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Comparing the ERAs of these two staffs doesn’t do this argument justice. You need to take into account the context of different-era ERAs; 22 years is a long time in any sport, but it’s an eternity in baseball. For example, the ’93 Jays’ fifth starter Jack Morris placed fifth in 1992’s Cy Young voting after posting a 4.04 ERA. Last year’s fifth-place finisher, Jordan Zimmermann, posted a 2.66 ERA. In fact, Stephen Strasburg was the only Cy Young vote-getter with an ERA over 3.00 in 2014.
That’s why we should use ERA-, a park and league adjusted version of ERA that makes it easy to compare pitching in different eras. An ERA- of 100 is league average, and the lower the number the better. Using ERA-, Morris’ 1992 season (80) is almost on par with Zimmerman’s 2014 (72), despite the large gap between their ERAs.
The difference between the ’93 pitching staff (96 ERA-) and this year’s (92 ERA-) is negligible when you adjust for the scoring environment. Besides, the ’93 Jays featured one of the best bullpens of the ’90s. Headlined by Duane Ward, Danny Cox, and Mark Eichhorn, the team’s relievers led the Majors with a combined 75 ERA. That number blows this year’s mark of 84 out of the water. Among relievers that year, Ward finished first in K/9 (12.18), second in WAR (2.6), fourth in saves (45), and sixth in ERA (2.13).
The ’93 Jays’ offence didn’t have 2015’s murderer’s row of sluggers at the heart of its order, but it had one thing that this year’s Jays did not: Balance. From top to bottom, the lineup featured power, speed, and above all, incredible on-base skills.
This year’s team doesn’t have a single player with an on-base percentage (OBP) over .400. The ’93 Jays had three, led by John Olerud’s historic .473 OBP, the highest single-season OBP in MLB since Mickey Mantle in 1962. Olerud didn’t win the MVP, but the .122 spread between his (1.072) and Donaldson’s (.950) OPS is the same gap between Donaldson and Shin-Soo Choo. ’93’s trio of Olerud, Roberto Alomar, and Paul Molitor didn’t boast the power of Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion, but they have the advantage in average, OBP, and speed. Furthermore the disruptive speed of Alomar, Devon White, and Rickey Henderson, the ’93 Jays stole almost twice as many bases as the 2015 team (170 to 88).
Alomar alone blows the 2015 Jays out of the water. The Hall-of-Famer won 10 of the 11 Gold Glove awards given out from 1991 to 2001, a record among second basemen. If the opposing team somehow got the ball through the infield, they had to deal with the incomparable White in centre field. As excellent as Kevin Pillar has been for the 2015 Jays, his defensive tools don’t even come close to White’s. White, who peaked from 1991 to 1995, is one of four outfielders to ever win seven Gold Gloves. According to Fangraphs’ defensive runs above average statistic, the ’93 Jays posted a slightly better -3.7 (18th in MLB) than the ’15 Jays’ -10.8 (23rd).
Rickey Henderson came to the Jays in a trade deadline deal on July 31 and immediately electrified the the offence with his supernatural speed. With the Hall-of-Famer batting leadoff, the team kicked into another gear, improving their winning percentage from .619 (60-45) to an utterly dominant .632 (36-21) clip over the remainder of the season. He managed to walk 35 times, steal 22 bases, and score 37 runs in just 44 games, adding a terrifying new component to an already scary Jays attack.
No one can question the 1993 Blue Jays’ bullpen dominance, but the one thing they didn’t have was a David Price! It’s almost unfathomable how dominant the 2015 Blue Jays’ ace has been. The soon-to-be Cy Young winner David Price and his AL-leading 2.45 ERA easily beats the 1993 team’s ace Juan Guzmán, who had a 3.99 ERA. The 2015 Jays have four starters with lower ERAs than Guzmán. In 1993, the Blue Jays gave up an average of 4.6 runs per game, just slightly below the league average, while the 2015 squad has allowed 4.1 runs per game, 13th best of any team this season. This year’s team beats the 1993 pitching staff in every major statistical pitching category including WHIP, strikeouts, and ERA. Sure, Duane Ward was nearly unhittable in ’93, but without a dominant ace, this year’s Jays pitching staff looks far more daunting to opposing offences than the ’93 squad.
The 2015 Blue Jays outscored the 1993 team by 41 runs. The 1993 Blue Jays’ offence was good, excellent even, but in the post-steroid era, this year’s offensive firepower has been historic. In 1993, the Blue Jays had the fourth-best offence in the league. This year, Toronto doesn’t just have the best offence in the league, they’ve scored 128 more runs than the second place Yankees, and 41 more runs than the ’93 team. The top of the lineup is like a death row for opposing pitchers—pick your poison. If Ben Revere and his speed doesn’t kill you, Mount Crushmore has more firepower than the 1993 team ever did. Josh Donaldson is simply a freak of nature, and Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki can each end games with one swing of the bat. It seems almost blasphemous to take anything away from Joe Carter in 1993, but with 33 home runs and a slugging percentage of .489 he would have been another guy on the 2015 Blue Jays. Nobody can doubt how good Toronto’s offence was in 1993, but facing the 2015 Blue Jays is like playing Monopoly against someone with hotels on Broadway and Parkview. It’s possible to make it around the board once or twice, but sooner or later you’ll be overwhelmed by the stacked opposition.
Ever since the Blue Jays removed error-prone shortstop Jose Reyes and moved Chris Colabello out of left field, the 2015 Jays’ defence has been spectacular. Everyone has seen Kevin Pillar’s highlight reel catches—the full speed over the shoulder diving catches he makes seemingly on a nightly basis. Old school Jays fans will froth at the mouth if anyone criticizes Roberto Alomar, but in baseball the numbers never lie and statistically Ryan Goins is a better second baseman than Alomar ever was. Sure Alomar might have won a golden glove that season, but he did so with a negative defensive WAR and 14 errors committed. Cito Gaston—manager of the ’93 Jays—would have been better off with Ryan Goins at second. This year’s team produced the same amount of double plays while committing 21 fewer errors than the ’93 squad.
The Blue Jays’ real X-factor is Marcus Stroman. Stroman has been nothing short of spectacular since returning from a torn ACL. He has led Jays’ pitchers with a perfect 4-0 record and an ERA of 1.67 this September. Stroman will be the difference between a first round exit and winning a world series.
Editor's Pick: 1993. As noted Blue Jays historian Drake wisely said, the ’93 Jays went “back to back.” The team had more superstars, a better record, and had more impressive stats in