History

Which Blue Jays team was better: 1992 or 1993?

Only 14 MLB teams have won back-to-back World Series titles. The Toronto Blue Jays are among that select group and one of two teams in the expansion era to win consecutive championships.

The Blue Jays were one of the last teams in baseball to “run it back”.

While their 1992 World Series title was a watershed moment for the franchise, their 1993 championship season was an impressive feat in its own right.


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Of the 40 players who suited up for the 1992 Blue Jays, only 19 returned for the 1993 season. More than half of the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster turned over from year-over-year, and they still repeated as World Series champions.

One thought that’s crossed my mind (and surely yours as well): which team was better, the 1992 Blue Jays or the 1993 Blue Jays? It’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child and it would be unfair to pit each club against each other.

But in their separate context, which club was superior: 1992 or 1993?

Several years ago, I did a surface-level article about which team I posited was the better of the two, but with the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays games getting some play in Sportsnet, I thought it would be fun to go back and re-evaluate which squad was the best.
 

Starting Lineup

The 1993 Toronto Blue Jays lineup was an absolute buzz saw. John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar combined to finish 1-2-3 in the American League batting title race. They were also the best players in baseball at their respective positions that season.

“WAMCO” entered the Blue Jays lexicon as one of the most-feared one-through-fives in baseball. White, Alomar, Molitor, Carter and Olerud bulldozed opposing pitchers. And then the mid-season acquisition of Rickey Henderson only added to the Blue Jays’ juggernaut status.

The 1992 Blue Jays hit four more home runs than the 1993 Blue Jays, but the ’93 Blue Jays dominated every other offensive category in this head-to-head comparison.

In 1993, the Blue Jays were shut out once in 162 regular season games. Yes, once. They scored the third-most runs in baseball that year and their 847 runs scored still stands as the fifth-highest in Blue Jays franchise history.


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The 1993 Blue Jays were the superior team on the base paths as they out-stole bases by a margin of 170 to 129, and that team carried four 20-plus base stealers, including 22 stolen bases from their 36-year-old designated hitter, Paul Molitor.

Despite these impressive numbers, the 1992 Blue Jays were no slouches at their respective positions. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown, comparing bWAR at each spot on the diamond year-over-year.

The 1993 Blue Jays had some monster seasons at first base, second base and DH, but the 1992 team’s contributions in the outfield and shortstop far eclipsed what the 1993 team accomplished.

The 1993 position players edged their 1992 counterparts by a count of 31.2 bWAR to 30.9 bWAR, but the fact that the 1993 Blue Jays had three elite hitters in their lineup gives them the edge in the starting lineup category.


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Advantage: 1993 Blue Jays
 

Starting Rotation

Pat Gillick made two monumental free agent signings in back-to-back years by adding Jack Morris to the 1992 team and Dave Stewart to the 1993 team. Despite their top-tier salaries, both starters posted subpar regular season numbers as members of the Blue Jays.

If there was a fatal flaw of the 1993 team, it was their starting pitching. Only two starters posted a sub-4 ERA (Pat Hentgen and Juan Guzman) and Morris, Stewart and Stottlemyre posted an ERA+ of below 100.

Contrast that with the 1992 Blue Jays, who featured Guzman’s sparking 2.64 ERA, Jimmy Key’s 3.53 ERA and David Cone was lights-out down the stretch as a late-season acquisition.

Toronto’s starters ranked 13th in baseball with 12 bWAR in 1992, while their starters slipped to 20th with 8.1 bWAR in 1993.

While the 1993 Blue Jays had two big-game pitchers in Morris and Stewart, the lingering effects of their injuries decimated them into number four and five starters during the 1993 season. That gives the edge to the 1992 Blue Jays in the starting pitching department.

Advantage: 1992 Blue Jays
 

Bullpen

1992 was the last year of Tom Henke’s storied career with the Blue Jays, but come 1993, Duane Ward transitioned seamlessly into the closer’s role. It came as no surprise because Ward dominated the American League for the five previous seasons as a late-inning reliever.

Ward reached his pinnacle in the 1993 season, saving a franchise-high 45 games and posting a 2.13 ERA while finishing a league-leading 70 games. The Blue Jays’ closer also finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 1993.

The bullpen was the one category in this head-to-head comparison that surprised me the most. In my mind, I had the 1992 Blue Jays having the superior bullpen, but the regular season numbers said otherwise. Toronto’s bullpen in 1993 bested the 1992 in every category.

The one thing I’ll give to the 1992 relief corps is how dominant they were during the 1992 World Series. Seven relievers combined to surrender one earned run in the World Series against the Braves, and that sole earned run didn’t come until the eighth inning of Game 6 of the World Series.

Advantage: 1993 Blue Jays
 

Bench

It’s rare when a bench or utility players have a direct impact on a game, let alone a season, but in this case, the bench on the 1992 Blue Jays provided a dramatic swing in a World Series game.

Both Derek Bell and Ed Sprague came up clutch in Game 2 of the 1992 World Series and Sprague delivered one of the most impactful home runs in playoff history. Sprague’s home run off Jeff Reardon ranks as the second-highest WPA (win probability added) home run in the history of the World Series.

The 1992 bench included players like Jeff Kent, Turner Ward, Alfredo Griffin and Randy Knorr offering positive contributions towards their team. The 1993 bench consisted of Rob Butler, Dick Schofield, Woody Williams and Carlos Delgado.

During the regular season, Toronto’s pinch hitters in 1992 outperformed the 1993 team by a count of 0.4 bWAR to 0.1 bWAR, but the Blue Jays’ utility players earned their stripes in the 1992 postseason.

For my money, if I were Cito Gaston and had to call upon a hitter in a dire situation, I’d pluck somebody from the 1992 bench.

Advantage: 1992 Blue Jays
 

Overall

If we were pitting the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays teams against each other, I think the starting lineup and the speed of the 1993 would be far too much for the 1992 team to handle in a seven-game series.

However, the question isn’t which team would beat the other, it’s which team was better overall. As much as the additions of Paul Molitor and Tony Fernandez helped to the 1993 team, I believe the 1992 Blue Jays were a better balanced ball club.

On the starting pitching side, the 1993 Blue Jays were far too unpredictable and riddled by the injuries. Players like Guzman and Hentgen carried the starting rotation in 1993 when Dave Stewart and Jack Morris battled injuries the entire season. (Stewart missed the first month of 1993 and Morris was shut down in September and didn’t pitch in the playoffs.)

The lineup on the 1993 team was a juggernaut, but the 1992 team wasn’t far behind their 1993 counterparts. The 1992 team produced a wRC+ of 108, while the 1992 produced a wRC+ of 109.

The 1992 team played better defence, they had better starting pitching, and the bench single-handedly won them a game in the 1992 World Series. The 1993 Blue Jays steamrolled the competition, but the 1992 iteration was a better top-to-bottom roster.

For that reason, I’m choosing the 1992 Blue Jays as the better team of the two.

Winner: 1992 Blue Jays

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.


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1 Comment

  1. Jonathon

    June 26, 2020 - 6:33 pm

    ’93 team, hands down. Their offence was truly brilliant and then to finish with 2 historic games (15-14, Joe’s HR) puts that squad on another level…Rarely did/do average SP teams win it all but the ’93 constant, stressful run-production, tied with a clutch bullpen was a special exception…While Dave Winfield did get a huge clutch hit, Paul Molitor was a remarkable replacement, and his postseason MVP was spectacular. I think the ’92 team sure was solid, and definitely more balanced, but the ’93 team, even if not hitting, could seemingly get on base/steal/score. It was always 1st and 3rd, 1 out.

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