ALDS position by position: Tigers-Yankees

ALDS position by position: Tigers-Yankees

NEW YORK -- With regard to giving us insight into what we'll be watching in the American League Division Series, very little can be made of the seven meetings between the Tigers and Yankees in the regular season. After all, these two clubs haven't faced each other since way back on Cinco de Mayo. We do know the Yanks are the only team Justin Verlander faced twice and somehow didn't beat, but the Tigers nonetheless claimed the season series, 4-3.

The best way to gauge what's in store is to break these two down, position by position. On the eve of the playoffs, here's a quick look at how the East and Central champs stack up.

Note that finalized postseason rosters had not been announced, as of this writing, so some names aren't set in stone.

CATCHER

Yankees
Russell Martin: .237/18/65 (BA/HR/RBI)
Jesus Montero: .328/4/12
Austin Romine: .158/0/0

Tigers
Alex Avila: .295/19/82
Omir Santos: .227/0/0

Martin had something of a resurgent season after his All-Star career appeared to have flamed out in Los Angeles. Montero is a lock for the roster, but because of his bat at the plate, not his defensive skills behind it. He'll play at DH.

Avila has had a breakout season after batting just .228 as a rookie last year. He has earned his spot in the middle portion of a lethal lineup. The Tigers have to decide whether to carry Santos as a backup for him. Brandon Inge could fill in should an emergency arise. Victor Martinez doesn't appear likely to catch again this year.

EDGE: Tigers

FIRST BASE

Yankees
Mark Teixeira: .248/39/111
Jorge Posada: .235/14/44

Tigers
Miguel Cabrera: .344/30/105
Don Kelly: .245/7/28

Teixeira's batting average and OPS have both slipped in each of the last two seasons, but he remains one of the game's top threats to go deep.

Even on his best day, though, Teixeira isn't the offensive force that Cabrera is. Despite personal distractions in Spring Training, Cabrera turned in another monster year. And now that he has more lineup protection, opposing pitchers can't simply pitch around him as much as they once did.

EDGE: Tigers

SECOND BASE

Yankees
Robinson Cano: .302/28/118
Eduardo Nunez: .265/5/30

Tigers
Ramon Santiago: .260/5/30
Ryan Raburn: .256/14/49

Cano is simply one of the premier offensive forces in the game, and he showed it in belting four home runs in last year's ALCS against the Rangers. He's also improved his glovework in recent years.

It's been a revolving door for the Tigers at second base this season. Santiago was the fifth player given a regular shot at the position, and his solid glove and strong arm have been a big asset. Veteran Carlos Guillen is out of ALDS with a calf injury.

EDGE: Yankees

SHORTSTOP

Yankees
Derek Jeter: .297/6/61
Eduardo Nunez: .265/5/30

Tigers
Jhonny Peralta: .299/21/86
Ramon Santiago: .260/5/30

Reports of Jeter's demise were greatly exaggerated, as he looked like a different player -- namely, the Jeter of old -- after crushing a home run for his 3,000th hit. And with 147 games -- almost a full season -- under his belt, his postseason pedigree is well-established.

Very quietly, though, Peralta has had a career year. He led all AL shortstops in OPS and even showed improved range in the field. While he doesn't have the experience of Jeter, he did hit .333 with a .991 OPS in the 2007 playoffs, with the Indians.

EDGE: Tigers

THIRD BASE

Yankees
Alex Rodriguez: .276/16/62
Eric Chavez: .263/2/26

Tigers
Wilson Betemit: .292/5/19
Brandon Inge: .197/3/23
Don Kelly: .245/7/28

This was a rather forgettable season for A-Rod, whose injury issues -- including, but not limited to midseason knee surgery -- made him look an old 36. He was scratched from the lineup on the final day of the regular season with knee injuries, so his status for the Division Series is uncertain.

Third base has been another inconsistent position for the Tigers this season. In July, the club dispatched Inge to Triple-A and traded for Betemit to replace him. Betemit's been a solid pickup. It's possible Inge will get the playing time against lefties.

