To piggyback on Jscape's recent post, here are the the four (likely) AL playoff teams ranked amongst themselves:
I know Baseball Prospectus still has the Twins with about a 17% chance of making the postseason, but considering that their current starting lineup regularly contains 4-5 players hitting below replacement level, I'm not buying it.
It doesn't matter so much where the teams rank overall in individual categories as much it does how they rank against each other. I've tried to focus this on the actual lineups, rather than the best hitters by VORP. You may have ten excellent hitters, but if none of them can catch, somebody has to sit. Looking at the active rosters and injury lists, my breakdown of who's likely to be on each contender's roster is posted at the end. I also figured that the 23rd-25th roster spots don't matter much in the postseason and so I've omitted them. In doing that, it becomes pretty clear that whatever perceived flaw the Yankees have, their competitors have it worse.
It's important to note a few things. Based on 2009 stats alone, the Tigers appear to have a formidable rotation. To me, though, it's more smoke and mirrors than anything else. We all know that Justin Verlander is solid, and that Rick Porcello, while very young, is about as good a #4 starter as any team is going to pitch in the postseason. But Jarrod Washburn is iffy at this point; I've heard conflicting reports that he's done for the season and that he's not. Furthermore, in his time with the Tigers, he's solidified the fact that his early-season success (2.64 ERA with the Mariners) was a total fluke, as evidenced by his .254 BABIP this year. When a pitcher's ERA drops two runs from his career average, without upping his strikeout rate, lowering his walk rate, or changing his groundball/flyball tendancies....well, let's just say enjoy it while it lasts. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the same can be said about Edwin Jackson. He has reduced his walk rate, but his K/9, HR/9, and GB/FB are in line with his career averages. That explains a 2.54 ERA (and .249 BABIP) in the first half and a 4.79 ERA (and .311 BABIP) in the second.
The postseason is really a glorified crapshoot, but we know what generally wins: good starting pitching, good relief pitching, and good defense. The Yankees have the best combination of those things amongst the AL playoff teams. I've heard some people on this site saying they're afraid of the Tigers in the ALDS, but don't forget that they're 5-1 against them this year, having faced Verlander and Jackson a total of four times.