Wednesday, June 27, 2012


This Monday was Mexican night at the DBS household. Instead of doing the same ol' thing of hard or soft tacos or burritos, I picked up some small corn tostada shells at Giant Eagle. I used a Mole paste that I bought a while back (all the writing is in Spanish, which I can't read) to make some Mole Chicken breasts.

I diced that up to put on the tostadas. Also during the prep, I pureed some black beans and added a touch of garlic and cumin. To the base tostada, I smeared some black bean puree on the shell and added some shredded Mexican cheese blend. I stacked another tostada (with black beans to hold the toppings in place) on top of that and put the chicken on that tostada with some shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes.

Finally, I stacked a 3rd tostada on top (with black beans) and added more shredded cheese, lettuce, and green onions. The only thing that was missing was some sour cream that I forgot to buy. It was nice to have a change of pace and break up the standard taco night.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Trade Target -- Chase Headley

Recently, the Pirates were said to be looking for corner infielder help in this piece from Ken Rosenthal via MLB Trade Rumors. One of the players mentioned in the article was 3B Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres.

On the surface, Headley may not seem like much of an improvement for the Pirates, as his triple slash line is .261/.372/.416 (788 OPS) with only 7 home runs this season. However, Headley's numbers have been suppressed by the cavernous Petco Park for the Padres. His home splits for 2012 (.250/.363/.363, 726 OPS) versus his road splits for 2012 (.272/.382/.474, 856 OPS) are in line with his divergent career home/road splits (664 OPS at home, 810 OPS on road). Headley seems like a player ready to explode if he gets into a hitting environment even relatively close to neutral.

The switch-hitting Headley has hit 2/3 of his career home runs as a left-handed batter, so the shorter porch at PNC Park would cater well to that trend. Headley also brings something that is sorely lacking among Pirate hitters: plate patience. Headley's 2012 on-base percentage of .372 would be 2nd on the Pirates behind Andrew McCutchen's .382 mark. Even using Headley's career OBP rate of .346 would still place him 2nd ahead of Casey McGehee's .333 OBP in 2012. In fact, I would advocate that if Headley were to be obtained he should be installed as the leadoff hitter, but that idea may be a little too unorthodox right out of the gate.

Headley is a Super 2 player, meaning that he will get 4 cracks at the arbitration system, and 2012 is his 2nd year. His salary for 2012 is $3.475 M on the heels of an injury-beset 2011 season in which he earned $2.325M. Using the assumption that a Super 2 player is compensated in his 4 years at 20, 40, 60, and 80 percent of his presumed free agent value, you can see that Headley has been paid as if he is a $8.7 M to $11.6 M player. For the purposes of this trade analysis, I'll use his potential free agent value as $11.6 M for his remaining two Super 2 years. I will also use $1.7 M as the remaining amount on Headley's 2012 salary.

Headley's career WAR numbers have been 0.5 for 2008 (91 games), 1.5 in 2009, 4.9 in 2010, 2.7 in 2011, and 2.7 in 66 games for 2012. Using a weighted average, Headley's average WAR is right around 3.0 per season for his career. With Headley on in his age-28 season in 2012, he will still be in his prime 29 and 30 years for the next two seasons, so there is no need to regress him in this analysis due to age.

YearSalaryWARFA ValueSurplus

If we use the newly updated Trade Surplus Values from Pirates Prospects, Headley's surplus value of $19.6 M would equate to one hitter ranked in the 26-50 range by Baseball America, or two hitters ranked 51-100 by the same list. Alternatively, the value could also be achieved by trading a pitcher in the 11-25 range or one from the 26-50 range plus a pitcher ranked 51-100. There are any number of combinations that can be achieved, as well, especially using non Baseball America-ranked prospects with the Beyond the Box Score trade values.

Equating all this to Pirate prospects, two hitters in the 51-100 range would be Josh Bell and Starling Marte. A pitcher in the 11-25 range is Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon. Using John Sickels' Top 20 Pirate prospects for 2012, the grade B hitter not on the Baseball America Top 100 list ($5.5M value) is Robbie Grossman. The grade B pitchers ($7.3M value) are Luis Heredia, Kyle McPherson, and Nick Kingham. That's obviously subject to change, as I imagine some of these players' perceived values have changed since these lists came out, while other prospects (Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco for example) are entering the equation.

