Welcome to 1905 on MLB Monday Redux: We’re going back to fill in the first few seasons of the World Series era when it comes to the league MVP and Cy Young awards. This is an extension of our first miniseries that started back in March 2020, as we began then with the first year MVPs were given out, but we should have started 8 seasons earlier. So, here we go, filling historical gaps in the record!
Enjoy a few months of bonus content here—on us, free of charge …
1905 AL MVP: Harry Davis, 1B, Philadelphia
We have just 3 contenders for this award: Chicago White Sox shortstop George Davis (7.2 WAR), unrelated Philadelphia Athletics first baseman Harry Davis (5.9), and Detroit Tigers right fielder Sam Crawford (5.4). The A’s won the pennant by 2 games over the ChiSox, with the Tigers coming in a distant third, so we’re inclined to go with Harry Davis here—and he was a positive defender, too.
With his 0.5 dWAR, it’s clear Philadelphia does not win its first AL pennant without his contributions in all phases of the game. Davis’ hitting stats—league highs in runs (93), doubles (47), home runs (8), and RBI (83)—do not tell the whole story of his efforts, as he also added 43 walks and 36 stolen bases. He was 31 years old, and he still had plenty of effective seasons left in his game for the A’s.
1905 NL MVP: Honus Wagner, SS, Pittsburgh
With 10.1 WAR, Pittsburgh Pirates SS Honus Wagner automatically clinches this award, bolstered by 2.7 dWAR—the second best of his amazing career. That defensive metric was fifth best in MLB overall, too. The Pirates won 96 games, despite finishing in second place by 9 games behind the New York Giants. Most seasons, that number of wins might have been good enough to clinch the pennant.
Either way, he wins his fourth MVP from us (1903, 1911, 1912) behind these offensive numbers, too: 114 runs, 199 hits, 32 doubles, 101 RBI, 57 SBs, .363 average, and a .932 OPS. Oddly, none of those numbers topped the National League, and this was the only season from 1903-1909 that Wagner did not win the batting title. He even played a little in left field, doing whatever it took for his team to win.
1905 AL Cy Young: Rube Waddell, SP, Philadelphia
We have initial 6 candidates here, although two of them pitched for the A’s: Triple Crown winner Rube Waddell (9.4 WAR) and Eddie Plank (6.7). Two others pitched for sub-.500 teams, leaving just Boston Americans legend Cy Young (7.1) and Detroit star Ed Killian (6.9) in the conversation. Philadelphia won the pennant by just 2 games, making both A’s pitchers more valuable—but the TC is a clincher, in truth.
This is not like a TC for hitters, either, as there’s no defensive-deficiency disqualification (DDD). So we go with Waddell: 27-10, 1.48 ERA, 27 CGs, 7 SOs, 328 2/3 IP, 287 Ks, and a 0.977 WHIP. He also topped the AL in fewest hits per 9 IP (6.3) and most Ks per 9 IP (7.9). It’s a very dominant season, only falling short of the automatic WAR threshold because Philly was a loaded team. “Teammates” is irrelevant.
1905 NL Cy Young: Christy Mathewson, SP, New York
The top 4 for this award include Boston Beaneaters rookie Irv Young (9.9 WAR), New York Giants deity Christy Mathewson (9.6), Chicago Cubs rook Ed Reulbach (9.1), and Cincinnati Reds veteran Bob Ewing (6.6). It’s crazy that Young just missed clinching this, and it’s nuts we have 3 pitchers over the 9-WAR mark, too. Boston finished second-to-last, so Young just missed out on some history. Oh well …
The Giants won the pennant by 9 games over the Pirates, which all but clinches this award for Mathewson. At age 24, he would spin his magic in the World Series over the A’s, and that followed his stellar regular season with a TC of his own, in fact: 31-9, 1.28 ERA, 8 SOs, 206 Ks, and a 0.933 WHIP. He also added 3 saves in his 338 2/3 IP for the year. This is his fourth NL Cy (1911, 1912, 1913).