EDGE: Yankees, but only if A-Rod is healthy

OUTFIELD

Yankees
Brett Gardner: .259/7/36
Curtis Granderson: .262/41/119
Nick Swisher: .260/23/85
Andruw Jones: .247/13/33
Chris Dickerson: .260/1/7

Tigers
Delmon Young: .274/8/32
Austin Jackson: .249/10/45
Magglio Ordonez: .255/5/32
Ryan Raburn: .256/14/49
Andy Dirks: .251/7/28

Granderson has completely rewritten his reputation this season, from a guy who simply couldn't be trusted against lefties to a viable MVP candidate. Gardner and Swisher tend to get overlooked in a loaded lineup, but Gardner can change games with his legs and Swisher has his share of pop (you just wouldn't know it by his lifetime .162 average in 105 postseason at-bats).

The Tigers made a savvy waiver-wire pickup in adding Young in August. He's been a big contributor, seizing the No. 3 spot of the lineup. Jackson, the former Yankees farmhand, endured the dreaded sophomore slump this season but can still be a big sparkplug when he's right. An injury to Brennan Boesch thrust Ordonez back into regular playing time. His best days are behind him, but he did post a strong September.

EDGE: Yankees

DESIGNATED HITTER

Yankees
Jesus Montero: .328/4/12
Jorge Posada: .235/14/44
Eric Chavez: .263/2/26
Andruw Jones: .247/13/33

Tigers
Victor Martinez: .330/12/103

The aging, past-his-prime Posada did not deliver a great deal from the DH spot this season, so now it's a hodgepodge of candidates for the role, with the up-and-coming Montero the most intriguing option, particularly against left-handed pitching.

Like Posada, Martinez also moved to DH this year, but he didn't skip a beat. The lineup protection he's afforded Cabrera has been a huge, huge asset. The Tigers clearly have the upper-hand here.

EDGE: Tigers

STARTING PITCHERS

Yankees
LHP CC Sabathia: 19-8, 3.00, 237 1/3 (W-L, ERA, IP)
RHP Ivan Nova: 16-4, 3.70, 165 1/3
RHP Freddy Garcia: 12-8, 3.62, 146 2/3
RHP A.J. Burnett: 11-11, 5.15, 190 1/3
RHP Bartolo Colon: 8-10, 4.00, 164 1/3

Tigers
RHP Justin Verlander: 24-5, 2.40, 251
RHP Doug Fister: 11-13, 2.83, 216 1/3 (8-1, 1.79, 70 1/3 with Detroit)
RHP Max Scherzer: 15-9, 4.43, 195
LHP Rick Porcello: 14-9, 4.75, 182

The Yankees were unable to lure Cliff Lee, and Andy Pettitte opted to retire, so what you see is what you get, with regard to the rotation. Sabathia's postseason results have been a mixed bag, but he's the closest thing to a sure thing in a rotation riddled with question marks. Much is riding on the rookie Nova.

For much of the season, the Tigers' rotation was a one-man show. What a show it was, as Verlander was posting a season for the ages. But until Fister was brought in from the Mariners at the July 31 Trade Deadline, the rotation lacked depth. Now, the Tigers have as solid a one-two punch as any team in the playoff field. Scherzer is less reliable but awfully tough when he has his best stuff.

EDGE: Tigers

MIDDLE RELIEVERS

Yankees
RHP David Robertson: 4-0, 1.08, 66 2/3
RHP Rafael Soriano: 2-3, 4.12, 39 1/3
LHP Boone Logan: 5-3, 3.46, 41 2/3
RHP Cory Wade: 6-1, 2.04, 39 2/3
RHP Luis Ayala: 2-2, 2.09, 56
RHP Phil Hughes: 5-5, 5.79, 74 2/3
LHP Raul Valdes: 0-0, 2.70, 6 2/3

Tigers
RHP Joaquin Benoit: 4-3, 2.95, 61
LHP Phil Coke: 3-9, 4.47, 108 2/3
RHP Al Alburquerque: 6-1, 1.87, 43 1/3
LHP Daniel Schlereth: 2-2, 3.49, 49
LHP Duane Below: 0-2, 4.34, 29
RHP Ryan Perry: 2-0, 5.35, 37
RHP David Pauley: 0-2, 5.95, 19 2/3

The Yankees offset some of the iffy nature of their rotation with a solid bullpen setup, as Robertson has been one of the best in the business this year and Soriano, since coming off the disabled list in late July, has looked like the guy for whom the Yanks doled out big bucks last winter. They lack a sure-thing second lefty option.

