Ty Cobb very nearly nabbed another “SpeakerSpoke” AL MVP in 1916, but – in a rare occasion – he was beaten out in almost all major hitting categories by Tris Speaker. Cobb lead the AL in batting average every year from 1907-1915, then again from 1917-1919. But in 1916, Speaker lead not just the American League but all Major League Baseball in the quint-slashline: .386/.470/.502/182 wRC+/8.0 fWAR.
While other strong candidates like Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson were on more successful teams, one need only look at the 1915 Cleveland Indians (57-95 record) and compare it to the 1916 team, now with Tris Speaker in the lineup, that went 77-77, to judge his value. And get this: Speaker not only lead the Indians in all the biggest offensive categories, but he was a full hundred points higher (or more) than anyone else on the team in Batting Average, OBP and SLG. He basically was the offense for a team that improved by ~20 games in one season.
Zack Wheat was probably the best position player in the National League in 1916, and his team was fantastic. But Wheat didn’t separate himself from the pack enough to really scream “MVP!” While I’m not a big fan of pitchers getting the MVP Award, that is largely because they can get the Cy Young Award instead. But in 1916, there was no Cy Young Award. With that said, I think the most dominant, obvious MVP candidate for the NL in 1916 was Pete Alexander, pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.
First, we can look at Alexander’s incredible workhorse numbers. He had career highs – and lead all of baseball – in Games Started, Innings Pitched, Complete Games and Shutouts. He also lead all of baseball in ERA and RA9WAR, while leading the NL in fWAR and strikeouts. His BB rate was a minuscule 3.3% (2nd best in MLB) and he lead the NL in WHIP.
RA9WAR: 13.1 (*8th highest in the modern era)