When Double Play Baseball Blogger Dave Carroll asked me to figure out which team was better, the 1992 or 1993 Blue Jays, I liked the idea of breaking down the numbers, 16 years after the fact, to see which squad was better.
The 1993 team had a superior lineup, with a career season for 1B John Olerud, a breakthrough year for 2B Roberto Alomar and a better year from CF Devon White all counting significantly.
Additionally, SS Tony Fernandez, DH Paul Molitor and 3B Ed Sprague were all more productive than their 1992 counterparts -- Manny Lee, Dave Winfield and Kelly Gruber, respectively.
C Pat Borders and RF Joe Carter were both fairly similar in '92 and '93, leaving 1992 Candy Maldonado vs. 1993 Rickey Henderson as the one possible advantage for the '92 team. Since Henderson slumped after he was acquired from Oakland, it's possible that the Candy Man might hold a small advantage (by ignoring Henderson's production in Oakland), but that would be a best-case scenario for the 1992 team. Given the choice, I still believe that a vast majority would prefer Henderson.
Overall, that decisively favours the lineup for the 1993 team.
At the same time, the 1992 pitching staff was clearly better (3.92 ERA compared to 4.22 ERA in '93). The one starter who was crucial to both teams, Juan Guzman, was much better in '92 and the trio of Jack Morris, David Cone and Jimmy Key holds an edge over Pat Hentgen, Dave Stewart and Todd Stottlemyre (who was the No. 5 starter in '92 once Cone arrived).
The bullpen was another advantage for 1992, but maybe not by as much as one might think. The '92 team was dominant in the eighth and ninth innings with Duane Ward setting up Tom Henke, while the '93 team had more of a committee setup role with Danny Cox, Mark Eichhorn, Mike Timlin and Tony Castillo all playing significant bullpen roles.
However, Ward the closer in 1993 was every bit as good as Henke the closer in 1992, which helps to minimize the overall pitching difference between the two teams.
Furthermore, having the lights-out bullpen at game's end plays to an advantage more if the team is already leading and, based on the lineups, my evaluation is that the '93 team would have the lead more often.
Over an anticipated seven-game series, it's just hard to fathom even the 1992 staff being able to shut down WAMCO at its peak.
When I put the numbers into the spreadsheet I use to generate the TSN.ca Power Rankings, the results favoured the '93 team by a -125 margin (five wins for every four wins by the '92 squad), a small enough difference to expect a close series, but we already knew that, right?