This is the third installment in our MLB Monday series on awards analysis in baseball history. The methodology is explained here, and strangely, both American League MVPs from 1911 and 1912 were confirmed as the “right” choices, while both National League MVPs from the same seasons were overturned.
What’s next? Read on!
1913 American League MVP: Walter Johnson (original winner), Eddie Collins (revised winner)
Johnson isn’t eligible for the MVP award, as we stated in our original piece in the series. For position players, the top five in the majors for WAR all came from the American League: Collins (9.0), Tris Speaker (8.5), Frank Baker (7.9), Joe Jackson (7.6), and Ty Cobb (7.4). Recognize any of those guys?! Collins and Baker paced the Philadelphia Athletics to the pennant, 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Washington Senators, who were led by Johnson’s incredible season (see below). But Jackson’s Cleveland Naps club finish 9.5 games behind the A’s, while Speaker’s Boston Red Sox finished six games behind Cleveland. Cobb’s Detroit Tigers were terrible, coming in sixth place a full 30 games behind Philly. Those also-ran finishes diminish the MVP chances for Speaker, Jackson, and Cobb. Meanwhile, second baseman Collins finished with 9.0 WAR, while third baseman Baker posted a 7.9 WAR mark. The key here is defense: Collins earned 1.2 dWAR, while Baker was not good (-0.2 dWAR). That makes the difference in deciding this award. For the record, in addition to good defense at the keystone, Collins scored a league-best 125 runs while hitting .345 with 73 RBI, 55 SBs, and 85 walks. Baker led the league in HRs (12) and RBI (117), while also hitting .337 with 34 SBs and 63 walks. Both were great, but Collins helped the A’s to the pennant with his defense—while Baker did not.
1913 National League MVP: Jake Daubert (original winner), Gavvy Cravath (revised winner)
This is easily the worst decision so far by the original voters. Daubert posted a 4.0 WAR mark for a sixth-place team that finished 34.5 games out of first place. Yes, he won the batting title by hitting .350, but that was about it (he totaled only two HRs and 52 RBI). The only time someone on a bad team should win this award is when his season is so incredible, there is no other choice. That is not the case in 1913. The New York Giants won the NL pennant by 12.5 games over the Philadelphia Phillies, and the best position player on the Giants—shortstop Art Fletcher—posted just 4.5 WAR for the season. Meanwhile, Phillies right fielder Gavvy Cravath (5.6) was the only NL player to finish in the MLB Top 10 for WAR in 1913. That says something right there. He led the league in hits, HRs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases while hitting .341, too. That’s a dominant season right there, even if his team did finish second.
1913 AL Cy Young: Walter Johnson
This is a no-brainer decision. Johnson’s pitching WAR (15.1) was significantly higher than the next best pitcher in the league, rookie Reb Russell (8.9). In a lot of seasons, Russell’s mark would be good enough to win this award, but not in 1913—when Big Train put together perhaps the most incredible statistical season ever for a starting pitcher: 36-7, 1.14 ERA, 29 complete games, 11 shutouts, 346 innings, a 0.780 WHIP, and a 259 ERA+ mark. Oh, he also led the league in fewest walks per nine innings and most strikeouts per nine innings. Just watching this brief video clip from 1913 of his warming up gives us chills.
1913 NL Cy Young: Christy Mathewson
The three best pitchers in the league were Pittsburgh’s Babe Adams (8.3 WAR), New York’s Mathewson (7.1), and Philadelphia’s Pete Alexander (6.5). If you’ve been following along, you know Mathewson and Alexander have been the studs in the 1911 and 1912 analyses. For the record, the Pirates finished in fourth place, while the Giants won the pennant again, beating out the Phillies by 12.5 games. Is Adams’ WAR edge enough to overcome 21.5 games in the standings? On the surface, we’d say no. Let’s look at the stats now: Mathewson led the NL in ERA, WHIP, fewest walks per nine innings, and strikeout-to-walk ratio, while Adams led the league only in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). For the record, Alexander only led the NL in shutouts (9). If Adams’ season had been more dominant—like Johnson’s above, for example—then we could justify giving him this award. But we can’t do that, so Mathewson wins a third straight NL Cy Young award.