Fun with Baseball Reference

Obviously, 1992 and 1993 were the zenith of being a Blue Jays fan. With Cito Gaston again at the helm it’s impossible not to reflect on those particular teams. While I was reading sabermetric works back then there were nowhere near the resources available now that existed then—especially the greatest baseball website in the history of the world: Baseball Reference.

Anyway, I was poking around on Sean Forman’s gift to humanity and was surprised at how many things I was unaware of regarding those clubs. Oh, I could recite pretty much all the traditional stats of both lineups and a good chunk of the pitching staffs but none of them were really in any kind of meaningful context.

Of course, I had two very small children in the house at the time and I didn’t have the available time really to get into any kind of depth regarding the team, and I instead chose to focus on standings, pennant races and scoreboard watching.

At any rate, here are some things that really surprised me about the 1992-1993 Blue Jays:

1992

Candy Maldonado batted .272/.357/.462 with 20 HR and 66 RBI. It was good for fourth on the club in OPS+; the Candy Man’s 124 was only bettered by Dave Winfield’s 137 (26 HR 108 RBI), Roberto Alomar’s 129 (8 HR 76 RBI) and John Olerud’s 126 (16 HR 66 RBI). I was shocked that Maldonado was close to being the second best offensive performer on the club. 1992 was also his second best overall season (127 OPS+ in 1987 in 118 games played) yet his higher total of games played probably made his 1992 season more valuable.

He also left the game on a high note hitting .263/.370/.489 (122 OPS+) in 74 games in 1995 between Toronto and Texas before retiring at age 34. The Jays were good for his career–he hit .272/.358/.462 playing in Canada and .249/.316/.414 everywhere else. I wonder how much credit Cito Gaston deserves for that or is it just a statistical oddity?

Manny Lee was a clutch god—in 1992, Lee batted .263/.343/.316 with an OPS+ of 83 (that is better than Shannon Stewart, Marcos Scutaro and Brad Wilkerson this year and just two points worse that Aaron Hill before he was injured); however with RISP he batted .330/.377/.404, with RISP and two out Lee hit .386/.460/.500 and in the 2008 Jays’ favorite rally-killing situation (first and second) .269/.349/.377 (23 GiDP) the shortstop batted .526/.550/.684 in 23 PA and hit into just one double play.

Speaking of clutch gods, Dave Winfield loved having runners at third base:

Sit.         BA    OBP   SLG
--3         .448  .541  .828
1-3         .500  .593  .955
-23         .400  .444  .933
123         .455  .462 1.000
3, lt 2 out .475  .538  .775 
3 2 out     .432  .512 1.054   

In 1992 an average player with 670 PA (Winfield’s total) would have had 412 runners on base and driven in 67. Winfield had 415 base runners and drove in 108. Talk about a cleanup hitter—what Joe Carter left behind was cleaned up by Mr. Winfield in a big way.

Check this out:

{exp:list_maker}David Wells (239-137, 4.13 ERA, a 20-win season, a perfect game, an 8-9, 3.17 ERA in 125 postseason innings).
Pat Hentgen (131-112, 4.32 ERA, a 20-win season and a Cy Young Award).
Al Leiter (162-132, 3.80 ERA and three World Series rings).
Mike Timlin (still active, eighth all-time in career appearances with 1035 and played on teams that are 4-0 in World Series).
David Weathers (still active and playing in his 18th big league season—won a World Series ring with the 1996 Yankees). {/exp:list_maker}

The Jays’ vaunted bullpen of Duane Ward and Tom Henke had some interesting names behind them (although some made spot starts) didn’t they?

Probably the lowest moment of the season was the 22-2 pasting the Milwaukee Brewers gave the Jays on August 28. Remember who started that game? It was Jimmy Key. It didn’t get him down however as he had a red hot September throwing 42.2 IP of 1.90 ERA ball going 5-1.

Jays’ fans recall that Milwaukee and Baltimore were Toronto’s primary tormentors that year. Notable head-to-head pitching performers included Juan Guzman’s two starts against the Brewers where he didn’t give up an earned run, Todd Stottlemyre’s 2-0, 2.63 ERA (two starts) over the Orioles and at the opposite end of the spectrum, Jimmy Key had a combined seven starts against the two clubs and went 2-4, 4.14 ERA.

