Welcome to 1906 on MLB Monday Series I Redux: We’re going back to fill in early 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.
Which all-time greats will win our awards this time? Will any of them win? Read on to find out!
1906 AL MVP: Nap Lajoie, 2B, Cleveland
With 10.0 WAR, this award is automatically clinched by Cleveland Naps second baseman Nap Lajoie. Ironically, he failed as a manager in this specific season, but he excelled as a player. Go figure. Statistically, at age 31, he topped the AL in hits (214) and doubles (48) while adding a .355 average, 91 RBI, 20 SBs, and 2.6 dWAR. The Naps finished 5 games out of first place with 89 victories on the season.
1906 NL MVP: Art Devlin, 3B, New York
The four best players in the senior circuit were Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner (9.3 WAR), New York Giants third baseman Art Devlin (7.9), Chicago Cubs first baseman Frank Chance (7.3), and Cubs 3B Harry Steinfeldt (7.0). Chance was our pick already for MOTY, but the presence of Steinfeldt here means he cannot win our MVP nod, too. So, it’s down to Wagner and Devlin … simple as that.
The Giants (96 wins) and the Pirates (93) finished way behind the Cubs (116), but N.Y. was 3.5 games better than Pittsburgh, and these were the only 3 teams to finish above .500 on the year. So, without Devlin, the Giants would have finished below the Pirates. Without Wagner, the reality is that Pittsburgh still would have been in third place. Devlin was a game changer, therefore, in terms of value.
His stats: 2.4 dWAR, 54 SBs, 74 BBs, and a 142 OPS+ mark. This kind of all-around game must have been loved by the Giants manager (some guy named John McGraw). Either way, again, New York would have been below Pittsburgh in the standings without Devlin, so he gets the nod here.
1906 AL Cy Young: Doc White, SP, Chicago
The best three pitchers were New York Highlanders journeyman Al Orth (8.1 WAR), Chicago White Sox star Doc White (5.8), and Philadelphia Athletics ace Rube Waddell (5.6), who won this award last year by clinching the Triple Crown. With the A’s finishing a distant fourth, this comes down to Orth and White—one of whom had more value to his team … while the other’s value was invaluable. Dilemmas!
The Highlanders finished 3 games behind the White Sox in the pennant chase, which means White will get our nod, as without him, Chicago doesn’t finish in first place. It’s that simple, even if Orth was the better pitcher on the season. White’s numbers: 18 wins, 1.52 ERA, 7 SOs, and a 0.903 WHIP. The ERA and WHIP marks topped the league, too, so White’s 219-plus innings were extremely good ones.
1906 NL Cy Young: Vic Willis, SP, Pittsburgh
This award comes down to Pittsburgh’s Vic Willis (8.3 WAR) and Chicago’s Mordecai Brown (7.3). Neither team would have changed its respective place in the standings without its best pitcher, and Brown set a MLB record that still stands today with his 1.04 ERA—while Willis also set a record by allowing zero HRs on the season. Go figure!
- Willis: 23-13, 1.73 ERA, 6 SOs, 322 IP, 1.152 WHIP, 0.0 HRs/9 IP
- Brown: 26-6, 1.04 ERA, 9 SOs, 277.1 IP, 0.934 WHIP, 0.1 HRs/9 IP
So, what do we do here? We’re going with Willis, as his record will never be broken, while there’s always the slim mathematical chance that someone could break Brown’s ERA mark. Plus, all other things being equal, Willis did have the higher WAR mark. Value is value. Brown may have been “better” … but Willis provided more value to his team, which was not setting all-time win records, regardless of the pitcher.