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Six pack with Rob Rogacki of Bless You Boys

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The Twins begin a ten-game home stand tonight against the Detroit Tigers. Jesse and Rob exchanged questions and answers.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It's September 14, and the Twins and the Tigers are set to face off for the final time in 2015. One team has its eyes on October, and the other will try to play spoiler. Six months ago, we'd have assumed the roles reversed from where we see them today. Minnesota (74-68) is a game out of the second Wild Card spot; Detroit (65-77) should be too good to be in last place in the division.

In advance of tonight's tilt, I exchanged questions and answers about the Twins and Tigers with Bless You Boys' Rob Rogacki. Thanks to Rob for his time. You can read my answers about the Twins right here.

I'd predicted the Tigers would win the AL Central this year, topping the Indians by a game. Obviously I missed on both accounts there. What are the biggest things you had anticipated going better in 2015?

It's hard to boil the Tigers' shortcomings down to a few specific events, but the utter lack of production from the starting rotation is probably the biggest flaw this team has. David Price was obviously a plus, with 3.7 WAR in just over half a season with the Tigers. The rest of the starting staff has combined for 3.3 WAR, with two of those wins courtesy of Justin Verlander in 16 starts. If you're keeping score at home, that means that three-fifths of the Tigers' starting rotation has been worth 1.3 WAR this season. Obviously, this is a problem.

The two most disappointing Tigers starters this season, without question, have been Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene. Sanchez was hit with a bout of homer-itis, and finally succumbed to the disabled list in late August. Whether the poor numbers were injury-related remains to be seen, but his 4.99 ERA and 4.74 FIP have been a major deterrent to the Tigers' playoff hopes. Greene has been plagued by numbness in his hand caused by a pseudoaneurysm in his shoulder for most of the season, so we're not sure whether his lackluster performance was injury-related or if he's just bad. Either way, the Tigers were hoping for a lot more than a 6.72 ERA in 16 starts when they acquired him last winter.

The other two aspects of the game have gone about as expected. The offense is good, though Victor Martinez's swift decline was not. He may be a bounce back candidate next year if he can stay healthy through the offseason (which is easier said than done for him, it seems). The bullpen has been awful, but when your major offseason acquisition to shore up that unit is Tom Gorzelanny, you're going to have problems. Alex Wilson, acquired in the trade that brought Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit, has been a nice little surprise.

Where do you sit on the Dave Dombrowski firing? Not as a Twins fan, but as a baseball fan, I was absolutely baffled.

While new GM Al Avila has vowed to bring more sabermetric analysis and evaluation into the organization, praising that is little more than sugarcoating the loss of an executive like Dave Dombrowski. He has his flaws, yes, but Dombrowski ushered the Tigers into one of the most successful eras in franchise history, with five playoff berths and two World Series appearances in the last decade. Avila has huge shoes to fill, especially now as the team heads into a more uncertain future.

Then, there's the elephant in the room. Owner Mike Ilitch has been a benevolent owner for most of Dombrowski's tenure, allowing his front office staff to work independently save for one or two intervening instances (signing Price Fielder, for instance). Now, it seems like Ilitch's paws are all over the team's recent moves -- re-signing Victor Martinez, firing Dave Dombrowski, the ever-present Ron Gardenhire rumors -- and that is a major concern. Meddling owners are usually bad for business, and it does not appear that Ilitch has an eye for what makes a baseball team successful.

Rumor has it that Ron Gardenhire is the favorite to manage the Tigers in 2016. How does that make you feel?

I'll put it like this: when hiring Ron Gardenhire is the least of your worries, it's hard to get up in arms about the move. Sure, Gardenhire isn't exactly the most saber-friendly manager when it comes to in-game strategy, but with how lackluster the Tigers have appeared in many games this season, it's hard to bash the idea too much. From an outsider's perspective, it seemed like Gardenhire always got the most out of his Twins teams, and while he occasionally played favorites, what manager doesn't? I would have a hard time seeing veterans like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez not respecting Gardenhire's presence in the clubhouse, and Gardenhire's subpar postseason record is largely due to the juggernauts he faced, not his own deficiencies as a skipper. He wouldn't necessarily be my first choice as the Tigers' next manager, but he is far from my last.

