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Angels-Yankees matchup: Second base

Angels-Yankees matchup: Second base

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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.

Angels
Maicer Izturis (.300 BA, 8 HR, 65 RBIs)
Howard Kendrick (.291 BA, 10 HR, 61 RBIs)

The Angels' most underrated position in terms of value might just be at second base, as Howard Kendrick and Maicer Izturis both had breakout seasons that flew under the radar of both baseball fans and media alike.

Surprisingly, the two combined to play 159 games at second base while hitting .290 with 18 stolen bases, 14 home runs, 100 RBIs and 99 runs. For comparison's sake, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, widely regarded as the AL's best second baseman, had a .296 batting average, 20 stolen bases, 15 home runs, 72 RBIs and 115 runs in 154 games this season.

So the duo essentially combined to put up All-Star numbers at the plate while also providing excellent defense at one of the game's toughest positions to play.

On an individual level, Izturis is more of a utility player who can play not only second base, but shortstop and third base as well. He also batted .300 this season with eight home runs and 65 RBIs while batting a steady .302 with runners in scoring position.

Meanwhile, Kendrick is more of a pure second baseman and much better pure hitter as well, even though he batted nine points lower than Izturis this season (.291). That number is largely skewed because of an early slump that even sent him down to the Minors in mid-June after posting a .231 batting average through his first 51 games. But once Kendrick was promoted on July 4, he batted .351 the rest of the season to lead the Majors in batting average over that period.

The two players give Angels manager Mike Scioscia versatility at the position and also allow him to platoon, with the switch-hitting Izturis batting against righties and the right-handed Kendrick starting against lefties like CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.

Yankees
Robinson Cano (.320 BA, 25 HR, 80 RBIs)

Though he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the Bombers lineup, Robinson Cano posted some of the best numbers of his career in 2009. No one in pinstripes was more reliable, as he played in 161 games and showed improvement defensively.

Cano is a left-handed hitter, but the Angels would be foolish to think that left-handed pitching will neutralize him. This year he hit .309 in 220 at-bats against left-handers. That was the sixth-highest average by a left-handed hitter against southpaw pitching in the AL.

Like a lot of players in the lineup, Cano has some pop in his bat as he hit a career-high 25 homers, six better than his previous high in 2007. Here too, he is not bothered by lefties, with 10 of the homers coming against them, third most among left-handed batters in the AL.

Despite playing in all but one game, Cano seemed to get stronger as the year went on, hitting .347 in August and .339 in September/October.

The Twins found a way to cool him off a bit in the ALDS, though, as they held him to just a pair of hits in 12 at-bats.

Cano's success against the Angels this year was in line with the rest of his season. He hit .341 (14-for-41) in 10 games against the Halos. It was part of a year that saw him set career highs in runs (103), hits (204) and doubles (48) as well as homers.

While a threat at the plate, Cano is less than that on the bases. He stole just five bases this year and was caught seven times.

EDGE: Even

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

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