Blue Jays: Which World Series Championship Team was Better?

The Blue Jays won the World Series Championship in 1992 and 1993. Which of the two champions was the best?

For many years, I was of the view that the 1992 championship team was marginally better than the 1993 club. I thought that the 1992 team had better pitching than the 1993 squad, and the 1993 club was better offensively than it was in the prior season. Let’s take a deeper dive to see if that conclusion holds up.

Review of the 1992 and 1993 seasons

The Toronto Blue Jays ended the 1992 campaign with 96 wins; they finished four games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League East. After June 19, Toronto did not relinquish first place in their division. However, the Baltimore Orioles came within a half-game on September 5, and Milwaukee was within two games with three to play at the end of September. After defeating the Oakland Athletics in 6 matches, the Blue Jays captured the World Series title by winning the series in six games against the Atlanta Braves.

The Blue Jays captured the 1993 American League East Division pennant by winning 95 games, which was seven better than the New York Yankees. From July 26 onwards, the Blue Jays were never out of first place, although the Yankees tied for first on September 5. It took six games to defeat the Chicago White Sox in the American League Championship Series. The home side needed six games to win the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Key player movements in 1992 and 1993

Before the 1992 season, the noteworthy additions to the Blue Jays roster were Jack Morris, Dave Winfield, and Mark Eichhorn. On August 27, David Cone came to the Jays in a pre-deadline trade.

Before the 1993 season, the following players of note left the team: Winfield, Tom Henke, Cone, Candy Maldonado, and David Wells. Paul Molitor, Dave Stewart, and Danny Cox were the eye-catching acquisitions that occurred before Opening Day. On June 11, Tony Fernandez returned to the club; Rickey Henderson became a Blue Jay on July 31.

Caveat

A factor to note is that offence in the American League was generally higher in 1993 than it was in 1992. For example, compared to 1992, runs and home runs in 1993 were up 9.9% and 15.0%, respectively. Table 1 highlights those and other differences. When evaluating the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays, bear in mind 1993’s higher-offence environment relative to the prior season.

Offence
Hitting

Table 2 captures the critical elements of the hitting prowess of the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays; Table 3 provides the data for some individual players. The highlights are as follows:

  • On a relative basis, the 1992 Blue Jays ranked higher than the 1993 club in OPS, wOBA, wRC+, and home runs
  • However, the 1993 club posted higher BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ than their 1992 brethren
  • For both seasons, I examined the two teams’ prowess in scoring runs from balls-in-play and also from balls-not-in-play (primarily via the home run)
  • Compared to the American League average for the relevant season, both teams were better than average in generating runs from balls-in-play; the same is true for the two clubs in terms of scoring runs on balls-not-in-play
  • Manny Lee, with is 2.9 fWAR, was an essential player for the Blue Jays in 1992
  • John Olerud, Molitor, and Roberto Alomar finished first, second, and third, respectively, in batting average in the 1993 American League season
  • In 1993, Olerud had a remarkable 0.473 OBP, which was first in the American League
Baserunning

As Table 4 illustrates, the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 had a 76.8% or better base-stealing success rate. They led the American League in 1993 with 170 stolen bases. According to the baserunning component of fWAR, the Blue Jays were the American League’s best in 1992.  The 1993 club was even better with a 15.1, which was tops in the league that season as well.

Conclusion – offence

Concerning hitting, I would give a slight edge to the 1993 squad, mainly because their key metrics (OPS, wOBA, and wRC+) were higher than those of the1992 team. Yes, the1992 team ranked higher in many batting metrics than the 1993 team did, but that doesn’t push them ahead in my view. Both clubs were second in runs scored in their respective American League campaigns; total runs scored for each team was 11% higher than the relevant American League average. The 1993 club was also superior on the base paths. When I take both hitting and base running into consideration, I will give the edge to the offence of the 1993 champions.

Pitching
Starting pitching

Table 5 shows that the 1993 Blue Jays starting pitchers had worse metrics than their 1992 compadres in both absolute and relative terms. What is interesting is that the 1992 starters were close to average in ERA- and FIP-; the starting rotation was not as elite as the Blue Jays hitters were among their counterparts.

Table 6 contains data for a selection of starters from the 1992 and 1993 campaigns. The standout was Juan Guzman with his 9.8 fWAR, 80 ERA-, and 76 FIP- over the 1992 and 1993 seasons. During those championship years, only six American League starters had a higher fWAR than Guzman, and only seven had a lower ERA-.

Relief pitchers

My memories of the 1992 season were that, if the Blue Jays had the lead after seven innings, it was game over. It was time to start singing “turn out the lights; the party’s over” from the Willie Nelson song, The Party’s Over. Duane Ward would handle the eighth-inning chores, and Henke would finish the opponent off. However, Table 7 shows that the 1993 bullpen was superior to the 1992 pen in terms of ERA-, FIP-, and fWAR. However, the 1992 reliever corps had a higher WPA than the 1993 bullpen. To put it another way, the performance of the bullpen in the first World Series championship season was more critical to the success of that club than the contribution of the 1993 pen to its team.

Table 8 highlights how well Ward, Cox, and Eichhorn performed in 1993 in terms of ERA-, FIP-, and fWAR.

Conclusion – pitching

The 1992 pitching staff outperformed the 1993 faculty: the starters were better in absolute and relative terms compared to the 1993 starters. Also, the Henke-led bullpen’s contribution was more important to the 1992 club than that of the Ward-led crew to the 1993 squad.

Defence

The overall defence of the Blue Jays was above-average in 1992 and slightly below-average in 1993; the team’s Def score was 13.3 in 1992 and minus 3.7 in 1993. Table 9 illustrates how well the various positions performed defensively from a Total Zone standpoint. In 1992, first, second, and short were above average; centerfield was off the charts excellent. In 1993, the overall rankings were marginally worse than they were in the previous campaign.

There is one player whose defensive play was stellar for the back-to-back World Series Champions: Devon White. He was below-average as a hitter in 1992 (93 wRC+). Still, his fWAR was 5.9, which was tied with Kirby Puckett for first among American League centerfielders. White’s 1992 Def score was 35.1, which was top of the charts for American League centerfielders. His Def mark slipped to 20.1 in 1993, but that still ranked #1 of centerfielders playing for American League teams.

Conclusion – defence

The 1992 championship team was better defensively than their 1993 successors.

Summary

The 1992 Blue Jays received better grades for starting pitching, the bullpen, and defence. The 1993 club garnered a slightly better mark on the offence scorecard, a combination of hitting and base running. Taking all those components into the mix, I think the 1992 Blue Jays were better than their 1993 successors.

Next: Who gets the blame if a deal can’t be reached?
The last word

The winning of back-to-back World Series Championships was a nice reward for long-suffering fans of the Blue Jays. The two victorious clubs differed in terms of how well they played on the field, on the base paths, and in the batter’s box. In my opinion, the 1992 team was better than the 1993 version of the Blue Jays. If flags fly forever, I suppose words over which championship team was superior will fly forever as well. Let’s hope we can soon add another Blue Jays World Series winner to the discussion.

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