Sunday, October 31, 2010

Emptying out the Fridge

I hate throwing food away so on Friday night we pretty much emptied out the fridge on to the countertop to see what we could make. DB~ had to do work on Friday night, so we were eating at home, but I didn't have anything specific in mind.

I knew I wanted to make a pork tenderloin, but wasn't sure what to do with. I had some risotto, but didn't have a good vegetable to toss into it for flavoring. But what I did have was some Kit Kat candy bars, some fresh-frozen blueberries from my neighbor's blueberry bush, and a hankering to incorporate some maple syrup somehow.

What I came up with was a blueberry maple syrup sauce to put over top of a roasted pork tenderloin. First I rolled the tenderloin around in a brown sugar-water mix and then quick seared it in a skillet. I placed it into a baking dish and baked it for 45 minutes.

While that was going, DB~ was in charge of the risotto. She pretty much stared a hole through the saucepan as she concentrated intently on the stirring and preparation of the risotto. We chopped a little red onion to put in it and some Italian seasoning like oregano and garlic salt. I then took the Kit Kat and grated them finely to get the chocolate, but stopped when I heard the wafers start to scrape. DB~ mixed that it right at the end and said, "This looks like Count Chocula cereal."

We started to look up California Pizza Kitchen's menu online. Just in case.

Right before the tenderloin was due to come out, I pureed the blueberries and mixed in some maple syrup. It ended up being a little too pancake-on-Sunday tasting for our liking, but it was still good over the tenderloin. The risotto was very good as well, even if it looked a little strange.

We didn't have to pull the ripcord and go to CPK and we (I) got to empty out the fridge ahead of a new trip to Giant Eagle. Good times all around.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Public Record - peeling back the layers of Pittsburgh's history

The Post-Gazette had an article on Wednesday about a multi-media project called Public Record. It's a book, art exhibition, poetry reading, and iPhone application. It's meant to give us a glimpse back to a time when Pittsburgh was very rough around the edges. A time when it was, if not socially acceptable, at least well overlooked to kill an Irish immigrant that stepped out of line. A time when gambling halls were on every block. It was during this time that current-Point State Park was a massive tenement area.

Some point in the near future, DB~ and I will download the Public Record app and go around town listening to all the oral histories and poetic readings. But it got me thinking about Pittsburgh specifically and cities in general.

When we walk around town on the streets, we may as well be floating above the street. What history is buried 6 inches, 2 feet, 10 feet, or 20 feet below our feet? Who walked on the same street 5 days ago, 5 years, 50 years, 200 years ago? All of the buildings downtown, whether they are an abandoned warehouse in the Strip, a row house in the Hill District, or a non-descript building in the Golden Triangle have a story about previous tenants. Perhaps a misdeed like an unsolved murder of a prostitute or a robbery of a Mob boss.

I found myself walking around the edges of the Strip District tonight. Just feeling the city under my feet as the crisp October air propelled me forward. It was one of those nights that the neon from the Greyhound bus garage cut right through the air. There were pockets of activity, a packed house at Seviche, a handful of people in the dirty old man bars along Penn between the Convention Center and the Strip, a few tables occupied at Sushi Kim, a massive high-faluting event at the Heinz History Center. After I got back in my car, I drove over the recently re-opened Stanwix Street and was looking straight into PNC Park, with that clean pale blue neon staring right back at me.

Is our history recording better or worse nowadays than it was in the 19th century? We have video, Internet, digital camera, and the written word to document our history, but our society is a disposable one. When we're done with a building after only 30 years, we just smash it down and build over top of it. Are we tracking ourselves better or worse now? History is because people have poor memories that fade or misconstrue events over time.

Will someone be walking on top of our memories, misdeeds, and miscreants 100 years from now wondering about us?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Siba - an Italian villa in the heart of white bread suburbia

Last Friday, DB~ and I didn't have any specific plans. My friends were doing their own thing, as were DB~'s. Her sister was busy going to the 6 pm on a Friday, somehow....and her aunt wasn't available.

We wanted to go out, but didn't feel like going "out out" to the big City of Pittsburgh. I suggested Siba in Seven Fields, just outside of Cranberry off of Route 228. It had been a long time since I had been there, but I remembered that the interior decor was gorgeous and the menu was Mediterranean-inspired.

