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Tigers Q&A with Ashley MacLennan of Bless You Boys

What is up with the Tigers lately? We exchanged some questions and answers with SB Nation’s Detroit Tigers website to find out.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins
RIP JD Martinez
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

As you may have heard, the Twins are facing the Tigers this weekend at Target Field. To catch up with how their season is going, I exchanged some answers and questions with the great Ashley MacLennan of SB Nation’s Detroit Tigers site, Bless You Boys.

If you’re interested in reading my answers to her questions about Bartolo Colon the Twins, you can check those out too.

Without further ado:

Q: The Tigers are currently in 4th place in the AL Central. What has been their biggest struggle this season?

A: When the offense is hot, the pitching is trash. When the pitching is lights-out, the bats are quiet. The Tigers just can't seem to get both parts of the equation to line up regularly. When they do, it's magic, and you can watch some genuinely wonderful baseball. But it's really like watching a great foreign movie that has been dubbed terribly. Things don't quite match up at the right time and it makes it unbearable to watch.

Q: Is there anything that's going right for the Tigers?

A: Mikie Mahtook has been doing really well since June, and is likely to see more regular play now that J.D. Martinez is gone. He's by no means a superstar, but he's up to .276/.293/.454 and has six home runs this season which puts him on course to surpass his career best of nine. Michael Fulmer also continues to be impressive as hell, and is shaping up to be the Tigers' ace. Even Anibal Sanchez, after returning from a trip to Triple-A Toledo has been surprisingly efficient.

Q: Are you surprised with how the Tigers season has been going?

A: I'd be lying if I said I expected this. I honestly believed they'd have a 90 win season and make a play for the second wild card. The pieces are all there. All the players from last year are still on the team, with the exception of Cameron Maybin, and they dropped Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe, who were causing a lot of their pitching woes. It should have worked, but it didn't, and it's hard to figure out why.

Q: I know the Tigers recently traded outfielder J.D. Martinez to the D'Backs. Do you think the Tigers will be making more moves before the trade deadline? What do you think they are likely to do?

A: Absolutely, it's sell mode now. Alex Avila is going to be traded soon, and if my suspicions and rumors are right, it'll be to the Chicago Cubs. Closer Justin Wilson will also be moved, but with so many people interested in him, I won't hazard any guesses. Less likely are Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, but they're still options.

Q: As a Tigers fan, who would if be tougher to see traded: Justin Verlander or Miguel Cabrera?

A: For me personally, Justin Verlander. Miggy has been with the team a long time and he'll go to the Hall of Fame as a Tiger, but Verlander has been a Tiger for his whole career. The illogical fan part of my brain wants to see him end his career where he started it. Seeing him in another jersey would feel so wrong.

Q: Speaking of Miggy, he's not hitting quite like we're used to this season. Do you think there's something specific behind that?

A: He had injuries last season, he's getting older, too, which certainly plays a factor. Honestly though, I think he's not feeling a lot of baseball urgency because he has other things on his mind. I recently wrote about the situation his family is facing in Venezuela with their political crisis, and I think we need to remember these players are still human. If my mother was at risk of being kidnapped or killed every day, my mind wouldn't totally be in the game either. So I think there are a lot of things at play when it comes to his down season this year.

Q: Who do you think is the best player on the Tigers right now?

A: Michael Fulmer, as far as pitching. He's such a joy to watch. There's a reason teams have asked about him for a trade, and a better reason the Tigers shouldn't move him. He isn't a free agent until 2023, and the Tigers should hang on for dear life. Justin Upton also deserves props for his incredible season defensively, and the renewed strength he brings offensively. He doesn't get talked about a lot, but he certainly deserved his trip to the All-Star Game this year. He's having his best season in years, with a .273/.360.492 line. Any of the cobwebs that were holding him back last season are long gone.

Q: Do you remember the 1987 ALCS? Were you mad about it? Are you still mad about it? (I only ask this because it's the Twins are having their 30th reunion of the 1987 team this weekend.)

A: I was 4, so it's not exactly fresh in my memory. I AM still mad about the 2011 ALCS. And the 2013 ALCS. So my ALCS rage-meter might be full from those.

Q: Is there a question you thought or wish I had asked, but didn't? What is it and what would be your answer?

A: Hmmm. "When do you see the Tigers being serious contenders again?" and my guess is 2020, which depends a lot on the prospect return the team gets from upcoming trades, and how the current prospects on the farm develop. A few contracts will end next year, including Ian Kinsler, so the focus for the club should be acquiring and developing young talent, and hoping Daniel Norris can improve so he and Fulmer can become the core of a future lineup with guys like Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, and Beau Burrows. I think there's an exciting future ahead, if fans are patient.

Once again, thank you to Ashley MacLennan for answering our questions! You can read more of her work on the Tigers at Bless You Boys and follow her on Twitter @90feetfromhome.