It would seem more likely that for this type of transaction it would be more of a package of lesser prospects, rather than a 1 for 1 swap of Headley for a top tier prospect. The interesting item to consider is whether San Diego's GM, Josh Byrnes, would be selling Headley based on his potential to replicate his "road" stats once he gets traded away from Petco Park. In a way, he would undercutting his own stadium and bargaining position to an extent, but clearly Headley is a better player than what is seen on the surface of his stats.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bermuda - The Rest of It

Bermuda is a strange little place.  As I mentioned before, it's right in the East Coast's back yard, but it just seems to be overlooked as a travel destination.  Jamaica, Bahamas, US Virgin Islands all seem to way more discussed as destinations.

Bermuda doesn't have a "thing".  They don't have a special type of art, no special type of jewelry, and no particular style of food -- it's a mish-mash of British, Caribbean, and Spanish.  Bermuda is very expensive, mostly the result of having to import practically everything (80% of all food), including resources too.

It does have fantastic beaches, though, and that's what DB~ was very excited about.  We also went to a cool sets of underground caverns with limestone/calcite stalactites and tidal water pools.  One was called Crystal Cave and the other was Fantasy Cave.  They were discovered by two kids in 1905 after they dropped their cricket ball down a hole and they went into pitch black to try and find it.

After that trip to the Caves, we walked across the street and had lunch at the Swizzle Inn.  This island landmark created the Rum Swizzle (Bermuda's unofficial national cocktail) many moons ago.  It had great bar food and a funky interior best described as "island graffiti".  We wrote our names on the casing of a window out on the porch.  Here's a picture of a swizzle (the orange one) and a drink I got with blue curacao.

The whole island has 66,000 residents.  Most of the business that is not tourist-related happens in the capital city of Hamilton.  We passed through here a lot because the central hub bus terminal is located here.  DB~ was underwhelmed by Hamilton; I was merely "whelmed".  Thanks to some loose regulations on finance, nearly every major world bank has an office in Hamilton -- which leads to every major Big 4 auditing firm having an office.  There are some great restaurants on Front Street that overlook the harbor, which can moor  not the mega-cruise ships, but still some huge cruise ships.

The mega-cruisers go to the Dockyards on the western side of the island.  We went there for lunch one day and ate at a great English pub called The Frog and Onion.  DB~ went with Fish and Chips and I panicked and selected the Ploughman's Lunch.  Little did I realize that being a ploughman meant you threw a bunch of stuff in your lunchpail and made the best of it.  There were grapes, apples, cheeses, meats, spreads, and a random baguette tossed in a bin.  I put it all on the bun at the same time.  It was a like a taste sensation in every bite.

The people of Bermuda were fantastically friendly, due to British civility being highly stressed from childhood up to adulthood.  We never felt unsafe at any point and it is very clean there.  Overall it was a great place to take a 6 day vacation.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Urban Dare 2012

Yesterday DB~ and I did the 2012 Pittsburgh Urban Dare.  This was our 3rd year in a row that we have done it.  In 2010, we finished 15th out of 85 teams and went from the North Shore into Pittsburgh and back.  In 2011, we finished 34th out of 270-some teams and the Dare took us from the South Side to Oakland and back.

This year there were again around 250-some teams and we finished 27th in a time of 2 hours and 6 minutes. We came into this Dare in perhaps the worst shape of our lives and had the modest (albeit perhaps unrealistic) goal of finishing in the top 15%.  With our 27th place finish, we accomplished that goal.  This year's Dare started on the North Shore at McFadden's and took us into Pittsburgh.  We then mapped out our route to get the clues on the North Side (Buhl Planetarium, Children's Museum, Heinz Field, Science Center, and Commons/Federal).

Both of us are feeling pretty sore today, but we're glad we did it.  There were piles of teams younger than us, with young toned girls in workout shorts and muscle shirts, guys all ripped up with muscles on top of muscles...but we were smarter than most of them.  We solved the clues quicker and planned out a tight route through Pittsburgh and the North Side.  We mostly speed walked it, with some intermittent jogging tossed in,  but I was proud of how we did.  The winners did the Dare in 1 hour and 31 minutes -- hats off to them.

Hopefully we can get in a little bit of better shape for a potential 2013 Urban Dare.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bermuda - St. George's and Sea Glass Beach

DB~ and I got back on Friday from our summer vacation this year.  We kind of labored on where to go this year and after kicking around a lot of different options, we selected Bermuda.  It's always one of those places that exists in the background, probably never a choice on the tip of a tongue, but we never really realized how close it was to the States.

