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Articles by Josh Niederer...

Cubs Playoff Reset

The last couple weeks have been a heck of ride. The Cubs took three of four and put the Giant's even year narrative to rest. Madison Bumgarner showed that he is human after all by giving up a three run homer to Jake Arrieta. Javier Baez does something unimaginably great and completely unexpected every single game. Needless to say, it's been a lot of fun, but there's a lot of work still to be done.

Where We Are Now

The Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are now two games into the National Championship Series and it's all knotted up one game apiece with the next three games all being played out in Chavez Ravine. I wouldn't call this my ideal situation, but the Cubs are in a pretty good shape. The Cubs took game one on a heroic swing of the bat by Miguel Montero. Wrigley erupted in sheer joy. Game 2 was dominated by the pitchers with Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen shutting the Cubs out 1-0.

Things to Come

Here's the matchups for the next three games out in LA:

    Game 3: Tuesday, October 18
  • Jake Arrieta (18-8 3.10 ERA) vs. Rich Hill (12-5 2.12 ERA)
  • The last time Jake Arrieta pitched in Dodger Stadium, he threw a no-hitter. It was beautiful. Arrieta's 2016 season has been an up and down go of it for a while now, but the combination of the Dodger's struggling bats and the generally poor hitting conditions at night in LA should help Arrieta return to his 2015 form. Rich Hill had a great 2016, and it's nice to see the former Cub resurrect his career the way he has over the last two seasons. That said, Hill was hit hard and had trouble locating in his two starts against the Nationals this postseason (0-1 6.43 ERA in 7.0 IP with 5.1 BB9). If Hill's control is off he will have a short night, but if he's on he could strike out 15 Cubs. Control has been Arrieta's biggest undoing too. Both teams have solid BB%, with the Cubs at 10.4% (1st overall) and the Dodgers at 8.5% (10th overall). Both teams will take a lot of pitches forcing the two starters to earn their outs.

    Game 4: Wednesday, October 19
  • John Lackey (11-8 3.35 ERA) vs. Julio Urias (5-2 3.39 ERA)
  • This is such a fun matchup. The grizzled, 37 year old veteran, John Lackey, with almost double the innings pitched in the postseason than his opponents regular season career total (131.1 to 77.0), and 20 year old uber-prospect, Julio Urias, locking up. Lackey wasn't good in his previous start in the division series vs. San Francisco (4 in. 7 hits with 4 ER), but he is going to go out there Wednesday night with a huge chip on his shoulder. Urias will be making the biggest start of his career and looked good in his 2 innings of relief in game five against the Nationals. Both starters will have little margin for error as the managers will be ready to take them out at any sign of trouble. Urias made his second big league start against the Cubs earlier this season, and the results weren't good with Urias giving up 5 runs over 5.0 innings, but he's improved steadily over the course of the season.

    Game 5: Thursday, October 20
  • Jon Lester (19-5 2.44 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (12-4 1.69 ERA)
  • I don't think it's been announced yet, but it's definitely going to be Clayton Kershaw on the hill for LA. Kershaw, the best pitcher of the last decade, will be coming off the best postseason start of his career. Jon Lester, an ace in his own right who is deserving of the 2016 NL Cy Young award, will be just a footnote in many of the previews for the game. Kershaw's legend grows with every start. The Cubs will put better swings on Kershaw his next time out and will definitely get some runs against him this time. Lester wasn't at his sharpest in game one but was steady enough to give up only 1 run over 6 innings. Lester will be even better in his second time out against the Dodgers.


I think the Cubs will win two of the three games out in LA. Games three and four could easily go either way, but I think the Cubs will win game three and lose game four. As "fun" as it is to see Kershaw dominate in the playoff, Lester will out duel him in game five. Realistically, I could see the Cubs taking all three, but these games are too wild and enjoyable for the series to only go five games.

  • Cubs 5 - Dodgers 1
  • Update (10/18/2016 10:40 PM): Cubs lose a laugher, 6 to 0. It can't get much worse than being shut out in two straight games. The bats were down right silent all night. Oh well, it was fated to be. On to the next one.

