Taking on the Best, Restaurant Moneyball

The TinCaps return home tonight to face Bowling Green, with a scheduled start time of 7:05. Over the last two days, Fort Wayne came up on the losing end of things, and split their series with the South Bend Silver Hawks, 2-2.

Bowling Green has played exceptionally well not just here in the second half, but for the entire season. In fact, if the standings hold as they look right now, this would be the first-round playoff matchup, with the TinCaps hosting Bowling Green in game one of the Eastern Division semifinals. Of course, there is still a month to go and plenty of baseball to be played, but that’s how it stands right now. The Hot Rods are 25-15 in the second half, which is the best mark in the Midwest League, East or West.

It’s going to be a fantastic pitching matchup tonight with Matt Wisler taking the hill for Fort Wayne and lefty Ryan Carpenter throwing for Bowling Green. Wisler strikes out the fourth-most batters per nine innings of work in the league. Carpenter hasn’t lost since June, and threw eight innings in his last ballgame.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, a chat with infielder/pitcher Tyler Stubblefield. He earned the latter title when he pitched three innings in Friday’s 16-0 loss at South Bend.

The line of this interview comes when he recounts his conversation with catcher Austin Hedges, who asked him what type of pitches he’d be throwing. Hedges asks, “Fastball, curveball, change?”.

“Nope,” Stubblefield says. “Fastballs down the middle.”

RESTAURANT MONEYBALL

By now, most baseball fans are familiar with the Oakland A’s original concept of Moneyball: find the player that fits the system, gets on base and produces runs and wins. If you’re not a big sabermetrics person, you’ve maybe at least seen the movie. Now, that model of thinking is being taken to your dining experience in Washington, D.C.:

“Six-fifteen PM, Chef Geoff’s in Upper Northwest DC: You slip into a corner booth. Elizabeth, the server, is agreeable in her smart tie and pressed apron, the Pinot Gris is crisp and cool, the salmon with lentils is perfectly cooked, the water glasses are kept filled, the check comes without asking. Were you dining at one of Tracy’s spinoffs—Chef Geoff’s in downtown DC or Tysons Corner, or even at the Italian-themed Lia’s in Chevy Chase—your night wouldn’t be appreciably different. Missteps in a Tracy restaurant are few. Things unspool smoothly.

Here comes Tracy from the kitchen now, making the rounds, ball cap cocked back on his head, his blue eyes gleaming. This is the public face of his restaurants, the fun-loving guy down the block who opens his home to the neighborhood for a nightly party.

It’s not at all a front, but as in his restaurants, what matters most is what you can’t see. Compared with the level of detail with which Tracy and his team watch your night unfold, you’re looking at a black-and-white Philco and they’re staring at a high-def flat-screen.

Did Elizabeth bring your Pinot Gris within three minutes of the time you ordered it? Were your appetizers delivered within seven minutes, entrées within ten, desserts within seven? Were these plates described at the table before they were set in front of you? Were napkins refolded when you went to the restroom? Was non-bottled water referred to as “ice water” (correct) or “water” (incorrect)?”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is, of course, the analytic side, too:

“On this night, a member of Tracy’s team is finishing up her exhaustive, bimonthly sweep of the original Chef Geoff’s on New Mexico Avenue, Northwest, assessing the staff’s performance on 800 “standards” that break down the daily business of a restaurant into discrete measurements. Are all items chilled to 70 degrees before being placed in the walk-in refrigerator? Are wines by the glass dated to ensure freshness, and are they less than two days old? Is the dishwasher’s final rinse set at the proper temperature?

Tracy’s team converts this information to numbers, which are then crunched to compile weekly reports and later monthly and a quarterly report cards.”

Interesting take on the restaurant business. Anyone interested in a post-season trip to D.C.? Dinner’s on me…

MUSICAL GUEST

Led Zeppelin…take it away!

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

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