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By one analysis, Orioles have American League's top two Cy Young contenders

If you can believe it, here are the three leading contenders for the American League Cy Young Award, according to ESPN's Cy Young Predictor, a quantitative snapshot of individual and team success:

  • An All-Star snub and ace of one of the league's worst starting rotations
  • A closer
  • A recently suspended maniac who'd rather not pitch than rock spread collars

Chris Sale, aforementioned uniform shredder and five-time All-Star, is an unsurprising candidate. He's 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA for the Chicago White Sox this season. But ahead of him, and by a not-insignificant margin, are runner-up Zach Britton and early favorite Chris Tillman. To recap: a ninth-inning arm and a pitcher coming off a near-5.00 ERA in 2015.

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Tillman is 14-2 in 21 starts, on pace for a career-high-shattering win total and career-best ERA (3.18 ERA). Without him, Orioles starters have a combined ERA of 5.46, more than a half-run above their mark with him (4.91).

Britton is 32-for-32 in save opportunities, with a microscopic 0.65 ERA in 44 appearances. The last closer to win the Cy Young in either league was the Los Angels Dodgers' Eric Gagne, in 2003, who converted all 55 of his save opportunities and finished 2-3 with a 1.20 ERA. Before him, the Oakland Athletics' Dennis Eckersley won in 1992. Seven other closers have been so honored.

Beyond traditional stats, the best thing Tillman and Britton have going for their statistical candidacies is the American League East race. Under the formula guiding the Cy Young Predictor, pitchers get a 12-point bonus for a first-place team. Stick Sale on a division leader, and his score jumps to 128.6, clear of Tillman (126.7) and Britton (126.2).

Perhaps that's why one Las Vegas sports book has Sale as the even-money favorite in the Cy Young race. Then it's the Cleveland Indians' Danny Salazar (11-3, 2.75 ERA). Then it's Tillman, and does a $100 wager to win $750 really seem like such a crazy bet now?

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