Everyone does their position-by-position breakdown. Look around the internet and you can find dozens. I never understood why people choose to break a lineup down by defensive position. Defense is important, but putting player’s abilities in context is more important. Alex Rodriguez isn’t really supposed to compare to Chone Figgins, he compares more to the #4 hitter in the lineup.
So, how do the team’s hitters match up?
Leadoff – Derek Jeter vs. Chone Figgins
Both players can steal bases, and both players get on base exceptionally well. Derek Jeter hit .334/.406/.465 in 2009, while Figgins hit .298/.395/.393. Jeter showed more power than his rival, and therefore has a clear edge in effectiveness. While Figgins is faster, the difference between him and Jeter is negligible.
Edge: Yankees (1-0-0)
Two-Hole: Johnny Damon vs. Bobby Abreu
Both outfielders are watching their careers wind down. Bobby Abreu has spent his the twilight of his career hitting for much less power than he used to, but still showing his ability to draw walks. Johnny Damon has actually seen a dramatic increase in power, mostly at the expense of defense. Abreu hit .293/.390/.435 this season, while Damon hit .282/.365/.489.
I think that Bobby Abreu is terribly overrated by the media. He is a very good baseball player, but his drastic decline in power is starting to hurt his value. Damon is provides both power and an ability to avoid outs, but makes a few more outs. To me, its a tie.
Edge: Tie (1-0-1)
Three Spot: Mark Teixeira vs. Torri Hunter
Torri Hunter is a fine baseball player. He had a career year, hitting .299/.366/.508, and is making the Yankees regret not signing him. Regardless, this one is easy:
Edge: Yankees (2-0-1)
Cleanup: Vlad Guerrero vs. Alex Rodriguez
This would have been an epic match up a few years ago. Both are going to the hall of fame. One is in the twilight of his career. Fortunately for us, that one is not Alex Rodriguez. Arod is my pick for ALCS MVP.
Edge: Yankees (3-0-1)
Fifth: Hideki Matsui vs. Kendry Morales
Morales finally had the breakout year that we were all waiting for. He was supposed to be a major source of power out of Cuba, but that took some time to adjust. Matsui had an excellent season, hitting .294/.367/.509, but Morales best him with home runs, hitting .306/.355/.569. Really, Morales should be in Guerrero’s spot. Alex Rodriguez would have an edge over Morales, and Matsui over Guerrero.
Edge: Angels (3-1-1)
Sixth: Jorge Posada vs. Juan Rivera
Juan Rivera has shown a nice rebound since his terrible injury. The former Yankee hit .287/.333/.478. But Posada easily bested him, hitting .285/.363/522. This one isn’t even close.
Edge: Yankees (4-1-1)
Seven: Robinson Cano vs. Maicer Izturis / Howie Kendrick
Izturis, a utility man who can play all over the diamond, had a career year. Howie Kendrick has a lot of talent. Neither come close to doing what Robinson Cano did this year. I think that Yankee fans underrate how good their 2nd baseman is. And how good their #7 hitter is for someone in that spot. Another huge win for the Yankees.
Edge: Yankees (5-1-1)
Eighth: Mike Napoli vs. Nick Swisher
Swisher and Napoli are really very similar hitters. They both swing for the fences, but strike out often. Fortunately for the Yankees, Swisher not only hit more out of the park, but he took twice as many walks as Napoli. Again, the Yankees have an underrated asset hitting way back at 8th in their lineup, and stashed away in right field. He’s a damned good baseball player, and is a big part of the Yankee depth.
Edge: Yankees (6-1-1)
Second Leadoff: Melky Cabrera vs. Erick Aybar
I fully expected six months ago for Melky to be out of the Yankee organization and Brett Gardner to be in this spot. While Gardner had a good rookie season, Cabrera really came in to his own in 2009. Gone are the long slumps and booming hot streaks. He became a major league average hitter in almost every way, which is great for a center fielder and 9th hole batter
That said, the Angels win this one with Aybar. The shortstop hit .314/.353/.423. He won’t be a 9th hitter for long.
Final score: Yankees have the big edge (6-2-1)
The Angels have a very good lineup that scored a lot of runs in 2009. That said, the Yankees have a historically deep lineup of power hitters that rivals some of the best of all time. So deep that they best the 2nd best in the league 6 of 9 times. Amazing.
Has anyone else gone crazy waiting for this series to begin? One more day…
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