We got out there around 7'ish and the wait was about 45 minutes. No stop to the bar. I was feeling Republican that night, so I went with a semi-classy 7 and 7 (Seagram's whisky and 7 up) and DB~ went with the semi-classy Stoli and Sprite cocktail. Keep in mind that the top scale of the "classy drink" scale is Embury.

We had our cocktail and people-watched for nearly an hour. Still no buzz on our beeper, so DB~ went to the hostess table. Apparently, they buzzed us 20 minutes ago, but our beeper never went off...even with it laying on the bar in front of me. No matter. All parties were very apologetic and we were no worse for the wear.

Apparently at some point, Siba switched from "Mediterranean-inspired" to Tuscan Villa and Wine Bar. When they first opened in 2004, they had as many Greek influences as they did Italian, but now it is almost all Italian. Which is fine.

Siba gives all tables a small basket of crusty Italian bread, but they do a twist on the standard olive oil and balsamic vinegar mix. This one was an oil with pureed roasted red peppers. It sort of grew on us....we weren't wild about it at first, but it wasn't bad.

For dinner, DB~ selected the Pecan Crusted Mahi Mahi. In the similar vein of her tentativeness with the soft shell crab at Springfield Grille, I knew that something was awry. There were some hesitant explorations and probings with the fork. Of course the first time I asked what was wrong, the answer was "Everything's fine." The second time revealed that she did not think it was done enough in the middle for her liking.

On my end, I went with the applewood Bacon, Spinach, and Chicken flatbread pizza. It came in 9 teasingly-sized pieces, but I was only able to finish 6. This made for a nice start to a lunch later that weekend. The spinach wasn't too creamy and the bacon and chicken had great flavors.

Overall, it felt at times like all of Treesdale came to Siba for dinner that night, but it's not an overwhelmingly stuffy crowd. The restaurant is worth checking out, especially if you are in that zone of the region.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cartscalators - Where carts go to heaven

Recently, DB~'s brother moved to Cleveland after being transferred for his job. We decided to shoot over on Saturday to spend the day with him and help him get settled in to his sweet downtown loft apartment.

I have very few true regrets in life, but one of them may be not ever having lived in another city. I think it would be exciting to have to learn the ins and outs of a new city -- the good and bad places to eat, the good bars to check out, finding all the fun festivals in town, and getting engrossed in the problems of another city. At this point, I'm pretty set up in my life here and can't pick up and move. So I'm going to live vicariously through DB~'s brother.

When DB~ and I went down to Cleveland in April, we did a tour of some Triple D restaurants featured on the show (Momocho and Melt). Unfortunately, Momocho isn't open for lunch so we took her brother to the newly opened 2nd store of Melt, on the east side of Cleveland by John Carroll University and Case Western University. It was an orgy of tastes crammed in between 2 thick slices of bread. I had the Parmageddon -- 2 pierogies, cheddar, sour kraut; DB~ had the Northcoast -- crab cakes, spinach, cream cheese; DB~'s brother had the Parma Italy -- grilled chicken, marinana sauce, mozzarella. And all of these come with fries and slaw (the slaw isn't that great).

But the most fascinating part of the trip...not the trip to Melt, the tour of the Warehouse District, going to Crate and Barrel and the rest of Legacy Village....was our trip to Target in University Heights. Because it was there that the 3 of us stood transfixed like drooling idiots as we watched The Cartscalators. This was a 2 story Target and if you wanted to take your cart between levels, you had to set it on The Cartscalator. These little teeth-gears caught the cart and allowed it to ride up its on little ramp while you rode next to it.



We stood there for 10 minutes watching people, taking pictures, posing with our carts, and getting in people's ways. Apparently these are popular all around the rest of the country, but Pittsburgh is not up on this trend.

DB~ and I are crossing our fingers for the first Cartscalator to make it here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A great draft class (2005) versus a bad one (2004)

Earlier this season, I examined the highly touted 2005 draft class using WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and determined that, yes, the hype was real. This is a very strong class with a combined 134.1 Wins Above Replacement to this point.