We connected through Philly (1 hour flight from Pittsburgh) and then took a 1-1/2 flight over to Bermuda.  Bermuda is a tiny little strip of an island that is only 25 square miles in area with a population of around 66,000 people.  And that's a whole country, with a real economy and everything, plus being able to send athletes successfully to the Olympics.

I'll be doing some other posts about Bermuda, but I wanted to do the first one about our most favorite day while there.  We took a bus from our parish of Southampton, on the south side of the island, to St. George's in the northern tip of the island.  The Town of St. George's is the historical site of the island and is a World Heritage site, as a result of being the first area settled in 1612.  We found St. Peter's Church and did a geocache at this church, which is the oldest church in the Western hemisphere and the oldest building in Bermuda.

While researching the trip, we found information on Sea Glass Beach.  It was said to be a 30 minute walk from the center of town.  The reviews said that if you collect the glass, there is a jeweller in town named Kelly that makes necklaces from the glass you collect.  By the time we got to St. George's, it was about 3:30 so we wanted to find Kelly and make sure she didn't close early.  We found her with not a lot of problems, as the Town is very small.

When we walked in we introduced ourselves and said that we wanted to go to Glass Beach and see if she could make necklaces for DB~ (for herself and for gifts).  Standing next to her was a guy who seemed to be good friends with her and he introduced himself as Dennis.  After seeing that we were serious about the journey, Dennis offered to drive us there.  After a few seconds of hesitancy, we hopped in his beat up pick up truck and off we went.

Dennis told us all about the island, his life, the other homes in the area, life in St. George's, and anything else that popped into his head.  When we got to the Glass Beach, it was evident that it would have taken us a long time to walk there, so we were very grateful for the ride.  We hopped out, but then Dennis offered to show us all the great places to collect the glass that tourists didn't know about.  He had DB~ waded through tidal pools, while I clambored over rocks to get to this little rock outcropping over a cove.  We were laying on our backs under a rock just steam-shoveling rounded pieces of glass into bags to take back to Kelly.

The glass percolates up from the multitude of shipwrecks around the island, gets tumbled over sand, rocks, and water for years and years, and then washed up nice and roundly smooth in the cove.  This particular area's glass is from a shipwreck from the 1630's.  We got brown glass, green glass, white glass, some pottery shards, and a relatively rare few pieces of azure blue glass that Dennis was excited that we found.

Dennis then offered to drive us back, which we readily accepted, and he gave us some insight into the real estate scene in St. George's.  We drove past a tiny, non-descript (maybe 800 square foot) house that overlooked the harbor.  I asked Dennis how much that would go for and without hesitation he said "2 million".  With Bermuda dollar equaling US dollars, that's 2 million dollars, ace.

We dropped our stuff off to Kelly and horse-traded the rarer blue glass in order to knock our price down on the 4 necklaces we commissioned her to make.  As it happened, Kelly was going to be at the Dockyards the next day, which was much closer to our hotel.

On the way back, we took a ferry ride to the Dockyards that took about 45 minutes and took us around the north and western parts of the island.  We got to spend time with a local and found areas that most tourists don't find.  We loved that aspect of the trip and is something that we'll remember forever.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Legume - Part Deux

I don't really do multiple posts on the same restaurant, but since we went to Legume on Valentine's Day 2011, the restaurant has relocated from Regent Square to Oakland on North Craig Street.  Trevett Hooper and the gang bought the old Amore restaurant and renovated it before opening in Fall 2011.

When we were there in Regent Square, Legume was decorated as if you were in a French country kitchen.  The decorations were sparse, but well-placed, especially in such a tiny space as the previous incarnation.  DB~ remarked that when they moved to the much bigger space in Oakland, she hoped the flavor of the food wouldn't suffer from the lack of intensity and closeness of the tiny kitchen.

We went with DB~'s aunt last night and certainly won't disappointed in the food.  There was no loss of energy or creativity in the cuisine, even if garlic scapes must have been on sale that day at the market (featured in 3 of the 5 mains).

However, we were extremely disappointed in the decor of the new restaurant.  We wondered what renovations, if any, were done to the dining area.  The whole place felt like we were in a 1970's tacky outtake from the movie Casino.  The polished terrazzo floors, with blue diamond patterns, and the stark off-white walls left us feeling cold.  We were seated at the rear of the dining area next to a huge mirrored wall that just felt out of place.

It seemed as if all the decorating budget went into the bar, which had a warm red clay/brown tone to it.  That color scheme and feel was more in line with what should have been carried through the rest of Legume.

