These position-by-position matchups were assessed by American League scouts, as told to Newsday's Ken Davidoff.
YANKEES FIRST BASE: MARK TEIXEIRA
Teixeira is a plus-plus defender. He’s not hitting for average like he used to, but whatever the numbers say, you can’t discount him. Hitting lefty, he still has those pull-happy tendencies, where he collapses the back side. If you’ve got the guts to throw him a fastball upstairs, he’s vulnerable. But if you miss, he’s going to get under it and lift it.
TIGERS FIRST BASE: MIGUEL CABRERA
Cabrera is arguably the top hitter in the AL. Early on this season, he wasn't as good as usual, and then he turned it on at the end of the year. I don't know if there's a more feared hitter in the AL. He’s one of last guys you want to see on deck. His defense is adequate, at best.
Miguel Cabrera gives the Tigers the edge at first base in the 2011 ALDS against the Yankees.
YANKEES SECOND BASE: ROBINSON CANO
I love Robinson Cano. To me, he’s their most valuable player. I used to make fun of him for being lackadaisical on defense, but he can do things most guys can’t do in the game, from turning two to throwing when he’s not looking, to body control, pivots, relays. Hitting, you can’t bring in a left-handed pitcher to get him out.
TIGERS SECOND BASE: RYAN RABURN & RAMON SANTIAGO
Raburn (starts against lefties) can burn you offensively. He's dangerous. Defensively, he's a liability. Santiago (starts against righties) is solid. He can execute a hit-and-run, and he's steady defensively. He’s more of a role player.
Robinson Cano gives the Yankees the edge at second base in the 2011 ALDS against Detroit.
YANKEES THIRD BASE: ALEX RODRIGUEZ
It sounds crazy on the surface, but how about bringing in a lefty to face Alex Rodriguez late in a game? That’s what the numbers this year say you should do. He’s been better against righties this year. He has such great pitch recognition. On defense, his range seems better than it was last year.
TIGERS THIRD BASE: BRANDON INGE & WILSON BEEMIT
The hitting of Brandon Inge (starts against lefties) has really dropped off, and he’s not as good defensively, either. He looks like his knees are shot. Wilson Betemit (starts against righties) will run into some hits. He has solid at-bats. Defense isn't his thing.
Alex Rodriguez gives the Yankees the edge at third base.
YANKEES SHORTSTOP: DEREK JETER
Some of the older guys, when they come back from an injury, they look refreshed, and that’s what I see with Derek Jeter. If he has a hole in his swing, you’d better find it, and you’d better hit it. On defense, there are some plays where doesn’t show the range, but then there are plays when he shows it.
TIGERS SHORTSTOP: JHONNY PERALTA
Peralta is like a lot of guys there. He can hit, but he struggles defensively. He has zero range. He has slowed down in the second half. Remember, he was playing third base for Cleveland last year before the Tigers got him and put him back at shortstop.
It's a dead heat between the Yankees and Tigers at shortstop in the 2011 ALDS.
YANKEES CATCHER: RUSSELL MARTIN
Russell Martin looks like he does a good job with the pitching staff. He’s a good Yankees personality, fiery. He’s a grinder. He blocks balls really well. He does the little things. That makes him an attribute. He’s a positive guy out there.
TIGERS CATCHER: ALEX AVILA
Avila has turned into the best catcher in our league. He’s a very talented kid. He’s a good hitter with pop, and defensively, he’s a very good receiver with a good arm. Jim Leyland loves him, which tells you plenty.
Alex Avila gives the Tigers the edge at catcher in the 2011 ALDS against the Yankees.
YANKEES LEFT FIELD: BRETT GARDNER
Brett Gardner might be the fastest guy in baseball. I still wish he could bunt for a base hit more. He hits a lot of groundballs, which is what he should be doing. On defense, he’s great at covering the gaps.
TIGER LEFT FIELD: DELMON YOUNG
Early on this year, when he was still with Minnesota, Delmon Young was not the same guy he used to be. Since the trade to Detroit (in August), he came back to being the Young of old. He's a free swinger and he can be pitched to, but he has a knack of getting the big hit. He has zero range defensively.
Brett Gardner gives the Yankees the edge in left field for the 2011 ALDS against Detroit.
YANKEES CENTERFIELD: CURTIS GRANDERSON
Curtis Granderson isn’t vulnerable to lefties. He’s dangerous, really dangerous. I’ve heard the talk about the Granderson trade helping all three teams (the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks), but I’m sure they didn’t expect this. He wasn’t this kind of player in Detroit. How many players improve at 30 years old to where we talk about him being an MVP?
TIGERS CENTERFIELD: AUSTIN JACKSON
Austin Jackson could win a Gold Glove, but I've never been a real fan of his offensive game. He’s got a lot of holes in that swing. He can definitely be pitched to. He strikes out an awful lot for a leadoff hitter.
The edge in centerfield belongs to the Yankees.
YANKEES RIGHT FIELD: NICK SWISHER
Nick Swisher is a little weaker hitting right-handed pitching. He tends to pull off and tries to do too much with that (Yankee Stadium) porch in rightfield. He plays good defense; he’s an aggressive outfielder. He’s good in this lineup. They’ve got all of the model pros and then Swisher going out and firing them up.