The top 5 contributors to this total are Hall of Fame-path-Ryan Zimmerman (26.4), team leader Troy Tulowitzki (17.8), iron gloved Ryan Braun (16.5), Matt Garza (9.9), and Mike Pelfrey (8.0). All of those guys were college players so they had a 2-3 year headstart on the high school outfielders like Jay Bruce (7.8), Justin Upton (7.7), Andrew McCutchen (6.7), and Colby Rasmus (5.8).

Cutch-22, with his 6.7 WAR, currently ranks 10th in this class -- right behind Ricky Romero from the Blue Jays with his 6.8.

By comparison, let's take a look at the draft class one year before this one, the 2004 class. The 2004 class at the time was said to not be deep, plus it was peppered with some high-salary-demand guys like Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver who dropped in the draft.

Nevertheless, the 2004 class has to date only compiled an 85.8 WAR, even with a one year jump on the 2005 class. Furthermore, two players (Justin Verlander with 25.3 and Jered Weaver with 18.8) have compiled nearly 50% of the WAR in this class. To show the weakness of the class, take a look at Neil Walker who had a great season with the stick and a not-so-great one with the glove. His 1.9 WAR this year and his -0.3 WAR in 2009 gives him 1.6 WAR for his career. That puts Walker in 11th place. Keep in mind that Cutch-22 is in 10th with his 6.7 WAR -- in this class he would be 4th!

Something to keep in mind, regarding the relative strengths of a draft class from year to year, as we move into the 2011 draft which is said to have one of the strongest 1st rounds in years.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Iovino's -- I, uh, would go back here

Sometimes when you're dressed up, you want to go out and show everyone how good you look. On Thursday, I gave a presentation at a conference so a rarity occured...I was wearing a full suit. My suit was so fine, I made Sinatra look line a hobo.

DB~ called me up and said "Let's go out for dinner tonight." We agreed to meet in Mt. Lebanon at a restaurant that DB~ had been to before, but I had not, Iovino's on Beverly Road.

When I go out to restaurants, I try to get a dish that I either can't make myself or have never had before. I was debating between two dishes, one was a fairly straight-forward lamb ragu over papardelle (a style of noodle that I'm into recently -- a stronger noodle meant for heavier sauces) and the other was a bronzini dish with fried polenta.

I like to think that I'm well-versed in the ways of food and cuisine, but this trip to Iovino's made me realize how much more I have to learn and taste. I ordered the bronzini thinking it was a type of sauce served over the fried polenta, wilted arugula, tomato vodka sauce, and kalamata olive/red pepper relish. And then my dish came out to the table.

My dish is the darkened picture shown above. I was semi-stunned to see these criss-crossed, fish-smelling pieces resting on the bed of polenta triangelse and arugula. I poked it, prodded it, and cut a small biopsy piece for a taste. It tasted very similar to swordfish. DB~ pulled out the ever-present iPhone and Googled "bronzini". It turns out that bronzini is a Mediterranean seabass. It's a long, narrow silvery fish. I have never seen this at Wholey's or any other large fish market, so Iovino's may have had to special order the bronzini.

The bronzini itself was great, but the polenta was out of this world. It had a wide variety of spices and was tastefully crispy on the outside, but soft inside. I could have had a whole meal of just the polenta.

DB~'s meal was an Indian-flavored salmon with a red curry and coconut sauce surrounding it, served on a bed of basmati rice. Here's a picture of it:

The takeaway from this post should be how great and underrated of an area Mt. Lebanon is for eating. I've done posts on Kous Kous Cafe, Bistro 19, and now Iovino's. DB~ and I also went to Il Pizziaolo on Washington Road. It's worth crossing a river or two to check out any of these great restaurants in Mt. Lebo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The 2010 MLB season by WAR

Earlier this year, I looked at how predicitive/descriptive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) did as a metric for an entire team, as it related to their win/loss records. During that post, I found that 14 of the 30 teams were within +/- of 4 wins of their final total. That's a margin of error of around 2.5% over 162 games.

I thought I would do the same exercise for this recently completed season.

On you can find WAR by a whole team for both batting and pitching. So I went through and added each team's batting WAR to its pitching WAR and then added in the baseline 48 wins to find what WAR predicted each team to finish. Listed below are the results, with each team's actual wins listed first and their WAR win total calculated (baseline + bat + pitch, in that order). The number in parentheses after the WAR total is the difference between the two.

