Thursday, November 19, 2015

Baseball Players with the Greatest Collection of Awards

One of the things I found so interesting about Albert Pujols's career is the breadth of the awards he won in his career.  He's collected almost all of the major ones.

Rookie of the Year
MVP (3 times)
All Star (10 times)
Gold Glove (2 times)
Silver Slugger (6 times)
Hank Aaron Award
Robert Clemente Award

about the only random awards I can think he hasn't won (discounting pitching awards of course) are

World Series MVP
All Star MVP
Home Run Derby Champion

So it got me wondering, have there been any other players in MLB history that have collected such a diverse set of awards?  Here's the list of players I found that have won such a diverse list.  I began my search by looking at Rookie of the Year winners, because that's the hardest award to get (you only get one shot).  Then they had to win atleast two of an MVP, Cy Young award, or a Gold Glove for me to look into them further.  The players I list below must have won atleast one additional something beyond these for me to list below.

Willie Mays - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, Roberto Clemente

Frank Robinson - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP

Pete Rose - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, World Series MVP, Roberto Clemente

Johnny Bench - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, World Series MVP

Fred Lynn - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, ALCS MVP

Andre Dawson - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Home Run Derby

Fernando Valenzuela - ROY, Cy Young, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

Cal Ripken Jr. - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, Silver Slugger, Home Run Derby

Jeff Bagwell - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

Albert Pujols - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, NLCS MVP, Silver Slugger, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron

Ichiro Suzuki - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, Silver Slugger

Dustin Pedroia - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

I'm a bit surprised how well Albert Pujols did on this list.  I had expected someone in baseball history to have accumulated far more awards, but Pujols is around the top of this list.  Cal Ripken Jr. appears to be his closest competitor. 

A few interesting players on this list are Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki, who both got the ROY, MVP, and Gold Gloves in their rookie year.  Ichiro also checked off a Silver Slugger in his rookie year.  Fernando Valuenzela checked off his ROY, Cy Young, and Silver Slugger in his rookie year too, although he got the Gold Glove later on.

As for players we will mostly likely see on this list in the future?  Buster Posey is the most likely, as he's already got ROY, MVP, and Silver Sluger wrapped up.  As Yadier Molina gets older, it's perhaps inevitable for Posey to get a Gold Glove (and some other elite catcher doesn't come along the way).

Mike Trout is the other player that may make this list.  But his road may be a bit trickier.  There may be too many standout center fielders in his way to collect a Gold Glove.  Likewise with Bryce Harper.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Teams nearly sweeping the MLB Awards

Today Jake Arrieta of the Cubs won the NL Cy Young Award.  With Joe Maddon winning the NL Manager of the Year Award and Kris Bryant the NL Rookie of the Year Award, the Cubs nearly cleaned house with the after season awards.  No Cub is a finalist for the NL MVP, so the clean sweep is out of the question.

However, it got me curious, has a team ever swept the major after season awards?  As far as I can tell, no team has ever swept the Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP awards.  I did find that the following teams did win the Manager of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP Awards in the same year.  It's worth noting that Manager of the Year awards began in 1983, so there isn't a lot of history for this to happen.

Year Team MVP Cy Young Manager
1984 Chicago Cubs Ryne Sandberg Rick Sutcliffe Jim Frey
1984 Detroit Tigers Willie Hernandez Willie Hernandez Sparky Anderson
1986 Boston Red Sox Roger Clemens Roger Clemens John McNamara
1988 Los Angeles Dodgers Kirk Gibson Orel Hershiser Tom Lasorda
1990 Pittsburgh Pirates Barry Bonds Doug Drabek Jim Leyland
1991 Atlanta Braves Terry Pendleton Tom Glavine Bobby Cox
1992 Oakland Athletics Dennis Eckersley Dennis Eckersley Tony LaRussa
1993 Chicago White Sox Frank Thomas Jack McDowell Gene Lamont

Interestingly enough, it occurred three times where the pitcher won both the Cy Young and MVP, which makes a sweep much easier.

I also find it interesting that this occurred four years in a row from 1990-1993, but hasn't happened since.

The most obvious change is the introduction of divisional play and a wild card into baseball in 1994.  The opportunities for other managers to win manager of the year is just higher.  Joe Maddon won NL Manager of the Year this year despite technically having his team place third in the NL Central (albeit with the third best record in baseball).

The attitudes of voters have changed over the years too.  Wins and win percentage of pitchers today matters far less.  You'd find it hard for Rick Sutcliffe's 1984 performance (16-1 and 3.9 WAR) and Jack McDowell's 1993 performance (22-10, 4.3 WAR) to lead to a Cy Young win today.  The relievers Willie Hernandez and Dennis Eckersley would also have a much tougher time today winning an MVP (4.8 WAR & 2.9 WAR in their MVP seasons respectively).