1993

One impression I had of Pat Borders in 1993 was that he always seemed to have the big hit (usually a double) in the 6-8th innings. I decided to check to see how good my impression was:

Sit                  BA   OBP   SLG   2B
1993               .254  .285  .371   30
Late and close     .296  .338  .423    6
6th inning         .351  .362  .526    4
7th inning         .377  .441  .508    5       
8th inning         .359  .364  .578    5

Fourteen of Borders’ 30 doubles and six of his nine home runs came in innings 6-8 in 1993. It’s pretty obvious that those were his best innings offensively. He hit .363/.393/.538 in the sixth to eighth innings but just .189/.223/.271 in other parts of the game.

This season, Toronto is batting .213/.333/.303 with runners on the corners; in 1993 John Olerud batted .560/.581/.720 in that situation. Roberto Alomar had 21 at-bats either with runners on second and third or bases loaded and had 13 hits. Ed Sprague had a miserable season hitting in clutch situations but had six hits in 16 at-bats with the bases loaded—four of those hits were doubles. Speaking of having the sacks juiced—Joe Carter hit .333/.438/.583 with three aboard.

More clutchy-goodness: Paul Molitor:

Sit.         BA   OBP   SLG
RISP       .384  .468  .542
3 2 out    .351  .455  .432
RISP/2 out .367  .474  .494
Lt. & cl   .411  .486  .544   

Give Pat Gillick and Paul Beeston credit—they struck gold in selecting their DH in back-to-back years as both Winfield and Molly were absolute nails (doffs his cap in the direction of Drunk Jays Fans) when it came time to cash in base runners. It rubbed off on bench player Darnell Coles who hit .253/.319/.371 in ’93 but batted .316/.409/.474 with RISP/2 out, .310/.412/.379 late and close and .323/.371/.645 in tie games.

However, there were some notable reasons to reach for the cyanide in big moments. In 1992 and 1993 Alfredo Griffin had 43 plate appearances with two or more base runners on and was good for just one extra-base hit, and in 36 at-bats he made 32 outs. Ironically, he was on deck when Joe touched ‘em all in 1993 and rumor has it that a good chunk of the celebration was simple relief that Griffin wouldn’t have to come to bat. Another gagaroo was Canadian Rob Butler; with no one on he batted a solid .355/.474/.484 but if somebody before him reached base, it fell to .118/.167/.118. In fact, he made out every time there was a runner on third.

The Jays got ‘er done in 1993 with hitting and a snappy bullpen—Pat Hentgen led the starting staff with an ERA+ of 112. There were some bright spots however, after opening the season like Gustavo Chacin, Juan Guzman was 5-1, 5.26 ERA after 13 starts but cruised home 9-2, 3.29 ERA over his final 20 turns. Pat Hentgen’s first full season as a starter began well and he ended June 11-2, with a 3.02 ERA and after a complete game loss against the White Sox fatigue began to set in and he ended the year 8-7, 4.62 ERA over his final 17 starts. Although he had a mediocre year overall, Todd Stottlemyre enjoyed a five start run of solid work in late August and the first three weeks of September averaging over seven innings per turn going 4-1, 2.70 ERA. While Jack Morris didn’t finish the season on the active roster he lowered his ERA from 10.22 to 6.19 over his final 17 starts going 4-6, 4.42 ERA averaging over six innings each time out.

In short, he pitched better hurt than Stottlemyre did all season as Toddlemyre finished 1993 with a 4.84 ERA averaging less than six innings per start.

Dave Stewart’s ALCS MVP shouldn’t have been a complete surprise seeing as he went 6-2, 3.18 ERA over his final 10 turns averaging almost 6.2 innings per start. Including the LCS against the White Sox Stewart had a 12-outing run where he was 8-2, 2.99 ERA before the Phillies touched him for five runs in the third inning of game two of the Fall Classic.

Ain’t Baseball Reference wonderful?

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