Year Inducted: 1971 (Veterans Committee)
Often times, it can seem difficult to find something new to say about each player in the Hall of Fame. Often times players low on the list have been low for several reasons. It could be injury-riddled short careers, or long slightly above average careers. Middle infielders are often pretty similar, too. Often times, they are below to average hitters and great fielders that just don’t match up to a lot of other Hall of Famers. A lot of this, of course, applies to today’s entry, Beauty Bancroft.
Bancroft was a slick fielding shortstop, mostly for the Phillies and Giants towards the tail end of the Dead Ball Era, for 16 seasons. He was worth over 200 runs defensively according to Fangraphs, a value that ranked him 10th all-time upon his retirement. Despite committing over 600 errors, he still turned over 1000 double plays and had over 6500 assists. He was obviously a great defender, and was an important part of John McGraw’s Giants for 5 seasons. McGraw liked what he termed a “scientific” approach to the game and Bancroft fit that mold. Bancroft was a studious player, and spent a lot of time studying opposing players. As he would tell the story, upon being traded to the Giants from the Phillies he didn’t need to be taught their hand signals because he already knew them.
As great as he was defensively, his offense wasn’t nearly as great. In his 16 years, he hit .279/.355/.358 with a wRC+ of 100 (exactly average). In nearly 2000 games, he hit 32 home runs to go with 320 doubles and 32 triples. A solid hitter, he drove in 591 runs and scored 1048 runs, spending a decent amount of time as a number 2 hitter (and not having as many opportunities to drive in runs).
In order for a shortstop to be a great candidate for the Hall of Fame, he needs to bring some offense to the game, either being a phenomenal baserunner, getting a lot of hits or hitting for power. Ozzie Smith wasn’t a great offensive player, but he still was an excellent base runner and did get quite a few hits in his career. Ernie Banks, despite not being the best fielder, was an excellent hitter and hit lots of home runs. Very few players, like Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken, can be great at both. And, despite shortstop being an important defensive position, offense (along with being easier and more definite to measure) is more necessary than defense. Great defenders at shortstop, like Bancroft, that don’t provide much offense, don’t tend to stand out as much, and such probably aren’t the best candidates for induction. Bancroft may have been a good shortstop in his time, but not one of the all-time best.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/15/16: This pitcher twice led the league in losses before being traded to the Yankees and putting up a .650+ winning percentage and has the second most wins all-time for wins in pinstripes.