TB 96 (48 + 27.3 bat + 16.3 pitch) = 91.6 (+4.4 wins)
NYY 95 (48 + 35.5 + 12.1) = 95.6 (-0.6 wins)
BOS 89 (48+ 29.2 + 19.3) = 96.5 (-7.5 wins)
TOR 85 (48 + 25.3 + 16.8) = 90.1 (-5.1 wins)
BAL 66 (48 + 10.8 + 8.9) = 67.7 (-1.7 wins)

MIN 94 (48+ 31.4 + 18.5) = 97.9 (-3.9 wins)
CHW 88 (48+ 18.8 + 24.5) = 91.3 (-3.3 wins)
DET 81 (48+ 25.5 + 16.4) = 89.9 (-8.9 wins)
CLE 69 (48+ 10.3+ 9.0) = 67.3 (+1.7 wins)
KC 67 (48+ 14.5+ 11.5) = 74.0 (-7 wins)

TEX 90 (48+ 25.1 + 18.0) = 91.1 (-1.1 wins)
OAK 81 (48+ 22.0 + 13.8) = 83.8 (-2.8 wins)
LAA 80 (48+ 13.0+ 16.3) = 77.3 (+2.7 wins)
SEA 61 (48+ 5.3 + 13.9) = 67.2 (-6.2 wins)

PHI 97 (48+ 23.0 + 19.4) = 90.4 (+6.6 wins)
ATL 91 (48+ 22.2 + 20.9) = 91.1 (-0.1 wins)
FLA 80 (48 + 18.2 + 17.1) = 83.3 (-3.3 wins)
NYM 79 (48+ 15.8 + 14.5) = 78.3 (+0.7 wins)
WAS 69 (48+ 17.2 + 13.6) = 78.8 (-9.8 wins)

CIN 91 (48 + 32.9 + 16.4) = 97.3 (-6.3 wins)
STL 86 (48 + 22.2 + 16.3) = 86.5 (-0.5 wins)
MIL 77 (48 + 29.6 + 10.9) = 88.5 (-11.5 wins)
HOU 76 (48 + 8.3 + 16.5) = 72.8 (+3.2 wins)
CHC 75 (48 + 14.8 + 17.4) = 80.2 (-5.2 wins)
PIT 57 (48 + 3.4 + 6.7) = 58.1 (-1.1 wins)

SF 92 (48+ 25.6 + 21.6) = 95.2 (-3.2 wins)
SD 90 (48 + 24.4 + 15.6) = 88.0 (+2.o wins)
COL 83 (48 + 20.0 + 24.1 ) = 92.1 (-9.1 wins)
LAD 80 (48 + 13.3 + 18.0) = 79.3 (+0.7 wins)
ARI 65 (48 + 24.7 + 7.8) = 80.5 (-15.5 wins)

Whew...number crunchy!
This year, WAR got 18 of 30 teams within +/-4 wins of their actual totals, which I consider to be impressive.

The 3 teams that WAR was off by the most (ARI, MIL, WAS) were all slanted more towards the batting in their components. I have always had more faith in WAR from a batting standpoint than a pitching standpoint, so I wonder if there is something lodged inside of these stats to uncover.

WAR is not perfect, by any means, but it is the best available metric that we have at this time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Looking back on Cutch-22's "down" season

In 2009, Andrew McCutchen (otherwise referred to by a loyal following of one person as "Cutch-22") debuted for the Pirates and put forth a triple slash line of .286/.365/.471 (batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage) for an OPS of 836. Within that line were 26 doubles, 9 triples, 12 home runs, 54 runs batted in and 22 steals. That was accomplished in 108 games.

Needless to say, some people had their expectation meters set to "blast off" for McCutchen in 2010. Even as one of his biggest supporters, I was expecting more modest gains as I mentioned in the 2010 Predictions Post. I was merely thinking that he would consolidate his gains in 2010 and increase his numbers proportionally over a full season.

