I sent some questions out to Kurt Mensching from Bless You Boys, SB Nations great Detroit Tiger site. Here are his answers.
It took awhile but a 15-5 July has got the Tigers up to the top of the AL Central. What's caused the turn around?
Both the pitching and the hitting have been pretty consistent over the past few weeks. Heading into the season, the Tigers' offense was talked up quite as bit, as I'm sure you remember. Out of the gate, pretty much the entire bottom half of the lineup tanked. You knew most of them would have to bounce back to at least near their career figures eventually. That's happened for several. Another helper has been OF Quintin Berry, who was called up for his MLB debut in late May. He has his issues -- dividing saber-minded and traditional-minded fans over just how valuable he could be expected to be in the future -- but he's definitely played a role. Finally, the starting pitching has been pretty good most turns through the rotation. Put it all together and the team looks a lot more like most people expected it to be.
How happy are you with the trade that got you Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante?
Definitely happy. Second base has been an issue for the Tigers for the entire year. Other than a brief time when Omar Infante and Ryan Raburn seemed to be pulling their weights as a platoon package, the position has resulted in the worst play in the entire MLB. Infante is a huge step up over that. We're hopeful for Sanchez as well. He has good peripherals and his stuff should translate well to the AL. You always worry, of course, but there's reason to feel good.
Will the Tigers make any more moves before the deadline? What would they be looking to get?
I'm pretty sure they have work to do still. Some wonder about the bullpen needing one more veteran figure. I could certainly see that. Others wonder about a DH/OF type who is right-handed. Delmon Young has spurts where he looks like the No. 1 draft pick, but otherwise leaves a bad impression, especially given his key spot in the lineup after Prince Fielder. I don't think it's a must-improve area for the team, but they'd be better if they could find someone, for sure.
Can we have a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers the Jays will see?
Friday: Rick Porcello - Relies on his defense, doesn't have any good putaway pitches. Doesn't get himself in trouble much, just lets his defense do that for him. Causes much debate among fans whether he should be traded or whether he's a giant disappointment. Can be pretty good at times despite it all.
Saturday: Sanchez: You got me on that one, I don't typically watch the Marlins! I've read he uses all of his pitches, his sinker is heavy and his changeup is improved this year.
Sunday: Doug Fister is a lot like Sanchez in some ways. He doesn't walk many. Has a strikeout pitch. He's been up and down given his injuries earlier in the year, but has been better lately. Fastball is slower than it was last year. He gives up too many home runs this year.
Who is your favorite Tiger to watch?
Definitely Austin Jackson. Not only is he having a great season (statistically unsustainable maybe, but statistics be damned in this question) but he's incredible on defense. Now don't expect him to lay out for any web gem diving catches. Just expect him to catch pretty much anything hit even remotely near him in the outfield, including any balls that try to sneak over the fence. He's got some speed, though he doesn't use it much. He's got pop in his bat. All in all, just a great ballplayer.
Anything else we should know about the Tigers?
The defense, while not good, isn't as bad as some would rumor it. Though now that I say that Miguel Cabrera will probably fall down on a bunt and throw the ball into center field. But really, he's been fine at third. Sure he's below average, but you accept that given the bat he carries. Peralta makes plays but has some range issues. Infante's a nice step up at second. And Fielder alternates between playing utterly ridiculous defense in a bad way and utterly ridiculous in a good way, though he's pretty below average overall. The outfielders are just fine.