Where would the Yankees be without Cervelli filling in so capably for the frequently hobbled Jorge Posada? Where would the Mets be without the slugging, bargain-basement pickup Barajas? Neither throws out many runners, but both have good reputations for working with pitchers. Cervelli gets on base but doesn't hit homers, while Barajas hits homers but doesn't get on base.
The rookie Davis is having the better season than the established All-Star Teixeira, and that's despite a two-week head start for Teixeira. Davis has already graduated to the Mets' cleanup spot, and he seems to know what he's doing defensively, as well. Teixeira has heated up after his typically dreadful April, and he still ranks among the best in the business at what he does.
Cano has been the Yankees' most valuable player, a savior at a time when many of their stars have either resided in the trainer's room or underperformed. His defense has improved, as well. Castillo? He's playing slightly better defense, but he's not the on-base machine he was last year. Castillo's long-term contract remains a symbol of the Mets front office's poor judgment.
The perception states that A-Rod, reformed and reshaped, is a new man, while Wright, scarred from his Matt Cain beaning last August and frustrated with the Mets' direction, is, well, also a new man. The reality is that they're putting up similar seasons so far. But, to be fair, A-Rod has been trending upward and Wright downward.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Jose Reyes
It's characteristic of Jeter's baseball karma that few are discussing his slippage, because the Yankees are playing well and, besides, Reyes has endured a full-fledged plummet. Reyes has been nothing short of dreadful, and his offense really hasn't picked up since Jerry Manuel switched him back to leadoff. Jeter, however, needs to raise his offensive game if he wants to push the Yankees for a ginormous contract extension this winter.
Leftfield: Randy Winn vs. Jason Bay
Probably for the June rematch, the Yankees will have Curtis Granderson in centerfield and Brett Gardner in left. With Granderson still healing his left groin, however, Gardner resides in centerfield, and Winn, while adequate defensively, has been an offensive sinkhole. Bay has been a highly paid disappointment, although he at least is getting on base some.
Centerfield: Brett Gardner vs. Angel Pagan
Pagan has been a godsend for the Mets, who hope that Carlos Beltran (right knee) can return by the All-Star break. That's an irony of the Mets' slow start - their one injured star has a very capable fill-in. Over in the Bronx, though, Gardner's stock is rising like an Internet startup in 1998. On-base skills, defense, speed - wow.
Rightfield: Nick Swisher vs. Jeff Francoeur
Swisher has missed the last week or so of action with an ailing left biceps, but he made his return last night. The more time he spends in New York, the more people seem to appreciate just how good he is. Alas, the exact opposite is true for Francoeur, whose strong 2009 debut with the Mets is now but a faded memory. Francoeur, no matter how upbeat a guy he is, represents a significant liability on offense.
This is tough to measure, since National League lineups tend to be so much easier than American League lineups. And the NL's best lineup, the Phillies, crushed both Pelfrey and Santana. Overall, though, Pelfrey and Santana have been very reliable, and Takahashi worked great in relief to earn this starting debut. On the Yankees' side, Vazquez hopes to build on one good start and one good relief appearance; Hughes has been a breakout star, and Sabathia is performing slightly below his high expectations.
Bullpen: Yankees vs. Mets
Not a recent source of pride for either club. The Yankees thought they built up significant inventory to set up Mariano Rivera (who has had a bad week), yet Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Chan Ho Park all have hit speed bumps. Jerry Manuel seems determined to set a record for appearances for Fernando Nieve, and Francisco Rodriguez always makes fans nervous. Otherwise, though? Pedro Feliciano, Raul Valdes and Jenrry Mejia have been all right.
Bench: Yankees vs. Mets
The Yankees have pretty much been playing without a bench, as they wait for Nick Swisher (left biceps) and Marcus Thames (left ankle) to heal. Ramiro Peña provides value with his feet and glove. Journeyman Chad Moeller now backs up Cervelli at catcher. The Mets for some reason still have Gary Matthews Jr. taking up a roster spot, and we all know Alex Cora is overpaid for what he produces, but Henry Blanco is solid behind the plate, and Chris Carter and Fernando Tatis bring something to the party.
At some point, the Manuel-bashing seems like overkill, and he can't be blamed for the quality of his roster. He can be blamed, however, for his usage of that roster. Girardi? He sometimes gets a little hyper with his in-game moves, and he doesn't connect with his players like even Manuel does. But the guy knows what he's doing when it comes to game management and player deployment.