There is a somewhat significantly-sized undercurrent out there that 2010 was a disappointing season from Andrew McCutchen. Here is his final line over 154 games:
.286/.365/.449 (814 OPS)

Look familiar? It should, as it's the same batting average and on-base percentage as 2009, with only a slightly lower slugging percentage. In fact if you extrapolate his 2009 numbers to 154 games, here's what they would be...
26 2B's turns into 37 doubles (he had 35 in 2010)
9 3B's turns into 13 triples (he had 5 in 2010)
12 HR's turns into 17 homers (he had 16 in 2010)
22 SB's turns into 31 steals (he had 33 in 2010)

So as you can pretty easily see, the drop in slugging percentage in due in large part to his lesser amount of triples in 2010 versus 2009. I always have considered triples to be as much a measure of luck as skill, as most are the result of a misplayed ball, a bad route, or a weird bounce.

Some of the perception that Cutch-22 had a down year may be due to the fact that he suffered through two rough months in July and August. In July, he hit .254/.303/.358 (661 OPS) and in August he hit .226/.317/.415 (732 OPS). In truth, he needed a red hot September of .324/.411/.519 (930 OPS) to achieve the numbers that he did.

So what happened in the summer time? Was it due to a bad lunch meeting that he had?

In July, McCutchen sprained the AC joint of his shoulder blade while diving for a catch. Naturally, he said that he was fine after taking a few games off, but it was evident that he was playing hurt. To add injury to more injury, on August 3rd as he was just getting back on track, Mike Leake tattooed the back of his neck with a wild pitch. Those two occurences took a toll on Cutch-22 that he did not recover from until his scorching September.

If McCutchen were not hurt, which granted is a big qualifier for any player in any year, it is well within reason that he would have had a 20 HR/40 SB season. Do you know how many players in MLB had that kind of year in 2010?


BJ Upton (18 HR/42 SB) and Carl Crawford (19 HR/47 SB) came the closest. And keep in mind that Carl Crawford is who McCutchen is starting to draw the closest comparisons to around the league. The last Pirate to have a 20 HR/40 SB season was one Barry Lamar Bonds, so that should put a finer point on how difficult it truly is to do.

Here's something else to consider. Around the league in 2010, the average numbers for a leadoff hitter (where he will probably be in 2011 most of the time) were .264/.329/.382 (711 OPS). McCutchen was well above the norm in all of these categories. For all CF's, the average numbers were .261/.326/.405 (731 OPS). Again, Cutch-22 was well above the average for all of these categories.

I feel fairly comfortable that we have now established Cutch-22's baseline season in 2010. I only expect better things in 2011, especially since more pieces have been added around him in the lineup. He doesn't have to feel pressured to win every game on his own. Walker, Tabata, and Alvarez all did that themselves this year, too.

When the high school outfielder draft class of 2005 was working their way through the minors, chats on Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus would always ask the moderator to rank the long-term futures of Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin, Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus, and Andrew McCutchen. Pretty much every time, the list would look like: Upton, Bruce, Maybin, McCutchen, Rasmus (sometimes Rasmus and McCutchen would flip flop positions). I always contended that McCutchen would be the steady and consistent player, while the others (due to their higher K rates) would have higher peaks but lower lows, too. At this point, especially after Upton's down year, I would not feel uncomfortable ranking them Upton, McCutchen, Rasmus, Bruce, and Maybin maybe being a bust.

The one facet of his game that I would like McCutchen to improve in is his defense. He has been poorly rated by Ultimate Zone Rating statistically and his rainbows throws and shaky routes don't pass my eye test. I think a good offseason with a coach can remedy most of those problems.

Andrew McCutchen is without a doubt the top reason for me to look forward to April 2011 and the start of a new Pirates season. I am a complete masochist.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reviewing my 2010 pre-season Pirate predictions

In an effort to provide an internal audit of my posts, I thought I would go back and re-visit my 2010 Pre-Season Pirates Predictions post.
Listed below is the original prediction and comment in italics, with my new thoughts in bold.

1. The Pirates will win 76 games -- OK, I've covered this one in my WAR-based analysis of the team. Give me a +/- of 2 wins on this one. I think the makings of a winning team will start to materialize this season.
When I said +/- 2 wins, I really meant to say +/- 20 wins. Yeah. That's it. The "what the heck went wrong" with the 2010 Pirates will be coming shortly as its own post.