  • Cubs 3 - Dodgers 6
  • Cubs 4 - Dodgers 2

Overall Vibe

These playoff feel different than any of the Cubs playoff I've seen before. This team has a killer instinct and knows what it takes to win each and every game. They won't always win, winning every game just wouldn't be baseball reality, but this team can win any game. Consider this, the Cubs are 4-2 in the 2016 playoff. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are a combined 2/45 (.044). Unexpected heroes like pitchers Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks, and Jake Arrieta and unlikely guys like Miguel Montero have picked up some major slack. Rizzo and Russell are too good not to start hitting again at some point in this postseason. These guys will leave their marks on the 2016 season. When they do, sit back and enjoy.

It's hard to win a league championship series, it's even more difficult to win a World Series. This Cubs team is primed to do both. The Cubs will pull together and win the NLCS in six games.* Javier Baez and Kris Bryant will continue to lead the offense and the pitching staff will continue to pitch like they have all season long. The Cubs all-around game will prove to be the undoing of the Dodgers.

* - This may not actually happen, the Cubs could lose. That'd be disappointing, but the 2017 Cubs will be an even better team so they should be able to win the NLCS then.

Published on 10/17/2016 5:38:50 PM

A Brief Look Back/Forward at the 2016 Cubs

Wow, what a season! It seems like just yesterday it was April and we were gearing up for the most anticipated Cub's season since 2004. Remember how excited we all were for that year? Maddux was back, Prior and Wood were going to battle for the Cy Young, and we had a full year of Sosa and Ramirez to look forward to. Unfortunately, none of that panned out. 2016 has had a much better taste than 2004 did so far. So the regular 162 games are over and the Cubs ended up with a record of 103-58 plus a rain shortened game that ended in a tie where the stats counted but didn't factor into the overall record. Prior to the season, I predicted that the Cubs would win 103 and lose 59. I got it half right.

Why the Cubs Were Successful

Because they did everything well. They can hit, they can pitch, and they can field. They ended up with a run differential of +252. That's kind of good. The second best run differential in baseball was the Boston Red Sox with +184, a number that was an outlier itself. To further show how remarkable +252 is, only two other teams had a +100 or better run differential (Nationals +151, Indians +101). Using the team statistics on Fangraphs, the Cubs were the second best hitting team, fourth best pitching team, and the best fielding team by a large measure.

What's Next

For now we wait. The San Francisco Giants will play the New York Mets on Wednesday night to determine who will square off with the Cubs in the Division Series. Both the Giants and Mets are flawed, but scary teams. The Giants have two elite starting pitchers in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto who are capable of really dominating any game they take the ball in. The Giants are also experienced in navigating through the postseason, as evidenced by their World Series victories in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The Mets have Noah Syndergaard and an offense that has really picked it up of late. The Mets also knocked out the 2015 Cubs in the National League Championship Series 4 games to 0.

Personally, I hope the Mets beat the Giants on Wednesday night. Anything can happen in Octoberb but the beating the depleted Met's pitching staff feels like an easier battle. Not to look ahead of either of the Wild Card teams, the other series in the National League features the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are the scarier team with Clayton Kershaw and the ageless Rich Hill. The Dodgers just don't feel like a team that will go quietly into the night.

The last day of the regular season is always a somber day for me. For the last six months I've got to enjoy baseball basically every day. Now that is over. Luckily though, the playoffs are here. Between now and Jon Lester's first pitch at Wrigley on Friday night, there will be more build up than we can even imagine. Every possible story will be written, the Cub's magical 2016 will be a national media talking point, and we'll hear about 1908 and 108 years more times than we'll care to count. No matter what happens in the next few weeks in October, it's going to be an exciting and anxious ride. The 2016 season has already been one of the most enjoyable I've yet to experience. There's only one way it could get even better. Luckily, even if that doesn't happen, it's already the best Cubs season in 106 years. What more can we ask for?

