Yankees-Twins position-by-position

Yankees-Twins position-by-position

It was merely one year ago that the Yankees and Twins squared off in a rather lopsided American League Division Series. Though the Twins hung close in every game, they ultimately became just the first obstacle for the Yankees en route to their 27th World Series title.

This year, things may turn out differently. The Twins have added a dominant Francisco Liriano, but subtracted a healthy Justin Morneau. They have added a shiny new stadium, but subtracted the deafening crowd noise of the old Metrodome. They have added some experience -- but then again, so have the Yankees.

At first glance, this matchup does not appear nearly as lopsided as the one that kick-started the AL playoffs last autumn. So here's a second, more in-depth glance:

CATCHER

Yankees
Jorge Posada: .248, 18 HR, 57 RBI
Francisco Cervelli: .271, 0 HR, 38 RBI

Twins
Joe Mauer: .327, 9 HR, 75 RBIs
Drew Butera: .197, 2 HR, 13 RBIs

No offense to Jorge Posada, who has been one of the best offensive catchers of his generation. Joe Mauer is one of the best offensive catchers of any generation, and is squarely in his prime. Posada is not.

EDGE: Twins

FIRST BASE

Yankees
Mark Teixeira: .256, 33 HR, 108 RBI

Twins
Michael Cuddyer: .271, 14 HR, 81 RBI

There's no overemphasizing how much the Twins miss Morneau, who has spent much of this season battling post-concussion syndrome. When healthy, Morneau is one of the premier left-handed power threats in the game. Without him, Minnesota's lineup is simply not the same.

Cuddyer, of course, is no offensive slouch, capable of hitting balls out of the park with regularity. But he's not in the same class as Teixeira, one of the premier switch-hitters in the game. Morneau is.

EDGE: Yankees

SECOND BASE

Yankees
Robinson Cano: .319, 29 HR, 109 RBI

Twins
Orlando Hudson: .268, 6 HR, 37 RBI

A smart addition this past offseason, Hudson has earned accolades for his defense, hustle and clubhouse presence. All of which are nice. But Cano, in addition to improving his glovework dramatically over the past few years, has developed into one of the premier offensive players in the game. And, despite his age, he still boasts far more postseason experience than Hudson.

It's Cano in a landslide.

EDGE: Yankees

SHORTSTOP

Yankees
Derek Jeter: .270, 10 HR, 67 RBI
Ramiro Pena: .227, 0 HR, 18 RBI

Twins
J.J. Hardy: .268, 6 HR, 38 RBI
Alexi Casilla: .276, 1 HR, 20 RBI

For all the talk of Jeter's decline, he is still Derek Jeter. And it is still October. Don't count him out just yet.

That said, the Yankees would have a disadvantage against most teams at shortstop considering Jeter's conspicuous decline on both offense and defense. But the Twins are not most teams. What they possess in depth at the position, they lack in top-shelf talent. Jeter remains the best overall shortstop on either club.

EDGE: Yankees

THIRD BASE

Yankees
Alex Rodriguez: .270, 30 HR, 125 RBI

Twins
Danny Valencia: .311, 7 HR, 40 RBI
Nick Punto: .238, 1 HR, 20 RBI

On one side is a potential future Hall of Famer, a rare member of the 600-home run club and one of the best -- if not the best -- right-handed hitters in the history of the game.

On the other side is a rookie third baseman with seven career homers. Nothing against Valencia, but you do the math.

EDGE: Yankees

OUTFIELD

Yankees
Brett Gardner: .277, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 47 SB
Curtis Granderson: .247, 24 HR, 67 RBI
Nick Swisher: .288, 29 HR, 89 RBI
Austin Kearns: .263, 10 HR, 49 RBI

Delmon Young: .298, 21 HR, 112 RBI
Denard Span: .264, 3 HR, 58 RBI, 26 SB
Jason Kubel: .249, 21 HR, 92 RBI
Jason Repko: .228, 3 HR, 9 RBI

Here's where things get interesting. The Yankees have an almost unfair mix of power and speed in their outfield -- but then again, so do the Twins. Delmon Young enjoyed a breakout season in left field, and Jason Kubel, despite a slight drop-off, has given the Twins plenty of power production in the middle of the lineup. As usual, the Twins play some fine outfield defense as well.

That said, New York's outfielders reach base at an otherworldly clip, thanks in large part to the breakout season of Gardner. The Twins are quite well-stocked in the outfield. But the Yankees are better.

EDGE: Yankees

DESIGNATED HITTER

Yankees
Lance Berkman: .248, 14 HR, 58 RBI
Marcus Thames: .288, 12 HR, 33 RBIs

Twins
Jim Thome: .283, 25 HR, 59 RBI

The fact that the Yankees boast a legitimate power threat from both sides of the plate is important. Though neither Berkman nor Thames is a complete player, combined, they make a formidable team.

But Thome is perhaps the single most significant piece that the Twins have added since last October. Enjoying a renaissance season at the age of 40, Thome gives the Twins thump. And thump is always good.