TIGERS RIGHT FIELD: MAGGLIO ORDONEZ & ANDY DIRKS
Magglio Ordonez (starts against lefties) has definitely slowed down. He’s not the power threat he used to be. He knows what he’s doing at the plate, so he’ll throw some hits out there, but he has no power. Andy Dirks (starts against righties) has a lot of power and is very aggressive at the plate. Defensively, he can run them down and has a good arm.
Nick Swisher gives the Yankees the edge in right field for the 2011 ALDS against Detroit.
YANKEES DH: JORGE POSADA
I think the Yankees have confidence in Jorge Posada in certain matchups, and with the Tigers starting all right-handers, Posada could get some starts. I think he goes over in the column of veteran with a skill set that will match up. Eric Chavez also could start against a righty.
TIGERS DH: VICTOR MARTINEZ
I think you could make an argument that Victor Martinez is the team’s most valuable player. He picked up so many of those RBI that Cabrera didn’t get; he had 103 RBI even with only 12 homers. His reputation speaks for itself. He’s always been one of the top hitters in the league.
Victor Martinez gives the Tigers the edge at DH in the 2011 ALDS against the Yankees.
When I see CC Sabathia sometimes, I can’t believe he ever gets hit with the stuff he throws up there. You get a guy throwing an 88-mph changeup, I’m going to take my chances with that guy. I think he’s vulnerable when he tries to do too much. He gets out front a little bit and leaves a pitch up.
Ivan Nova has got the stuff, but does he have the stomach? I trust what I’ve seen over the years with him, but this is a little bit different of a stage. He has more confidence than he used to. When the situation tightens up, he doesn’t second-guess himself before he throws a pitch. He’s good at the damage control that A.J. Burnett doesn’t have.
I’ve seen Freddy Garcia pretty good, and I’ve seen him pretty bad. If I were wearing pinstripes, I wish I had a different option. But he knows how to pitch. Obviously, he has less margin for error than most guys. But he’s got that veteran savvy. You can see by the low innings count that Girardi gets him out when he has to get him out.
Justin Verlander is definitely the top guy in the game right now. If he's on, it’s going to be a long night for the Yankees. In the past, he used to come out of the gate cutting it loose. Now he eases into it. He’s more of a pitcher. He uses his change-up more than he used to.
When Doug Fister pitched for Seattle, he’d be lights out for four or five innings, and then all of a sudden, he’d implode. Not anymore. Maybe now that he gets some runs, he’s relaxing a little more. He works fast, and he’s a strike-throwing machine. He has a quick arm that’s deceptive.
When he came up as a young kid, Rick Porcello had that great arm. Now he’s calmed down. That 95-96 mph fastball isn’t there anymore. He gives up runs because he makes too many mistakes. He relies on the Tigers’ run support to win games.
CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander headline the Yankees' and Tigers' staffs, but their entire rotations are even for this ALDS.
They have the depth to mix and match, play matchups, and then they have the steady guys with Soriano in the seventh, Robertson in the eighth and Rivera in the ninth. Boone Logan isn’t throwing as hard as he did last year, which concerns me.
Rafael Soriano was terrible at the beginning of the year, and even though he’s been better lately, he still makes me a little nervous out there.
David Robertson, he’s a sleeping giant. He’s got closer stuff and closer savvy. He has total trust in that breaking ball. They’ve done a great job bringing him along. He’s a weapon, and he’s on top of the world right now. He has an aura about him, an air, like he can’t fail. That’s a good thing.
Mariano Rivera, I wish I could come up with a cliché that hasn’t been said about him. He’s as good as can be. I think the game gets played with the fear that he’s out there. It’s like swimming in the ocean. You know the sharks are out there, so you don’t go as far as you want to. You see teams try things a little earlier because they don’t want to get to him. With his command of the cutter, he makes All-Stars look feeble.
Phil Coke has turned into one of the better lefties in the league. He couldn’t get anyone out when they made him a starter, but he was back to his old self when they switched him back to the bullpen. When he can’t get over that big hook [his slider], he’s vulnerable.
Al Alburquerque has a great arm. He’s nasty. He’s a key guy because he can give them a couple of innings in the middle of the game. He’s had some injury problems during the season, though.
Joaquin Benoit struggled during the first part of the year, but during the last part, he looked more like the Benoit of old. He comes at you with his fastball, and he has a nice little slider.
Jose Valverde is very confident and comes right at you. He’s got a good fastball and splitter. Where he's vulnerable is, you can run all day on him. If the Yankees get on, they may run wild on him. But they’ve got to get on. His perfect record in saves this year shows how on he has been.
David Robertson and his 1.08 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66.2 innings helps give the Yankees the edge in the bullpen.
I think they should’ve caught Jesus Montero more down the stretch. They should’ve familiarized him with the staff. His at-bats have gotten better every week. Eduardo Nunez seems to be prone to careless mistakes. I know he’s gotten some big hits, but he’s prone to over-swinging. Andruw Jones seems to cheat a little bit. He can’t catch up to the fastball like he used to.
We’ve mentioned most of their top bench guys, because Leyland platoons so much, so let me add that I think Leyland is a real asset for them. I know people debate how much a manager can impact a game, but I think Leyland really has his stuff together.
Jesus Montero is happy to know the Yankees have the edge when it comes to their bench.