Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Best Season from a Louisiana Baseball Player


While Philadelphia Phillies starter Aaron Nola is a native Louisianan, he is somehow not from New Orleans. He was born in Baton Rouge and attended LSU before being drafted in the 1st round of the 2014 MLB draft.

In 2018, Nola put up a pitching season for the ages. Nola’s 2018 was the highest wins above replacement by any player born in Louisiana. So let’s revisit what made Nola so good in 2018. 

Nola started 33 games and threw 212 and one-third innings. He allowed only 149 hits and struck out an astonishing 224 opposing hitters, eighth in the majors. Opposing hitters only mustered a measly .197/.259/.311 batting line against Nola. In an offensive friendly era, Nola held hitters to only 17 home runs and was sixth in majors in home runs allowed per nine innings. 

Nola thrived against high-level competition, holding Nationals superstar (and future teammate) Bryce Harter to just two hits in 17 plate appearances. All told, Harper hit only .125/.176/.313 against Nola. Nationals rookie phenom Juan Soto didn’t fare much better, hitting just .091/.333/.182 in 15 plate appearances. The Braves' rookie sensation Ozzie Albies similarly struggled, garnering only a .231/.231/.308 batting line in 13 plate appearances. At the end of 2018, Nola finished third in Cy Young voting behind winner Jacob deGrom and runner-up Max Scherzer and made the NL All-Star team. 


Nola’s best game of the season game was against the New York Mets on July 9, 2018 at Citi Field. Nola threw seven innings and held the Mets to only one hit—a Wilmer Flores single to left field in the bottom of the first inning—and only one walk (to Mets outfielder Michael Conforto in the bottom of the seventh inning). He struck out 10 Mets, including center fielder Brandon Nimmo three times. 

Even more impressively, Nola was his own run support. In the top of the fifth inning, Nola came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. He drove the first pitch he saw down the right-field line for a bases clearing double. Nola’s 3 runs batted in were the only runs the Phillies scored all game. According to win probability added (a statistic that measures how much a player helped his team win the game), Nola’s performance at the plate (.307 WPA) was nearly equal to his performance on the mound (.347 WPA).

Since arriving in the majors for good in 2016, Nola is seventh in wins above replacement among pitchers, nestled between future Hall of Famers Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw. Nola recently signed a four year, $45 million contract to buy out his arbitration seasons and first few seasons of free agency to remain in Philadelphia. 

Nola already ranks 17th in WAR amongst pitchers from Louisiana and will be in the top 10 within two healthy seasons. If things go his way, he may even challenge Andy Pettitte and Ted Lyons as the best pitcher to come from Louisiana. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dogs

Everyone here at DGA has a dog. Some of us have more than one. Only Benson has cats (but also two dogs). Dogs are, quite simply, the best. They comfort us, make us laugh, and are fantastic companions.

Our dogs have been especially important in the midst of the pandemic, providing a reason to go for walks and a welcome distraction from the world. And while they have surely noticed that there's something up with their human companions, they remain committed to their day-to-day lives--chewing bones, eating yard detritus, and being especially bothersome and ill-behaved at the worst possible moments. They are the best.

A few weeks ago, we began passing around a series of dog videos made by UK golf announcer Andrew Cotter. While they are relatively short, they brilliantly sum up the joys and absurdities of life with dogs. In Cotter's case, he has two Labrador retrievers--Olive and Mabel. Mixing the seriousness of his announcing voice and the mundanity of watching a dog eat or play with a bone is the perfect distraction for a world in the midst of a pandemic.

For those of you who haven't seen them, the first two videos are imbedded below. Enjoy and if you're anything like us, you'll watch them half a dozen times or more.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Recreating Leah Chase's Gumbo

The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen crew

Over the past two years or so, Bon Appetit magazine has developed a very successful YouTube channel. By bringing cameras into the magazine's test kitchen, the recipe testers have become video stars in their own right.

There's Brad Leone's ADD energy and off-the-cuff remarks. There's Claire Saffitz and her love of crafting and endless perfectionism in making gourmet versions of junk food--think Bagel Bites, Doritos, or Starburst. Sohla El-Wayliy is the queen of tempering chocolate.

