By David Matchett
Canadian Baseball Netowrk
Watching from afar -- the Boston Red Sox-Detroit Tigers series in Detroit -- it wasn’t too shabby a weekend when the Blue Jays visited the Evil Empire.
I took a rather quick and unscientific look at the 1993 and 2015 lineups and was surprised to see that their offences are about the same.
oWAR, or offensive Wins Above Replacement Level
Baseball-Reference.com defines WAR as “A single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player (think AAA or AAAA) would add.” Different sources have different calculations but essentially 8+ is MVP quality, 5+ is ALL Star quality, 2+ is a starter, 0-2 is a reserve and <0 is replacement level.
Offensive ability only is represented by oWAR and this excludes defensive contributions.
I took the starting lineup for Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, looked at the oWAR for the time they were with the Jays (e.g. 44 games for Rickey Henderson, not his full season) and prorated assuming they each played 162 games. Note that this will be higher for everyone because none of them played 162 games. For example, White played 146 games and had an actual oWAR of 4.6, but when adjusted to 162 games this jumps to an artificial 5.1. But in order to have an apples-to-apples comparison I adjusted everyone to 162 games.
Henderson LF – 2.6
Devon White CF – 5.1
Paul Molitor DH – 5.9
Joe Carter RF – 2.3
John Olerud 1B – 7.7
RObbie Alomar 2B – 7.4
Tony Fernandez SS – 4.7
Ed Sprague 3B – 1.2
Pat Borders C – 1.1
The full 1993 Blue Jays’ roster had a collective oWAR of 31.5 so everyone other than these nine guys brought the average down.
I did the same for the current regulars through Saturday, Aug. 8 then prorated for a full season. Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere’s numbers include all of their 2015 stats since their Jays’ tenure is too small a sample size
Tulowitzki SS – 3.8 – surprisingly 0.9 less that Tony Fernandez
Josh Donaldson 3B – 7.7, way above Sprague
Jose Bautista RF – 4.3 – 2.0 above Carter
Edwin Encarnacion DH – 2.8, less than half of Molitor
Justin Smoak 1B – 0.9, not even on Olerud’s radar
Russell Martin C – 4.8, more than 4X Borders
Ryan Goins 2B – 0.8 – no surprise how far behind Alomar he is
Kevin Pillar CF – 1.6 – 1/3 of White
Revere – 2.5 – equal to Henderson, but Rickey wasn’t really Rickey in those 44 games
Total of 29.2 assuming all of them keep their 2015 pace for the rest of the year. So significantly behind 1993.
But, if we take out Goins and put in Travis (6.3 if he had done what he’s done for 162 games) and take out Smoak and put in Colabello (4.5, ditto) their total oWAR would be 38.2 – almost exactly the same as the 1993 Jays.
The total team oWAR adjusted for 162 games is 31.9, or a little ahead of 1993, indicating better subs.
So based on oWAR only, you can make an argument that the 1993 Jays that started the last game of the World Series and the 2015 Jays with Travis at 2B instead of Goins and Colabello at 1B instead of Smoak are almost the same.
I also looked at OPS+. OPS is of course on base plus slugging and has become a pretty standard measure. But it doesn’t take into account everything, like steals, GDP, SH etc. OPS+ is OPS adjusted for the league averages and the player’s home park. 100 is average so a player over 100 is an above-average offensive player. But, there is no adjustment for position. In 1993 Carter had an OPS+ of 112 and Fernandez had 115, about the same. But Fernandez’s oWAR adjusted for 162 games beat Carter’s 4.7 to 2.3 because Fernandez played the harder position.
The OPS+ for the nine 1993 Jays, prorated for games with the Jays, was 116. For the current lineup it’s 112 but if we take out Goins and Smoak and put in Travis and Colabello it’s 122. So a little better than 1993.
By the way, Reyes’ oWAR adjusted for 162 games is 2.5 (about 50% less than Tulo) and his OPS+ is 87 (way behind too) so that was a big upgrade. Carrera and Revere have about the same OPS+ but Revere’s oWAR is way ahead.
oWAR and OPS+ are imperfect measures but they both show that the two teams’ offences are (were) about the same.