J.D. Martinez appears to have blossomed into something special. What kind of role do you see him playing for the Tigers after this year?

Prior to this weekend's series against the Indians, J.D. Martinez was hitting under .200 in his last three weeks of action. And no one was worried. Martinez has earned the benefit of the doubt this season after putting up comparable offensive numbers to his breakout 2014 season. He has also added some stellar defensive numbers, including an AL-leading assist total from right field. In short, pulling a five-win outfielder out of nowhere is fun, and he has quickly become a fan favorite in Detroit.

There may be some regression in 2016, but with his solid defensive improvement and ability to make adjustments in-season, it's hard to see Martinez falling far off his All-Star pace in his next couple seasons. Many Tigers fans are hoping for a short-term contract extension to keep him in Motown during his prime years.

Detroit's rotation last year was properly intimidating. With Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and now David Price all off the books, how will the Tigers' rotation stack up going forward?

The Tigers would be royally screwed if Justin Verlander hadn't found his time machine this year. With a legitimate ace atop the rotation, the Tigers don't need to go out and spend $200 million on a David Price or Zack Greinke this offseason. That said, they may still fork over a cool $150 million for one of the "second-tier" starters on the market, or go after another free agent to shore up the rotation behind Verlander. Anibal Sanchez was unexpectedly awful this year, but the Tigers have 16 million reasons to give him a chance to prove this was all a fluke in 2016.

The last two spots in the rotation will likely be filled internally. Daniel Norris is all but a lock to get one of those spots, as he has shown flashes of his lofty potential in nine starts before succumbing to the DL. Currently on the DL with an oblique strain, Norris is expected to piggyback a start with Sanchez on Wednesday. There will be several candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation, including Shane Greene, Matt Boyd, Buck Farmer, and Kyle Lobstein. The Tigers have fared well with these rotation battles in the past -- the Rick Porcello-Drew Smyly faceoff was a productive one in 2013 -- and having several candidates for one spot is never a bad thing.

Miguel Cabrera is an unreal, living illustration of greatness. How long can he keep this going, and do you think he'll retire a Tiger?

It's hard to see a situation where the Tigers trade Miguel Cabrera before he retires. For one, his contract is too large for most small-and-mid market teams to handle, and by the time the team would be willing to trade him, he may not be productive enough for large-market teams to justify paying his gaudy salary. In short, he has almost no trade value.

Even if teams were breaking down the door to acquire the future Hall of Famer, the Tigers probably would not bite. Cabrera is in the midst of one of his best offensive seasons of his career, hitting .341/.442/.549 with a 170 wRC+. He was flirting with the 200 wRC+ barrier at one point, a milestone that has not been reached by anyone since the steroid era.

While most players start to decline at this point in their careers, it will be interesting to see how long Cabrera can keep this up. He's already 32 years old, but many of the all-time greats he is frequently compared to aged very well into their late 30s. The game has changed since many of those legends laced up their spikes, but Cabrera is the kind of special hitter that could continue to put up incredible numbers even as his bat slows down.

Bonus question: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the three pitchers the Twins will be facing off against this week?

Kyle Lobstein is pitching for the Tigers on Monday. A soft-tossing lefty who missed three months on the disabled list, Lobstein has allowed 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings against the Twins in the past two seasons. He has struggled against other teams in his past couple starts -- including the Indians, who haven't hit lefties since they last won a championship -- and is still rounding into shape after an abbreviated rehab stint.

Tuesday's starter is Alfredo Simon, a pitcher most Tigers fans have tried to forget exists for the past three months. Simon was arguably the team's best starter in April and May, but hit the wall in June and has been largely awful since. He throws a heavy two-seamer with the accuracy of a drunken dart-thrower, and if his splitter isn't hitting the dirt on the regular, it usually ends up hitting the outfield wall.

On Wednesday, the Tigers will use Anibal Sanchez and Daniel Norris in tandem as a psuedo-rehab outing for the two ailing starters. Sanchez, as mentioned, has given up more homers this season than in his previous Tigers career combined, while Norris has shown flashes of brilliance but lacks the consistency to put fear into the hearts of opponents. Norris has a solid fastball and a decent secondary arsenal, and could prove to be a thorn in the side of AL Central foes for years to come.