2. Robbie Grossman's LH-hitting struggles will continue and he will give up switch hitting -- As a RH hitter his OPS was 897 and his K-rate was 24%. As a LH hitter his OPS was 679 and his K-rate was 40%. I think if the trend continues up to mid-season, he will abandon switch-hitting.
This is a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that Grossman's K rate as a LH hitter dropped to 25%. The bad news is that his OPS stayed at 668. The even worse news is that as a RH hitter his OPS dropped to 746 this year and his isolated power was bad from both sides (.114 and .095, respectively). So Grossman still has a sizeable platoon split, but that the switch-hitting experiment will continue.

3. Quincy Latimore will continue to show that he is not a prospect -- Admittedly, I seem to have an ax to grind with Latimore. I think it's just that people want so badly for him to be a prospect when in reality he is not even close. His K/BB rate last year was 25%/5% with a .251 BA, 3 steals, and poor defense as a LF. The BB rate will not play as he continues to move up. He is already low on the defensive spectrum. He doesn't make great contact and he's not fast on the bases. Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
Latimore put together a .266/.323/.444 line in 2010 for a 767 OPS. This constitutes a career high in OPS for Frederick Quincy Latimore. Most of this was built off of an insane August that had a 942 OPS, which was far and away the outlier to his monthly numbers. But he had one last year too in July and numbers count no matter when you put them up.
Latimore had 30 BB and 136 K's in 518 AB's for a 6% BB rate and a 27% K rate. His 2011 in AA will be very telling.

4. Pedro Alvarez will hit .260 with 20 HR's but a 30% K rate in the majors -- Pedro will show us enough to warrant setting the Excitement Meter to 10 in 2011. Cutch-22 spoiled us last year with an electric debut. I think Pedro will be more of a rookie with his struggles, but ready to explode in 2011.
Pedro had a very herky-jerky debut. He was ice cold in June (411 OPS), took off in July (especially after the All Star Break, had a 855 OPS), came back down in August (735 OPS), and then terrorized pitchers with a 932 OPS in September and giving us all a glimpse of what could be in store in 2011.
Pedro hit .256/.326/.461 (787 OPS) with 16 HR's and a 34.3% K rate. Not bad on the estimates all the way around. His struggles against lefties were a little disconcerting at times.

5. Andrew McCutchen will more or less consolidate his gains in 2010 -- I'm not saying he'll have a Sophomore Slump, but rather he will put a similar line to his .286/.365/.471 2009 season. His counting stats will increase proportionally, not exponentially as some are hoping/predicting.
Cutch-22 will get his own follow-up post about his 2010 season, but here was his final line for 2010:
Seriously. His BA and OBP were exactly the same as 2009. That about as close to "he will put up a similar line" as you can get. He hit 16 HR's and stole 33 bases which were a mild disappointment for how he started the season, but fairly close to proportions from 2009 (His rough proportional totals would have been 17 HR's and 31 SB's). I think we have established Cutch-22's baseline.

6. Tony Sanchez will put up a season in 2010 that will make Ryan Doumit expendable -- I think Sanchez ends 2010 in Altoona and has a season significant enough to warrant Huntington trading Doumit in the 2010 offseason. Jaramillo will hold the fort in 2011 until Sanchez is ready to come up.
This one was looking like another good prediction until Brad Holt parked a fastball into Sanchez's cake-cruncher in June. He was out the rest of the season. His offense was just as good as last year up to that point, but his defense suffered from a lingering shoulder injury, causing Sanchez to only throw out 15% of baserunners. He will need all of 2011 in the minors, hopefully split between AA and AAA.

7. Zach Von Rosenburg will fail to live up to the lofty expectations in 2010 -- It actually semi-pained me to type that, but I think his present stuff (high 80's FB, shaky secondary stuff) will get him lit up in full-season ball in 2010. He was always more of a projection than a present-day stud, so I think folks will see sub-par numbers and write him off. Similar to Quinton Miller last year.
ZVR spent the whole season in State College, which was a mild disappointment in and of itself. He also started the season off slowly with some less than stellar numbers until his last 10 starts. ZVR put up a 2.11 ERA in 47 IP, giving up 42 hits, allowing 10 BB, and striking out 35. The fastball is still in the high 80's though, and his stuff was not swing and miss this year. His season was better than Quinton Miller's 2009, but there is still something that needs to shine with ZVR.