The Tigers joined the Yanks in making a splashy addition of a setup man, signing Benoit to a three-year deal. He also struggled initially but has settled in to become an eighth-inning force. A big X-factor for the Tigers is Alburquerque, who is a seventh-inning weapon provided he doesn't have any further setbacks from the concussion he suffered in August.

EDGE: Yankees

CLOSER

Yankees
RHP Mariano Rivera: 1-2, 1.91, 44 (W-L, ERA, SVs)

Tigers
RHP Jose Valverde: 2-4, 2.24, 49

That regular-season saves record is impressive and all, but Rivera saves his absolute best for the postseason, where he has 42 saves, a 0.71 ERA and a 0.766 WHIP. Unless your name is Luis Gonzalez or Sandy Alomar Jr., he's been virtually unbeatable.

While Rivera is the best closer of all-time, Valverde was arguably the best this season. He didn't suffer a single blown save, his exaggerated celebratory displays either a source of entertainment or a cause of scorn, depending on your perspective. He'll really have reason to celebrate if he gets a chance to close out the Yanks.

EDGE: Yankees

BENCH

Yankees
Eduardo Nunez: .265/5/30
Eric Chavez: .263/2/26
Andruw Jones: .247/13/33
Chris Dickerson: .260/1/7

Tigers
Brandon Inge: .197/3/23
Don Kelly: .245/7/28
Ryan Raburn: .256/14/49
Andy Dirks: .251/7/28

The exact formulation of the Yankees' roster remains to be seen, but we know for certain that this is a deep club. Nunez and Chavez have both proved plenty capable of filling in, when necessary, Either Montero or Posada, depending on who gets the start at DH, would be a fine pinch-hitting option in the late innings.

Losing Boesch for the season and having Guillen unavailable with a calf injury undoubtedly hurts the Tigers, from a depth standpoint. This is also a club notably lacking in the speed department.

EDGE: Yankees

COACHES

Yankees
Manager: Joe Girardi
Bench coach: Tony Pena
Hitting coach: Kevin Long
Pitching coach: Larry Rothschild
Third-base coach: Rob Thomson
First-base coach: Mick Kelleher

Tigers
Manager: Jim Leyland
Hitting coach: Lloyd McClendon
Pitching coach: Jeff Jones
Third-base coach: Gene Lamont
First-base coach: Tom Brookens

Managing the most expensive roster in the game ensures a limit to the amount of credit Girardi can ever receive, but give him his due for keeping this club steadily at or near the top of the East, despite the shakiness of the starting staff, the controversy over Posada's role and subpar seasons from A-Rod and Teixeira. He's encountered plenty of criticism for some past postseason maneuvering. That comes with the territory.

Leyland entered the season on the hot seat, but it cooled when the Tigers ran away with the division in the second half, earning him an extension through 2012. He's a three-time Manager of the Year who has led two pennant winners and one World Series winner -- the 1997 Marlins.

EDGE: Tigers

FANS

Yankees: Celebrities in the primo seats, history, mystique and, yes, the Bleacher Creatures.

Tigers: Loyal and hungry fan base that's been waiting 27 years for a title.

The energy in Yankee Stadium -- be it this newer version or the one they tore down across the street -- is tough to top come October. The Yanks have star power in the form of famously devoted fans such as Billy Crystal and Rudy Giuliani, they have tradition in the form of the Bleacher Creatures chanting the name of each player in the lineup, and they have cozy dimensions that aid their power-slugging lineup.

Don't count out what the Tigers bring to the table, though. Even in hard economic times, Tigers fans have been fiercely loyal, and the quest to end the long title drought brings an energy all its own. As far as Comerica Park's dimensions are concerned, the Tigers' offense thrives in spite of its spacious home park.

EDGE: Yankees

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.