Angels-Yankees matchup: Shortstop

Angels-Yankees matchup: Shortstop

Heading into the American League Championship Series between the Angels and Yankees, beginning Friday at 7:57 p.m. ET on FOX, MLB.com looks at the position-by-position matchups and dissects which team has the advantage.

Erick Aybar, Angels
.312, 5 HR, 58 RBIs

After sharing time at shortstop over the previous three seasons, Aybar emerged as the man this year because his offense finally caught up with his much-celebrated glove and arm at the position.

Aybar had a career year at the plate, leading the club with a .312 batting average to go along with a .353 on-base percentage, after entering the season with a .262 career batting average and .298 on-base percentage.

His speed also emerged, as he finished third in the American League in triples with nine and stole a career-high 14 bases, even though it's something he should improve upon with experience.

And perhaps most importantly, he bounced back from a tough ALDS last season, when he finished 2-for-18 against the Red Sox, to have an impressive series this year when he went 4-for-11, including a crucial two-run triple in Game 2 and a single in the ninth inning with two outs in Game 3 that set the stage for the Angels' dramatic comeback.

It was a great sign for the 25-year-old, who entered the season as a question mark offensively but developed into one of the better-hitting shortstops in the AL to go along with his excellent fielding.

Aybar's fielding has never been the problem; he is one of the quickest and rangiest shortstops around with a cannon of an arm. This season, he was rated as one of the game's top shortstops by just about every standard out there -- he finished the season tied for seventh in the Majors in fielding percentage, and also finished sixth in the Majors in the advanced defensive metric of Ultimate Zone Rating.

In short, Aybar has proved to be the total package for the Angels this year and just experienced his first taste of postseason success at the plate to go along with it.

Derek Jeter
.334, 18 HR, 66 RBIs

Jeter has a knack for seemingly being in the right place at the right time, especially when the lights are brightest in the postseason.

Few will forget Jeter's heroics -- the big homer in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, the "flip" play in the ALDS that same year and the fact that he is baseball's all-time leader in the postseason with 157 career hits, 89 runs and 126 games played. He lived up to his reputation in the ALDS, hitting .400 with two doubles and a home run against the Twins. His homer in Game 1 helped erase a 2-0 deficit and got the Yankees rolling toward a 7-2 win.

The Yankees captain put together another outstanding offensive season, compiling an .871 OPS (on-base plus slugging). It is no exaggeration to say that Jeter is a hit machine at the plate. He ranked second in the Majors with 212 hits, and he surpassed Lou Gehrig for most hits in franchise history with a single to right on Sept. 11 against the Orioles.

Keeping Jeter off base at the top of the lineup will be a priority for the Angels, but it won't be easy, as he was third in the AL in on-base percentage (.406). The Angels can't afford to go to sleep on him when he does reach. Though he is getting up there agewise, Jeter is still spry on the bases. In 35 steal attempts this year, he was successful 30 times.

The rap on Jeter from some in the sabermetric community is that he is a below-average defender, but 2009 was perhaps his finest with the glove. The Fielding Bible has Jeter being a plus-5, which means he saved nearly four runs with his defense. And as he proved in that 2001 ALDS or in Game 3 of this year's ALDS, when his heads-up throw home ended up catching Nick Punto napping at third to snuff out a Twins rally, no one is better at being in the right spot or making the correct decision.

Edge: Jeter

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.