As for the food, it was great.  DB~ went with a Sockeye Salmon dish that had some capers, garlic scapes, and a red wine pesto sauce.

Her aunt had Bluefish with some mache or other type of micro-greens.  She got a side of fermented bok choy with red chiles that had quite a kick.

I had lamb kielbasa that was fantastic, served on a mattress of polenta and some escarole that soaked up the  juices from the kielbasa.  I got a side of daikon, cut like fries, that was oven roasted in a honey miso sauce.  It had a very strong taste and it was quite a big portion, due to its intensity of flavor.  Definitely enough to share with 2 people.

Overall the food was sublime, but the decor of the restaurant was so hideous that we won't be in any rush to go back here.  There are simply too many other great restaurants in Pittsburgh right now.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Burgh Bits Food Tour - Brookline

For Christmas, my brother-in-law got me a gift certificate for a company called Burgh Bits Food Tour.  What they do is give guided tours to five different neighborhoods in the City of Pittsburgh -- Strip District, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Dormont, and Brookline.  DB~ and I frequent the Strip often and are familiar with the other neighborhoods, so we picked Brookline as our trip.

Yesterday was our tour date and we met our guide, Corey, at Pitaland on Brookline Boulevard.  Corey is a current grad student at Chatham University completing his degree in Food Studies.  His goal is to become a food writer and travel, sharing his love of food and writing.

Our first stop (of 7 places on Brookline Boulevard) was inside Pitaland, where we met the owner who introduced himself as "Joe".  We went to the backroom and observed the pitas being made, at a rate of 2000/hour on a simple yet elaborate conveyor belt system.  The dough is squeezed out and pressed automatically and then "flash-baked" inside a 1200 degree oven for probably a total of 1 minute.  The yeast instantly puffs up, then the pita is conveyed around a belt system and cooled down to its typical flat-looking pattern.

Pitaland has been in its current location since 1990, but they have been making pitas since 1974.  They are now supplying most of the restaurants in the City with pitas.

Our next stop after sampling some pitas, feta, and olives, was Kreibel's Bakery.  We were greeted (and given samples, a staple at all stops on the Burgh Bits tour) by a nice young girl that told us the bakery had been in some existence of ownership as a bakery since the 1930's.  We tried two of their special cookies and the girl, a theatre studies major at Duquesne, told us how they ship their cookies all the way to Alaska.

The third stop was to Las Palmas, a Mexican groceria.  They now have started selling street tacos out on Brookline Boulevard.  I knew that we had a bunch of other things to eat, so I resisted but hoped I could get one at the end of the tour.  Most of the products in the groceria were in Spanish.  The butcher/meat section is the highlight of Las Palmas, with great cuts of meat and blends.

After that we went to another bakery called Party Cake Bakery, another long-standing bakery in the area.  We were greeted by another perky girl who said she had been working there for 8 years and "would never leave because her bosses were so great to work for."  We had to-go bags waiting for us to add to our piles.

As an interlude, after Party Cake we went to Sal's Barbershop to talk with the son of the original owner.  The barbershop had pressed tin ceilings and great pictures of the barbershop throughout its history on the walls, along with antiques collected over the years.

The next two stops were two new businesses on the Boulevard, Vinnie's Pretzel Shop and Antonio's Pizzeria.  Vinnie was a retired teacher from Philly, so I didn't hold that against him.  He had branched out from just pretzels and was doing speciality little sandwiches and pretzel-themed treats.  Antonio's Pizzeria brought out a whole pizza for us to sample.  The others on our tour ended up taking the remainder home to eat.

Our final stop on the tour was Cannon Coffee.  The owner, Nathan, came from Albuquerque six years and set up the business in Brookline because of the potential diversity of the neighborhood.  We learned about all the different ways to roast and press a coffee bean, including sampling two different coffees.  Then Nathan brought out at least 6 different varieties of teas -- black teas, green teas, herb blends.

Trying all the different pretzels, baked goods, coffees, teas were great, but it was speaking to the owners and hearing their stories that was the best part of the day.  Brookline was a neighborhood that we didn't know much about before Saturday, but it is now one that we will be back to visit soon.

If you have the opportunity to check out Burgh Bits, whether you are new to the city or a lifelong Pittsburgher, we highly recommend going on one of their tours with a knowledgeable guide like Corey.

And yes, I did get a chicken taco from Las Palmas on the way back to the car.  It was fantastic.  Dare I say, it was even better than Reyna's in the Strip.