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dinner @ Commonwealth in San Francisco, CA

Commonwealth is a restaurant I've had on my "go to" list for quite some time.  It was ranked all the way at #75 on the best restaurants in the United States in Opionated About Dining.  It got a very good review from the San Francisco Chronicle.  It recently got awarded a Michelin star.

The restaurant offers an a la carte menu of various items or a small six-course tasting menu for $75.  The $75 tasting menu is ridiculously cheap for a Michelin starred restaurant in the San Francisco area.  In addition, the restaurant says they donate $10 of it to a local charity, which is pretty cool.

Because we didn't know what else to order, my date and I defaulted to the tasting menu.  Here's what we got.

1) house made chips w/ seaweed powder and malt foam dip

First some chips and dip instead of a bread course.  The seaweed powdered chips were delicious.  The malt dip was foam-like, not the typical chip-dip you think of.  I think it was neat but unnecessary.  I think the chips were delicious by themselves.

2) confit trout, cauliflower, broth of bones

Next we got this amuse bouche dish.  It was served cold-style, which I thought was interesting for fish and broth.  There was also (what I assume to be) a gelatin cube of cauliflower in the broth.

3) crispy okra, trout roe, corn pudding, crème fraîche, piment d’espelette, garden basils

The first official course from the tasting.  This was pretty tasty, although after tasting it, my date and I wondered why the okra was battered & fried for this dish.  Perhaps to just offer contrasting textures?  I think it would have been better with the okra fried without the batter or just pan fried.

4) poached oysters, potatoes cooked in clay, kombu, spinach, squid ink meringue - w/ sake gelée

Unfortunately it was dark in the restaurant so it may be hard to tell in the photo, but those egg-shell looking things are the potatoes cooked in the clay.  The cooking process gave the potato skins this shell-like exterior which was really interesting.  There's also a gelée of sake in the middle of the dish (it looks like a white grape).  Overall an ok dish.  I think the combination of potatoes, oysters, and spinach was certainly an interesting choice.

5) sesame and nori coated avocado, popcorn, charred romaine, togarashi, yuzu kosho milk

Again, it may be hard to tell in the picture but the black things with sesame seeds on it are the sesame and nori coated avocado.  The popcorn was really interesting in this dish, I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant use them in a dish.  An interesting dish overall.  I guess I'm so used to avocado as a side / sauce that it being the primary ingredient was really strange to me.  I guess I think of avocado as being such a light flavor that it's hard for it to be the main item of a dish.

6) sweetbreads poached in beeswax, asian pear, brussels sprouts, chestnut and celery root cream

For the uninitiated, sweetbreads is the thymus or pancreas of an animal (according to wikipedia).  The waitress said this was specifically thymus of veal.

From my recollection, I have tried sweetbreads only once before, and that was a tiny tiny byte from French Laundry.  My friend upgraded a dish to include it and he gave me a tiny byte to try.  That sweetbreed was very sweet and crazy delicious.

I didn't particularly like this dish, but like most new ingredients, it may take time to understand/appreciate.  It wasn't as sweet or savory as the tiny byte I had from French Laundry.  It had a texture consistency I am having trouble describing, softer than most "land protein" but more firm than most sashimi.

7) celery sorbet, verjus soda

I had to look up what verjus is, but it's "unriped grape", so it's going to be more sour than typical grapes.  I really liked this.  Although technically a palate cleanser, the scoop of sorbet is quite large (first comparison that came to mind was the sorbet palate cleanser at Blackbird).  Perhaps my favorite course of the night, but I'm very biased in this because I love sorbet and have perhaps a slight preference to sour things.

8) beer meringue, chocolate ganache, pretzel crumble, crème fraîche ice cream - w/ wafers

I really liked this dessert.  Tons of tasty flavors and textures together.  I really liked the pretzel chunks and the wafer-like additions.

9) mignardise - tea pate de fruit, corn puff?

And finally some mignardise. 

Overall, I was satisfied with the amount of food in the tasting and didn't leave hungry, but I didn't leave really feeling full.  Perhaps a bread course in the tasting would have left me satisfyingly full.  I'd say that the amount of food was less than the amount from Commis or Sons and Daughters.  However, keep in mind that this menu is cheaper and fewer courses, so adding on an extra a la carte course or two would probably equal things out both in price and fullness.  The entire meal took about 2 hours, which is pretty standard.

Amongst fancy restaurants here on my blog, there were a lot of misses on these courses.  Obviously, individual tastes will vary and you are at the whim of whatever the chef serves you that day.  Looking through other people's tasting menu pictures on Yelp, some more common fish and/or protein courses could have changed the entire tasting for me.

