER, 18 home runs, 200 strikeouts/32 walks, 12.16 K/9, 2.71 xFIP

Ray: 10-5 W/L, 26 starts, 159.1 innings, 48 ER, 25 home runs, 202 strikeouts/39 walks, 11.41 K/9, 3.21 xFIP

It’s very close between Cole and Ray. If I had to take a bet, I’d take 350 on Ray at FanDuel or wait and see where DraftKings/BetMGM reopen, although I expect both to be lower than 350. This has been my least favorite race all season, and I took a few small stabs with Ohtani, Chris Bassitt, who had a real chance until he was hit by a line drive and suffered a facial fracture, and Zack Greinke, who leads the AL in innings but has nowhere near the metrics in any other categories to contend. I’m going to leave this market alone this week and wait and see what happens with Cole and Ray’s next starts.

NL Cy Young

DraftKings odds

Walker Buehler -115

Corbin Burnes 180

BetMGM odds

Buehler -125

Burnes 190

FanDuel odds

Buehler -115

Burnes 195

This race is also down to two pitchers, the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler and the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes.

Buehler: 13-2 W/L, 26 starts, 169 innings, 42 ER, 15 home runs, 178 strikeouts/42 walks, 9.48 K/9, 2.91 xFIP

Burnes: 9-4 W/L, 23 starts, 139 innings, 35 ER, 5 home runs, 189 strikeouts/26 walks, 12.24 K/9, 1.58 xFIP

At first it looks like Buehler is the easy choice, and the odds do indicate he’s the favorite, but Buehler has given up 10 more home runs in only 30 more innings, has fewer strikeouts than Burnes, a lower K/9% and a higher xFIP. I’m holding tickets on both guys, but I think it’s too close to call.


DraftKings odds

Fernando Tatis Jr. -275

Max Muncy 850

Freddie Freeman 900

Bryce Harper 1000

Joey Votto 2000

Trea Turner 3000

Austin Riley 3500

Brandon Crawford 8000

Buster Posey 9000

Juan Soto 9000

Nicholas Castellanos 10000

Historical August numbers for previous MVPs

Freddie Freeman, 2020: 19 runs, 30 hits, 9 doubles, 4 home runs, 17 RBIs, 15 strikeouts/18 walks, .330/.440/.582

Cody Bellinger, 2019: 18 runs, 23 hits, 8 doubles, 8 home runs, 21 RBIs, 23 strikeouts/15 walks, .235/.336/.582

Christian Yelich, 2018: 22 runs, 35 hits, 6 doubles, 11 home runs, 19 RBIs, 27 strikeouts/10 walks, .307/.363/.667

Giancarlo Stanton, 2017: 28 runs, 38 hits, 6 doubles, 18 home runs, 37 RBIs, 31 strikeouts/14 walks, .349/.433/.899

Kris Bryant, 2016: 29 runs, 41 hits, 7 doubles, 10 home runs, 22 RBIs, 21 strikeouts/15 walks, .383/.472/.748

Bryce Harper, 2015: 24 runs, 32 hits, 6 doubles, 2 home runs, 9 RBIs, 24 strikeouts/24 walks, .327/.460/.449

Clayton Kershaw, 2014: Pitcher

Andrew McCutchen, 2013: 15 runs, 38 hits, 5 doubles, 2 home runs, 15 RBIs, 19 strikeouts/20 walks, .384/.483/.535

Buster Posey, 2012: 19 runs, 33 hits, 7 doubles, 6 home runs, 21 RBIs, 18 strikeouts/21 walks, .371/.482/.652

2011 Ryan Braun, 2011: 24 runs, 38 hits, 10 doubles, 4 home runs, 18 RBIs, 17 strikeouts/12 walks, .369/.436/.621

2010 Joey Votto, 2010: 17 runs, 30 hits, 9 doubles, 5 home runs, 25 RBIs, 17 strikeouts/14 walks, .333/.423/.600

As much as it pains me to say it, Fernando Tatis Jr. is still the front-runner for the NL MVP even after an awful August that saw both Tatis and the San Diego Padres embarrass themselves with lackluster performances. The baseball media, for whatever reason, is incapable of quitting Tatis, even though he slumped throughout August and proceeded to put up this stat line for the month:

Tatis in August: 8 runs, 13 hits, 5 doubles, 5 home runs, 11 RBIs, 17 strikeouts/4 walks, 1 stolen base, .236/.311/.600

Those are pathetic numbers for an MVP. Especially when you compare them to the August numbers to the previous 10 players to win NL MVP. The only player who won an MVP with awful August numbers like Tatis has put up was Cody Bellinger in 2019, and even then he still hit and walked more than Tatis did in August. Tatis’ five home runs stand out, but four of them came against Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies pitchers, so it’s nothing to brag about.

A strong September from Tatis could put the award away, but the numbers speak for themselves. Tatis had an awful August and the Padres are fading from the wild-card race fast. I don’t think Tatis deserves the MVP, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the writers give it to him anyway.

The player who has stood out to me as the best and “most valuable” is Nationals outfielder Juan Soto. Unlike Tatis, his August numbers are legit.

Soto in August: 18 runs, 20 hits, 4 doubles, 4 home runs, 13 RBIs, 18 strikeouts/32 walks, 1 stolen base, .286/.510/.514

Soto’s 32 walks vs. 18 strikeouts shows not only elite plate discipline but that pitchers are afraid to throw him anything he can hit. Tatis, on the other hand, gets pitches he can hit because he strikes out about four times more than he walks. Keep an eye on Soto down the stretch. Playing for the Nationals might be too much to overcome, but as an outfielder on a non-playoff team, it doesn’t really make Soto’s MVP case any different than Tatis or Bryce Harper.


Congratulations to 2021 AL MVP Shohei Ohtani. I am currently offering 10% off to any bookies who pay out Ohtani MVP tickets early.