EDGE: Twins

STARTERS

Yankees
LHP CC Sabathia: 21-7, 3.18 ERA
LHP Andy Pettitte: 11-3, 3.28 ERA
RHP Phil Hughes: 18-8, 4.19 ERA
RHP A.J. Burnett: 10-15, 5.26 ERA

Twins
LHP Francisco Liriano: 14-10, 3.62 ERA
RHP Carl Pavano: 17-11, 3.75 ERA
LHP Brian Duensing: 10-3, 2.62 ERA
RHP Nick Blackburn: 10-12, 5.42 ERA

Liriano gives the Twins the one thing they desperately lacked during last year's ALDS: a power left-handed arm. The good ones can be kryptonite to New York's offense -- and Liriano is a good one.

The Yankees, of course, have a power lefty of their own in CC Sabathia, a 20-game winner for the first time this season. But beyond Sabathia, they have issues. Pettitte has been shaky since returning from the disabled list, Hughes has already shattered his previous career high in innings and Burnett, quite simply, has been a mess. In a short series, poor starts from any of those three could cripple the Yankees.

EDGE: Twins

MIDDLE RELIEVERS

Yankees
RHP Kerry Wood: 47 G, 3.13 ERA ERA
RHP Dave Robertson: 64 G, 3.82 ERA
RHP Joba Chamberlain: 73 G, 4.40 ERA
LHP Boone Logan: 51 G, 2.92 ERA
RHP Dustin Moseley: 16 G, 4.96 ERA
RHP Ivan Nova: 10 G, 4.50 ERA

Twins
LHP Brian Fuentes: 48 G, 2.81 ERA
RHP Jesse Crain: 71 G, 3.04 ERA
RHP Matt Guerrier: 74 G, 3.17 ERA
LHP Jose Mijares: 47 G, 3.31 ERA
RHP Jon Rauch: 59 G, 3.12 ERA
RHP Kevin Slowey: 30 G, 4.45 ERA

Don't be fooled by the fact that the Twins finished eighth in the Majors with a 3.50 bullpen ERA, just behind the Yankees' 3.42 mark. Minnesota is top-heavy in its bullpen, and their top five middle relievers -- Fuentes, Crain, Guerrier, Mijares and Rauch -- all have enough talent to close out games. Need more proof? Fuentes and Rauch are former closers.

The Twins also boast something that the Yankees do not: two legitimate left-handed options out of the 'pen. Yankees manager Joe Girardi enjoyed that luxury last season with Phil Coke and Damaso Marte, and he knows how important it can be. Now it's Ron Gardenhire's turn.

EDGE: Twins

CLOSERS

Yankees
RHP Mariano Rivera: 61 G, 1.80 ERA, 33 SV

Twins
RHP Matt Capps: 74 G, 2.47 ERA, 42 SV

Reports of Rivera's poor September are severely overblown. Yes, he blew three saves, and yes, he allowed more earned runs (six) than he has in any month since April 2007. So what? Rivera is still the game's premier closer, and the best by far in postseason history.

With a nod to Capps, who has been sensational since a midsummer trade from Washington, Rivera is the guy here. There isn't a manager in baseball who would take Capps over Rivera in a pressure-packed ninth.

EDGE: Yankees

BENCH

Yankees
Ramiro Pena: .227, 0 HR, 18 RBI
Marcus Thames: .288, 12 HR, 33 RBI
Austin Kearns: .263, 10 HR, 49 RBI
Eduardo Nunez: .280, 1 HR, 7 RBI
Francisco Cervelli: .271, 0 HR, 38 RBI

Twins
Alexi Casilla: .276, 1 HR, 20 RBI
Nick Punto: .238, 1 HR, 20 RBI
Jason Repko: .228, 3 HR, 9 RBI
Drew Butera: .197, 2 HR, 13 RBI

Thames, on the roster solely for his ability to mash left-handed pitching, should start Game 1 over Berkman at DH. Otherwise, the Yankees won't often turn to their bench, mostly a collection of one-dimensional players. Girardi likes to carry players with a single superlative skill: Pena for his infield defense, Nunez for his speed, Thames for his ability to hit left-handed pitching.

The Twins don't boast many game-changers on the pine, either, though Casilla did bat .283 in 113 at-bats after the All-Star break.

Although neither bench figures to play a significant role in this series, the Yankees earn the edge due to Thames' game-changing ability.

EDGE: Yankees

COACHES

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

Twins
Manager : Ron Gardenhire
Bench coach: Steve Liddle
Hitting coach: Joe Vavra
Pitching coach: Rick Anderson
Third-base coach: Scott Ullger
First-base coach: Jerry White

Managing the Yankees, there's a limit to how much credit Girardi can ever receive. He controls the most expensive -- and arguably the most talented -- roster in the game. And while he's done it well, giving his veterans strategic days off to keep them fresh, Girardi did come under fire for some curious pitching decisions in the 2009 ALCS.

Gardenhire, meanwhile, has taken a roughly $90 million roster -- less than half than that of the Yankees -- and once again turned it into a World Series contender. Kudos to that.

EDGE: Twins

FANS

Yankees: Bleacher Creatures, celebrity fans, history and mystique.
Twins: Brand new stadium, title-starved fans, frosty weather

Billy Crystal is sure to be on hand at Yankee Stadium. Rudy Giuliani will probably be there, too. In terms of star power, it's an easy edge for New York.

And while the Twins have a new stadium -- and perhaps a meteorological edge with gametime temperatures dipping into the 40s -- they still can't match the Yankees in terms of sheer voltage. More than 52,000 people will be on hand every night at Yankee Stadium, cheering and chanting and yelling and screaming. No one does a crowd like New York.

EDGE: Yankees

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.