In the SFGate review I list above, the writer says something I found interesting
[The chef] continually creates combinations I haven’t seen anywhere else
Perhaps there in lies the rub for a more casual foodie like myself.  This meal at Commonwealth may have been for the more sophisticated eater, because there were many unique flavor combinations that the novice foodie in me couldn't quite appreciate or be prepared for.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Is Kris Bryant too strikeout prone?

I was looking at the season stats for Kris Bryant, the likely ROY winner for the National League this year, when I saw something startling ...  Bryant struck out 199 times this year.  It easily lead the National League and it's tied for eighth all time.  He's tied with such strikeout illuminaries as Chris Davis, Ryan Howard, and Adam Dunn.  If he had started the year in the majors, he would have easily crossed 200 strikeouts, joining strikeouts legends like Mark Reynolds in the 200+ club.

Needless to say, Bryant was a rookie, so perhaps I'm picking on his 199 strikeouts a bit too much.  However, looking up Kris Bryant's minor league record, he struck out an amazing 162 times in the minor leagues in 2014.  And that was against AA and AAA pitchers.

Now strikeouts have been going up across baseball, so they are perhaps nothing to be too concerned about.  Mike Trout had 184 strikeouts in his MVP 2014 season.  But then again, Trout admitted he was also learning to hit for more power in 2014.  That strikeout total came down to 158 in 2015.  He also never had over a 100 strikeouts in any minor league season.

In contrast, Paul Goldschmidt had 151 strikeouts this year and 145 strikeouts in his breakout 2013 season.  He also had 161 strikeouts during his full year of playing in A ball in 2010.

Still, strikeouts in the 150s range is still much lower than the 200ish that Bryant approached.  Looking at other great hitters from the past few years, the high strikeout rate for Bryant is a tad concerning.

The great Joey Votto struck out a career high of only 138 times in 2013 but has usually hovered in the low 100 range.

Miguel Cabrera struck out a career high 148 times in his rookie year but usually has hovered in the low 100s.  In his elite run from 2010-2013, he never had over 100 strikeouts.

Prince Fielder never struck out more than 138 times.  He struck out a very low 88 times in 2015.

Robinson Cano had a career high 107 strikeouts in 2015, but never crossed the 100 mark in any other year.

Jose Bautista has also hovered in the low 100 strikout land, with a career high of 116 in 2010.

I can't remember where I read it, but there was a saying that "The greatest way for a hitter to succeed to is to not make outs."  Not everyone is going to be an Albert Pujols (career high of 93 strikeouts in his rookie year, never higher than 76 in any other year) but the 199 strikeouts is a tad concerning.  If he can't get the strikeouts down, Bryant's ceiling may not be as high as everyone hoped.  This isn't to say he won't be a great player, but he may not be the second coming of Frank Thomas (career high 115 strikeouts in 2002 & 2003).

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dinner @ Cotogna in San Francisco, CA - #2

I had the opportunity to dine at Cotogna about a year ago and enjoyed their Sunday Supper.  I didn't have Cotogna high on my "go again soon" list (there are just too many places to try), but a generous birthday gift certificate to Cotogna upped its priority immediately :-)

I'll leave the details of the restaurant to the prior post, but the basics are we went to Cotogna for their Sunday Supper.  It's the one day each week they offer a set four course menu compared to their normal a la carte menu.

Here's an overview of meal #2.

1) PASSATO DI PESCE, Tuscan fish soup

This soup was much more eye pleasing than the last soup I had at Cotogna.  The consistency was similar to a cream of tomato soup (and I assume the base of the soup was tomato).  Really tasty.

2) TAGLIOLINI CON CALAMARI, Tagliolini with squid & corno di tonno peppers

It may be hard to tell in this picture because it was so dark, but those are squid ink noodles in the picture.  Overall, a tasty dish.  The calimari wasn't chewy at all and the pasta was much better than the disgusting squid ink noodles my girlfriend and I recently picked up at William Sonoma.  Sorry, but that's the only recent squid ink noodle comparison I can think of.

3) PESCHE SPADA, Grilled swordfish with fennel & beets

This main course was served family style, so the swordfish above was for two.  I'm usually not a big fan of swordfish, as it and other meatier fishes can get really dry.  However, this swordfish was quite juicy in the middle.  The beets and fennel were delicious.  I honestly did not know that fennel was anything other than an herb.  You learn something new everyday.

4) BONET, Chocolate, hazelnut, amaretti

And finally this layered dessert of chocolate, cream, caramel, hazelnuts, and what I assume was crumbled ameretti (which online says is a macaroon/cookie).

Overall, a good meal and a good deal at $55 for four courses.  I would say it was better and more satisfying meal than the last one.  That's the luck of just eating whatever the restaurant is serving to you that day.