8. Diego Moreno and Brock Holt are going to have breakout seasons in 2010 -- Holt seems like a slightly lesser version of Chase D'arnaud to me and you saw how his 2009 season went. I think Moreno is going to be a fast-mover this year and put himself in the prime discussion for a bullpen spot in 2011.
This was a spot-on prediction, too, but with some qualifiers. Moreno humiliated High-A hitters and was moved up to Altoona where he had success as well. However, he was disciplined for behavioral problems and demoted for a short time back to High-A. He wound up back with Altoona by the end, though. He is now said to be the best reliever in minor league baseball by Baseball America.
Holt got off to a scorching .351/.410/.438 (848 OPS) in Bradenton until he ripped his ACL in June. He should be back and fine in 2011 and hopefully will see Altoona sooner rather than later.

9. John Russell and Neil Huntington both get extensions -- I think NH deserves 3 more years to see his work through. It usually takes 3-4 years to see a draft class come up to the surface so he needs AT LEAST 2011 to see his 2008 class, right? Plus, I have agreed with the concepts of his trades, if not all the pieces received. As for Russell, I'm not thrilled about this part of the prediction, but I think they will give him 2 years (2011/2012) to actually have some impact players to work with and make a go of it. 2 more years of wanting to use a defribrulator on him during his press conferences.
I got this one right too, but again there were qualifiers. The Pirates actually secretly extended both Russell and Huntington in October of 2009 for the 2011 season and never told the media or the public. Then, Russell went and dropped a 105 loss season on Pittsburgh and was fired this week.
Huntington will (theoretically) go into 2011 GM'ing for his job and a future longer extension.

10. Nutting brings in a minor partner to the ownership group -- Unless his will is made of complete iron, I think Nutting hears the natives beating the drums. He will try to appease them by finding a partner willing to infuse a small percentage of cash into the enterprise. It will be a local businessman, not Lemieux/Burkle, that has been out of the public's radar screen.
This was the boldest of my 10 predictions and did not happen. However, I have recently said that this offseason is an Inflection Point for the future of this franchise and Nutting's financial committment is at the forefront.

All in all, not too bad on the predictions, aside from the most important one about the win total!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The tastiest MOB you'll ever meet

Two nights ago, DB~ and I took her mom out to dinner, as DB~'s dad was out of town. For some reason, DB~'s sister did not join us (it was a "school night", I guess), so it was just the three of us.

With fall in the air, there is no better place than the Mighty Oak Barrel (MOB) in Oakmont. As I mentioned in my post about Embury, there are some times of the year that are better than others to go to certain places. Fall at the MOB is that time of the year.

The Mighty Oak Barrel is a hidden gem of a restaurant. It's a very small (10 tables at most) place owned by two women. The block building at the end of 3rd Street is utterly non-descript, but once inside you are greeted by a dim yet warmly lit restaurant.

We lucked out as Thursday was the debut of the fall menu at MOB. DB~ went with a blue crab ravioli in lemon butter sauce (eschewing the butternut squash ravioli, strangely enough, as she is in full pumpkin/squash lust mode right now). I went with a thyme-brined pork chop served over creamed cabbage with bacon and apples. It had a side of butternut squash and, in a slight misstep in my opinion, a mix of yellow zucchini and snap peas. The zucchini and snap peas, as summer vegetables, detracted from the fall atmosphere of my meal, in my opinion.

But the star of the show was the dish ordered by DB~'s mom. She ordered by the braised short ribs stew with root vegetables. I was debating between ordering this and my pork chop dish, so when the server set it down in front of DB~'s mom, I instantly had buyer's remorse. The aroma and mix of flavors in this dish were mouth-watering. The owner was kind enough to come over and tell us about the preparation of the dish, as she was getting feedback on the new dishes. The root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, turnip) were roasted in the oven and then carmelized. They were added to the short rib stew, which had as a base a reduced red-wine sauce. Some peas, I believe, were also mingling in the dish. The entire dish was topped with a sprinkle of blue cheese chunks.

I ate all of my dish, but DB~'s mom couldn't finish all of hers. After trying to convince her she should take it for lunch on Friday (secretly hoping she would say no), I finished the remaining half that was left. This dish instantly occupied a spot in my Top 5 Favorite Meals of All Time.

If you have never been to the Mighty Oak Barrel, you must check it out. It is worth the trip to Oakmont, where you can also sample the delights of the Oakmont Bakery if you time it right.