But Ivan Rodriguez still sets the standard defensively, and his offensive skills, though not what they were five years ago, are still formidable and worthy of a No. 3 hitter. Rodriguez uses the whole field, runs well and is very good at disrupting opponents' offense with his defense.
Sean Casey hit well below his career average since joining Detroit from Pittsburgh and slumped in September. One of the toughest hitters in baseball to strike out, Casey hits line drives to all fields when he's in a groove.
But Robinson Cano had a breakout season for the Yankees. He is a star in the making and makes the New York lineup more versatile.
Derek Jeter is having one of the best years of a brilliant career, though, and his presence is what holds that entity called the New York Yankees together.
But A-Rod obviously has the greater potential to change the course of a game with his world of ability. And this would be an ideal postseason for him to do that.
Hideki Matsui is coming off the first major injury of his career. He is an adequate defender, but he is also, at this point, the more clearly established run producer in pressure situations.
Curtis Granderson is an emerging talent with the speed necessary to play center field, yet Granderson has also displayed surprising power for a line-drive hitter. Granderson has a good, accurate arm and plays excellent defense. The 25-year-old needs better plate discipline and to improve his base-stealing skills. Granderson probably has an overall defensive edge, but it is difficult to pick against the playoff-tested Damon, an essential to the Yankees in the leadoff role.
Detroit cleanup hitter Magglio Ordonez is usually among the league leaders in hitting with runners in scoring position, and once again, he's topped the century mark in RBIs. Ordonez drives the ball to all fields with a short, powerful swing, and he seldom gets cheated. He is a decent fielder with an accurate arm.
The release of Dmitri Young leaves the power-hitting Marcus Thames as the DH, but with Giambi, the Yankees have more potential for DH pop.
But the Tigers have more bullpen depth. Closer Todd Jones may not be as dominating as a Joe Nathan or a Francisco Rodriguez, but the right-hander is effective and is set up by Joel Zumaya and his 100-mph heater. Fernando Rodney, Jamie Walker and Jason Grilli give manager Jim Leyland plenty of other talented options for the late innings.
But this category goes to the Yankees for two reasons: Melky Cabrera and Bernie Williams. Cabrera would be starting anywhere else, and he did start for much of the season, until Matsui returned. He'll be invaluable here as a late-inning defensive replacement or a pinch-runner. Williams has one of the best postseason pedigrees available. He's been here before, and he's succeeded.
But the postseason is Joe Torre's turf, until further notice. He's won four World Series, and if none of those victories occurred in the last five seasons, that may only mean that he is due. Nobody handles potentially explosive situations better, with more dignity and patience, than Joe Torre.
The Yankees, on the other hand, believe that they are supposed to win the World Series, but they just haven't lately. They've been down this road before, and everything that has happened since mid-February has just been a rehearsal for this time in October.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.