Published on 10/2/2016 11:09:49 PM

Simple Health Tracking Development

For the last year or so, I've been keeping a spreadsheet to track my health. This spreadsheet is very basic. It has the time I wake up, the time I go to bed, my weight and heartrate at both times, and sometimes notes. That's it. Nothing special, just a mechanism to watch the basic things, no expensive gadgets needed. It's just simple. As good as the spreadsheet is, I've found myself wanting to build an application to handle it.

All in all, the spreadsheet is great but it's not quite as easy to report off of as having all the data in a database. Yes, Excel is a great reporting tool, but code with data is power. Beyond the potential for enhanced reporting, building a web app to handle it allows for greater flexibility on data entry. I'll be able to write records to the application from anywhere with any kind of device. Another benefit is the opportunity to learn and build something new. Building something new is always fun.

Types of Entry

  • Check Ins
  • Check Ins are real time entries where users will be able to enter their current weight and heartrate. The Check Ins will also allow users to add notes and ratings about how they feel. I also want it to have an in page timer that can be used to manually check your pulse.

  • Medicines
  • Users can enter the medicines. Each medicine will have a daily frequency and an active/inactive setting.

  • Medicines Taken
  • Based on the daily frequency value entered for the medicine, the daily entries will show a check box for each time the user is supposed to take the medicine on a given day.

  • Sleep
  • Each sleep entry will have a start date and time and an end date and time.


Currently the software is being developed using ASP.NET 5. The backend will consist of Web API REST services to create, read, update, and delete entries. The web site will pages will be built using ASP.NET's MVC framework. Visually, the site will be driven by bootstrap. Before it's all said and done, I'd also like to integrate React or Angular, and use d3.js for some of the charting/reporting capabilities.


I have no target for the completion of the project. I'm just taking it day by day. My goal is to make at least a contribution a day on GitHub until the software does what I want it to do. I'm currently about a week in with usually around a half an hour a day spent on it. That number will likely kick up once the Cubs regular season ends when my free time focus will shift from watching/reading about baseball to creating/reading about software. For now I've really enjoyed my time building it so far and look forward to continuing it each day.

Published on 9/25/2016 10:48:20 PM

Review: Busch Stadium Cardinals Club

Busch Stadium is no Wrigley Field. It is a decent enough park, but it just doesn't have allure of mystique that Wrigley has. Last week I got the chance to sit in the second row of section seven to see the Cubs take on the Cardinals at Busch. The section of seats is called the "Cardinals Club" and it is an amazing experience. It was a truly exceptional way to watch a ballgame, one that would be hard to match anywhere. The tickets entitle you to get into the stadium a half an hour before general admission, a buffet, open bar, and in seat service from a robust menu of ballpark food. All of that and an amazing view of the game.

Here's a shot of the dining area.


Some of the food from the buffet.


The in seat menu.


Just before first pitch.


Jake Arrieta on the mound.


Arrieta before taking his first at bat.


Cubs win!


Ben Zobrist giving a postgame interview.


The Cardinal Club tickets usually run around $300 on StubHub for Cubs games in St. Louis. For that price, it's well worth it. Note that these seats are only available to purchase as season ticket packages to people who own the rights to the tickets as members of the Ballpark Founders. The rights to the seat I sat in is currently for sale on this page. Looks like it'll only cost $70000 plus whatever the season set costs. I think I'll pass for now.

As for the game, the Cubs won 9 to 8. Kris Bryant hit a 3-run homer and Arrieta picked up the win. Arrieta didn't do as good as he usually does, 5 innings with 4 runs, but it was clear that his stuff is amazing. He was throwing 96 MPH with a ton of movement. It was an enjoyable game with the Cardinals putting up a ton of fight in the losing effort.

In the future, I'd jump at any opportunity to get these type of tickets again, so long as the price was reasonable. The food was good, the service was great, and the view was unbeatable. I didn't want the game to end. To anyone considering this ticket option, I recommend doing it at least once. It's an exceptional baseball viewing experience that is now my favorite part of Busch Stadium.

Published on 5/31/2016 8:57:34 PM