When you’re done with that piece, come back and enjoy this one …
1926 American League MVP: George Burns (original), Babe Ruth (revised)
The New York Yankees won the pennant again, bouncing back to their rightful place of the decade, really. Four teams finished within shouting distance of the Bronx Bombers, though: Cleveland (three back), Philadelphia (six), Washington (eight), and Chicago (9.5 back). That gives us a slew of contenders for the MVP, right?
Actually, not really. The top seven Win Shares marks in the majors were all posted by AL players, and one player stood 4.6 WS above the rest: Yankees left fielder Babe Ruth, who led the league in runs (139), home runs (47), RBI (153), walks (144), on-base percentage (.516), slugging percentage (.737), OPS (1.253), and total bases (365)—while hitting .372 at the plate, too.
And he didn’t get a single MVP vote, although it was because prior winners were ineligible (silly rule). Time heals all mistakes and wounds, doesn’t it? Sort of. Cleveland first baseman George Burns won the vote, but his 5.0 WS mark was not even Top 10 in the majors—although he topped the AL in hits (216) and doubles (62).
For Ruth, this is the sixth MVP we’ve awarded him, tying him with Rogers Hornsby, in addition to his single Cy Young prize from 1916.
1926 National League MVP: Bob O’Farrell (original), Paul Waner (revised)
The St. Louis Cardinals topped the NL with 89 victories, followed by the Cincinnati Reds two games back, the Pittsburgh Pirates 4.5 games behind, and the Chicago Cubs seven wins back. Again, this made for a fun pennant race while providing us some options.
The two best options for the MVP Award are Pirates rookie right fielder Paul Waner, who led the NL with 5.4 WAR, and Cubs center fielder Hack Wilson (5.3 WAR). Waner topped the league in triples (22) while hitting .336 for third-place Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Wilson outdid all his NL peers with 21 HRs and 69 BBs to hit .321 for fourth-place Chicago.
Who was “better”? Waner did play in two more games than Wilson, which can account for the sliver of a difference in WS. On the defensive side, Wilson was an average glove man in 1926, while Waner was a slightly positive defender with more assists and fewer errors than Wilson. That slight edge in the field makes us go with Waner for the MVP.
For the record, Cardinals catcher Bob O’Farrell didn’t lead the league in anything, while compiling just 3.8 WAR for St. Louis. That was the third-best mark among positional players on his club, which ended up winning the World Series, of course.
1926 AL Cy Young: Lefty Grove
It comes down to two aces for this honor—Cleveland’s George Uhle and Philadelphia’s Lefty Grove. The former won this award in 1923, and in this year, he led the AL in wins (27), innings pitched (318 1/3), and complete games (32). But Uhle also was the worst in the league for walks (118), hit batsmen (13), and wild pitches (8). That’s kind of a hit-or-miss season, and the IP have a lot to do with his 8.9 WS mark.
Meanwhile, Grove surged above his AL peers in ERA (2.51), strikeouts (194), and hits allowed per nine innings (7.9). He also didn’t lead the league in any “bad” category, while contributing six saves to the Athletics’ efforts to win a pennant. His 7.5 WS mark was second best in the AL.
While Uhle was certainly an innings eater, a lot of those innings were not good innings, as evidenced by the wildness. Meanwhile, Grove pitched with more quality and dominance for a slightly lesser team overall. We give the edge to Grove for not being wildly inconsistent like Uhle.
1926 NL Cy Young: Ray Kremer
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Hal Carson posted 8.3 WAR for the last-place team, mostly on the strength of winning 17 games for a club that managed just 58 all season. He’s not a contender for this award, though, since he didn’t lead the league in any category.
Pirates ace Ray Kremer paced the NL in wins (20) and ERA (2.61) while finishing second in WS (6.2). Is there anyone from the two teams above his in the standings and within shouting WS distance? No, as the next two WS leaders pitched for Brooklyn (sixth place) and Chicago (fourth place).
That makes it easy to hand the Cy to Kremer here.