Armed with a couple of dozen tasting spoons, test kitchen director Chris Morocco has his own show as well. On his show, Morocco must recreate dishes from famous chefs by taste. He can touch, smell, and taste the dishes, but he cannot look at them. In previous episodes, Morocco has recreated Guy Fieri's Trash-Can Nachos and Snoop Dog's Lobster Thermidor.

Last week, Morocco took on a new challenge--Leah Chase's famed gumbo. How'd it go? Watch below for yourself.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Quiet New Orleans

With New Orleans currently under a shelter-at-home order, the streets of the Crescent City are quiet. Gone are the cars, the tourists jam-packed on Bourbon Street, and the lines at Cafe du Monde. Jackson Square sits empty and the army of musicians and street-performers who entertain guests and locals alike remain in their homes.

New Orleans has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. An ill-timed Mardi Gras and the poverty of the city's residents combined to deal the city a brutal blow. Orleans Parish (New Orleans) has seen over 6,500 cases and nearly 450 deaths from COVID-19.

With residents staying in their homes, the streets have taken on an eerie quality to them. Once bustling boulevards, are now void of people, vendors, and most significantly--music. Yet there is also a beauty in the quiet. A chance to observe and reflect on the city we love dearly and how it will and won't be the same.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

2020 Saints Draft Recap


Mickey and Sean--making all the trades. 

To the surprise of absolutely no one who has followed the Saints in recent years, New Orleans made the fewest picks of any team in the draft and traded a 2021 draft pick to move up in this year’s draft. 

If the Saints were a young child, they would fail the marshmallow test every single time. 

Since New Orleans only made four picks in the draft, that should make this recap relatively easily. 

Round 1, Pick 24—C Cesar Ruiz (Michigan) 

We wrote last week that the Saints might look to grab an interior offensive lineman with right guard Larry Warford in the last year of his contract. Either Ruiz or Erik McCoy, last year’s starting center, will have to compete with Warford for the right guard spot. The Saints liked Ruiz’s size (6-3, 307 lbs), intelligence (he was in charge of protection calls for the Michigan offensive line), and experience (31 starts over 3 seasons). 

While the Saints may have been tempted to go for a wide receiver to help out Drew Brees, this pick is reminiscent of 2017, when New Orleans took right tackle Ryan Ramcyzk 32nd overall. The Saints had already invested significant capital in the offensive line, but Sean Payton believes that you can never have too many good offensive lineman. The Saints might try to trade Warford, but they might just hold onto him and have him compete with Ruiz or McCoy for the guard spot. 



Round 3, Pick 74—LB Zach Baun (Wisconsin) 

New Orleans just can’t help themselves with trading up. This time they traded the 88th pick in the draft and their 3rdrounder for next year to move up 14 spots. At least, they used the pick on a well-regarded player in a position of need. Currently, two of the Saints starting linebackers—Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso have missed significant time with injuries. All-Pro starter Demario Davis is 31 and he, along with backup Craig Robertson, Anzalone, and Alonso, are all in the last year of their contracts. So the Saints needed another playmaker on a long-term contract and they got themselves one. 



As an outside linebacker, Baun has been successful as an edge rusher with 12.5 sacks last season. He also has the ability to drop back into coverage and guard tight ends and running backs. 


Round 3, Pick 105—TE Adam Trautman (Dayton) 

The Saints paid a heavy price for Trautman, giving up their 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th round picks to move up 25 spots to draft Trautman. According to Chase Stuart’s approximate value based draft chart, the Saints gave up the equivalent of the 83rd pick in the draft to move up. 

And it’s not immediately clear where Trautman fits into the Saints offense as New Orleans already has Jared Cook and Josh Hill as starters. Trautman played well at Dayton—catching 70 passes for 916 yards and 14 touchdowns—but against FCS division talent. The Saints have been touting Trautman’s blocking skills as making him an impact player immediately. He better be, because the Saints gave up a lot to get him. 

