As has been the case for early players, I adjust win share totals to 140-game seasons from 1876 to 1889, and totals to 154-game seasons from 1890 to 1903.
Case to Consider: BECKLEY, Jake
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
2. Was he the best player on his team?
He led his team’s position players in win shares just twice: 1890 and 1904.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
He led the NL’s first basemen in win shares three times: 1893, 1900, and 1901; however, in two of those years, he had the equivalent of 20 win shares over 154 games. He was second in the NL in 1894, 1895, and 1899.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
No. With the exception of the 1893 Pirates, who finished 5 games back, the teams he played on were never close to winning the pennant. Beckley earned 17 win shares in a 132-game season, which adjusts to 20 win shares for 154 games, that year.
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Beckley was a regular into his late thirties. However, he has no real peak to speak of.
6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
By similarity scores: Sam Crawford, Sam Rice, Zack Wheat, Fred Clarke, Roger Connor, George Sisler, Jim O’Rourke, Paul Waner, Jimmy Ryan, and Frankie Frisch. We have eight BBFHOF members here, and nine players in Cooperstown. That’s a very good sign for Beckley.
Adjusted career win shares, pre-1907 1B: Dan Brouthers 414, BECKLEY 344, Fred Tenney 262. There’s a big gap here; Beckley isn’t close to anyone. However, post-1900 1B with about 344 win shares include Tony Perez 349, Dick Allen 342, and Will Clark 330. This is a fairly good sign for Beckley.
Adjusted win shares, three best seasons: Henry Larkin 78, Fred Tenney 75, Piano Legs Hickman 69, Tommy Tucker 69, BECKLEY 67, Dan McGann 67, Jack Doyle 61. Post-1900 1B with similar totals include George Scott 70, Wally Joyner 69, Joe Adcock 69, Andre Thornton 69, Kent Hrbek 68, Ron Fairly 68, Ferris Fain 68, Vic Power 67, Wes Parker 67, Gus Suhr 66, and Hal Chase 66. This is a very bad sign for Beckley; none of these players are candidates for the BBFHOF.
Adjusted win shares, five best consecutive seasons: Henry Larkin 113, Piano Legs Hickman 105, BECKLEY 105, Fred Tenney 103, Tommy Tucker 99. Post-1900 1B with similar peaks include Mike Hargrove 110, Norm Siebern 109, Lee May 108, George Scott 106, Kent Hrbek 104, Ferris Fain 104, Joh Kruk 103, Ron Fairly 102, Stuffy McInnis 102, Jake Daubert 101, Gus Suhr 100, and Alvin Davis 100. You need a telescope to see BBFHOF territory from here.
8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Beckley’s Black Ink mark of 1 is not very good. However, his gray ink score of 165 (66th place) and his HOF Standards score of 50.0 (75th place) are both helpful.
Beckley is in Cooperstown, but he is not in the Hall of Merit.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
The late 1890s, when Beckley was in his late twenties, was an era of elevated offense.
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
No. I can think of many better first basemen who aren’t in the BBFHOF; there are better first basemen who aren’t worthy of the BBFHOF.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
There was no MVP award during Beckley’s career. Since Beckley never had a season which adjusts to more than 23 win shares per 154 games, he was never close to having an MVP-type season.
12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
There was no All-Star game in Beckley’s era. He had nine seasons which project to 20 or more win shares after I adjust for season length, which is a fairly good sign. However, five of those seasons hit 20 on the nose, and Beckley’s cheating may have been responsible for helping him get that 20th win share in several seasons.
(Rounding error may have produced an All-Star-type season for Beckley. If someone has 16.6 win shares over 132 games, that would be equivalent to 19.4 win shares over 154 games, which rounds down to 19. However, the 16.6 would round up to 17. That projects to 19.8 win shares over 154 games, which rounds up to 20. Eight All-Star-type seasons is borderline.)
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
Beckley’s single-season career high in win shares per 154 games was 23. For a team with someone like Beckley as its best player to win the pennant, it would need people who regularly had 19-21 win shares per year as its seven other regular position players, a very strong bench, and a very good to great pitching staff. In other words, it’s not likely that the team could win the pennant.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
When he retired in 1907, he was major league baseball’s career leader in triples.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
While on the basepaths, Beckley had a habit of crossing the infield while the lone umpire’s attention was elsewhere. I assume that it helped him with a few of the triples.
Beckley’s major accomplishment is in his career value. He doesn’t have much of a peak, and he doesn’t have any great seasons. He was never a great player, and I don’t see him as capable of being the best player on a pennant contender. That’s despite the cheating he did on a regular basis. Beckley doesn’t make my queue for the BBFHOF.