* From Al Yellon, ringmaster of Bleed Cubbie Blue: "Watching the Twins play is like attending a baseball clinic. I don't think I have seen all year, and maybe not in several, a team as fundamentally sound as the Twins. ... The uncontested stolen base that (Carlos) Gomez took in the second inning clearly had to be setting up exactly what happened — Nick Punto's perfect bunt single that scored Gomez — and even though many of us in the stands and probably everyone in the Cubs dugout knew what was coming, the Twins executed it perfectly and scored a run after two were out and no one on base. The Cubs could take a lesson from this kind of execution."
That kind of gushing feels like overkill to me, but I'll take it.
* Dontrelle Willis of the Detroit Tigers walked eight men in 3 2/3 innings Sunday. That's right: 11 outs and eight walks. That's not a ratio one can live with, and even he knows it. He threw 88 pitches — 45 balls, 43 strikes.
The Tigers have problems with the back end of their rotation (Willis and Andres Galarraga), but Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello (to a lesser extent) are getting it done. I have my doubts that Porcello can continue to be effective with his current walk/strikeout and strikeout/9IP rates.
Jackson's turnaround has been very impressive. He's always had a great arm, but no control, much less command. (Lifetime stats: 252 BBs, 376 Ks.) This year he's striking out about three men for every one he walks, and it's real tough to do that and lose. He's allowed just 91 hits-plus-walks in 88 1/3 innings.
One assumes that Rick Knapp, formerly the Twins minor league pitching coordinator and now the Tigers' pitching coach, has had something to do with improving Jackson's location. Willis remains a major challenge for Knapp.
* Bullpens are one of my basic measuring sticks for the quality of an organization. If the front office and the manager know what they're doing, they can almost always put together a competent relief corps.
The Cleveland Indians, in the current regime of GM Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge, have consistently had trouble with this task. They've had two years with good bullpens; they won the divisonal title one year (2007) and almost caught the White Sox in the other (2005). Every other year has been a disaster, and this one is no exception.
Monday was the latest horror show: Eight runs in four innings, with the Tribe losing to Milwaukee 14-12.
The guys they expected to handle their late innings — Kerry Wood, Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis — have combined to allow 50 earned runs in 71 innings, an ugly 6.33 ERA.
* There's a lot of angst in Mets-dom over Johan Santana's 15-0 loss to the Yankees Sunday. Aaron Gleeman suspects it's overblown.