Round 7, Pick 240—QB Tommy Stephens (Mississippi State) 

New Orleans currently has a versatile quarterback on the roster who can play wide receiver, tight end, and running back in Taysom Hill. What’s the harm in having another? Stephens has experience running the ball, practiced route running before the draft, and even prepared to work out at tight end to help his draft prospects. His versatility came about because he was “bored” while serving as a backup at Penn State. The Saints traded a 6th rounder next year to get him, but 6th and 7th rounders are easy to replace. Another versatile weapon for Sean Payton to scheme around isn’t. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2020 Saints Draft Preview


The NFL draft begins this Thursday night. Because of the coronavirus things will look a little different. Teams will be drafting from home, the possibility to technical screwups is high, especially when you’re dealing with a bunch of grumpy football coaches who are skeptical of things like email and YouTube. 

As is typical of the New Orleans Saints, they have given their fans little reason to tune in. They only have 5 picks in the draft, tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for fewest in the league. In the Sean Payton-Mickey Loomis era, New Orleans has always been aggressive trading away picks for players and in order to move up in the draft for specific players. 

This strategy flies against rigorous draft analysis suggesting that no team is better than any other at the draft and the best way to accumulate good young players is just to draft a lot of them. 

So let’s take a look at the picks the Saints do have and what they might do to fill them. 


 Round 1, Pick 24—Surprise! The Saints have a first round pick, but fear not, they’re down a 2nd rounder after trading it away last year to move up to grab center Erik McCoy. Last year, the Saints gave up their first rounder in a trade two years ago to select defensive lineman Marcus Davenport. 

If one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the draft, like Utah State’s Jordan Love, falls past the first 12 or so picks, don’t be surprised for the Saints to offer a package of their current first-rounder plus next year’s to try and snag Drew Brees’ successor. With Teddy Bridgewater off to greener pastures and Carolina and Taysom “only 6 career passing attempts” Hill the only other QB on the roster, the Saints will need to invest in a young QB soon to replace the aging Brees. 

If one of the top QBs isn’t available look for the Saints to grab a wide receiver to bolster their receiving corps or a linebacker to shore up the middle of the defense. 


Round 3, Pick 88—Hey a third rounder! Don’t look now because they Saints haven’t had one of those in a while either. They traded the previous one for a season of Teddy Bridgewater. Only it wasn’t for last season, where he replaced Brees and played well. It was for the season before that where he barely played. 

Look for the Saints to target some defense help here. Wide receiver, linebacker, and edge rusher are all positions of need of the Saints to shore up their team depth as the team readies for another (and perhaps final?) Super Bowl run with Brees under center. 

Round 4, 130—With guard Larry Warford heading into the last season of his contract, the Saints might draft an interior offensive lineman. This would be a developmental pick with a young guard or center learning the Saints pass and run blocking schemes behind Warford, McCoy, the recently resigned Andrus Peat, and backup Nick Easton. You can never have too many good offensive linemen. 

The Saints also have picks in the 5th and 6th rounds, but those generally are back of the roster players who sometimes don’t make it out of training camp. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Toups Meatery Family Meal Giveaway


We at DGA are big fans of chef Isaac Toups and his restaurant, Toups Meatery. We've recommended it to our out-of-town guests for the Crawfish Boil for the past few years.

Toups is a standout amongst New Orleans' Cajun restaurants. The meat-centric menu includes duck, lamb, quail, and venison. The Meatery Board, featuring head cheese, chicken liver mousse, cracklings, boudin balls, and homemade sausage, is a must-order.

However, the Coronavirus pandemic has forced New Orleans restaurants to close their dining rooms lest their customers get sick. Some restaurants have closed entirely, while others have shifted to take-out and delivery only. The New Orleans area has been hit hard by coronavirus and many New Orleanians who rely on the restaurant industry for their livelihood are out of work.

In true New Orleans fashion, many chefs and civic organizations have stepped up to help feed displaced workers, Toups Meatery included.


Starting at 3 PM every day, Toups has started offering free meals for people in need especially those in the service industries. All people have to do is call ahead so the restaurant can prepare an appropriate sized meal.

The restaurant is also accepting donations to help pay for these meals for those in need. The donation methods are listed below:

Venmo @toupsmeatery
PayPal: Isaac@toupsmeatery.com
Phone: 504-252-4999

So far the community reaction to the Toups Family Meal program has been overwhelming. Last week, Toups gave away over 3,000 meals to people in need. It's programs like these that show the heart and soul of New Orleans and our ability to come together in times of crisis.