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Articles by Josh Niederer...

Thoughts On Stretching

As a software developer, I spend a ton of time sitting. I'd estimate that I spend on average eight to ten hours a day sitting. Sitting that much has been proven to be terrible for health. In order to attack the effects of sitting too much, this year I've started to get up and stretch every time I think about it. This usually only happens a couple of times an hour but it beats staying in my chair for a couple of hours without getting up. In addition to that, I try to stretching any other time I can. All this stretching and researching the topic a little bit, has led me to believe that in terms of time to value return on investment, there is no better activity than stretching.

Stretching has a number of important health benefits from the body to the mind. For the body stretching allows for better movement by working muscles in the right way. As we age, muscles get tighter leading to a smaller range of motion. Stretching can help to minimize the tightness mitigating some of the effects of aging on the muscles. For the mind, stretching has been shown to help people relax and be a good calming technique. Think about exercises like yoga and pilates are good for both the body and mind, they're built around stretching.

For something that takes so little time and effort to be so effective makes it a no brainer to stretch. This winter I read an article about the Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jerad Weaver. Weaver, who has been a very successful pitcher for a long time, said that not stretching for the first eight years of his career caused his body to deteriorate as he aged. Now Weaver is making every effort to gain the flexibility back and he's putting together a decent, year in his age 33 season. Had Weaver been stretching before, his career may have taken a different path post-30. I'm no professional athlete (obviously), but if I can help myself through stretching I might as well.

As far as benefits go, I haven't yet experienced anything too profound. My body feels fresher and I haven't gotten hurt any. Before I started stretching a lot, the days after I'd ran there would be a little lingering tightness in my legs. Now my legs feel great whether I run or not. That's alone would make it worthwhile to me. The benefit that really has me hooked is the long term potential. If stretching now can lead to enhanced flexibility and mobility in the future I'm going to do it and never look back. I can't find a reason not to.

Published on 4/26/2016 9:33:26 PM

The 2016 Cubs are Great at Everything (So Far)

Sometimes in baseball a team's statistics don't necessarily follow their win-loss record. This year's Cubs team is not one of those teams. Through 19 games, the Cubs record is sitting at 14-5. That record is good enough to hold a 3.5 game lead on the second place Cardinals in the National League central. That record is also the second best in baseball to the 14-4 Washington Nationals. The Cubs statistics are even more impressive than the win-loss record. What's more, the Cubs are playing well in every facet of the game.


As the Cubs were cruising to an 8 to 1 victory against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, April 22, Reds announcer Thom Brennaman said something I won't forget soon. Brennaman said, "Enough already!" This was on a Kris Bryant double in the top of the 9th that tacked on the last run of the night. It was the perfect sentiment to capture the Cubs offense so far this season. As a team, the Cubs have a 14.2 Off (Offensive Runs above average). This is good for 4th best in all of baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals are pacing the league with 21.8 Off.

By fWAR, the Cubs are at 5.6 which is second best in the league to the Pittsburgh Pirates (5.7). The Cubs are also dominating on the base paths as exhibited by their 4.8 BsR which is far and away the best in the league.

Top Individual Performers by WAR
  1. Dexter Fowler 1.9 (leading the league)
  2. Kris Bryant 0.8
  3. Anthony Rizzo 0.7
  4. Jason Heyward 0.6
  5. Addison Russell 0.4


Pitching has been another strong suit of the Cubs. The starters have been churning out quality start after quality start this season. The advanced stats are looking good too. The Cubs are currently tied for second with the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nations at 3.8 WAR. The New York Mets are the dominant leaders with 4.7 WAR. Note that Fangraphs WAR usually skews to teams that strike out a lot of batters.

The Cubs staff is also well represented when looking at FIP and xFIP where the Cubs are third in the league in both. Their FIP is 3.01 (1. Mets 2.27 2. Nationals 2.99). Their xFIP is 3.09 (1. Mets 2.98 2. Yankees 3.05).

Top Individual Performers by WAR
  1. Jake Arrieta 0.8 (11th in the league)
  2. Jason Hammel 0.8
  3. Jon Lester 0.5
  4. John Lackey 0.5
  5. Kyle Hendricks 0.5
  6. Hector Rondon 0.4 (he's been too impressive not to list in limited action)


With the addition of a perennial gold glover in right field, everyone expected the Cubs to improve in the outfield. Heyward has not disappointed out there bringing in 1.9 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average). As a whole, the Cubs are sitting at 14.8 Def which is second best in the league to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fowler has been a revelation in center field this year with 3.2 Def so far. This is amazing considering he had 0.6 all of last year and has -48.9 for his career. Fowler has been playing deeper this season and it is paying off.

Cubs Def Leaders with League Rank
  1. Addison Russel SS 3.4 Def (4)
  2. Dexter Fowler CF 3.2 Def (5)
  3. Kris Bryant 3rd 2.1 Def (20)
  4. Jason Heyward RF 1.9 Def (27)
  5. Ben Zobrist 2nd 0.3 Def (78) - One Spot Ahead of Starlin Castro

Are These Number Sustainable?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the pitching will drop, but the offense and defense will possibly get even better. Hammel is due for a little bit of regression but Arrieta and Lester could stand to do a little better. Lackey and Hendricks will probably stay around the same level. The bullpen, once it is used a bit more, will likely fall to around tenth best in the league. There are too many guys without "electric" stuff to sustain the current numbers. From a FIP standpoint for the entire staff, the numbers will go up but traditional numbers like ERA and WHIP should still be top five in the league on the strength of the starters and the great defense that is playing behind them.

Through 19 games, this is the best Cub team I've ever seen. This team is so much more well-rounded than the past great Cub teams, like 2008 and 2015. From on base skills (Fowler, Zobrist, etc) to power (Bryant, Rizzo) to base running (Heyward, Bryant, Baez) to fielding (Russell, Heyward) to front line pitching (Arrieta, Lester) The Cubs have it covered on the field. They even have versatility on the bench and out of the pen (Baez, LaStella, Warren, Cahill). The previous teams didn't have the complement pieces that could deliver like this one can. This team will not only continue to be great statistically, but it will also continue to win a lot of games.

Published on 4/25/2016 9:47:53 PM

What's the Rush?

Yesterday I went on a drive to the store. It was shortly after 2 PM and sunny and there was fairly heavy traffic for a time I thought there'd be very little. One thing I noticed on the drive was how fast everyone wanted to go. It was amazing. Every time I'd hit a stoplight, both the cars in front of and to the side of me would blow me away. The cars behind me would ride my bumper. Now I wasn't driving slow, I was going the speed limit but that just wasn't fast enough for seemingly everyone else. Why were these people in such a hurry on a Saturday afternoon?

Seeing these people driving so hard in the middle of town made me wonder if I'm moving too slow. Then I thought about it some more and realized, even if I go 5 to 10 miles per hour faster in town, I'm really not going to get from point A to point B that much faster. There just isn't enough distance to be traveled to make the speed increase worth it. In town I'm typically driving less than 5 miles. What's more, at any given time I could be stopped by a red light that will negate any distance I've gained on the people who I had passed. On the other hand, I could beat the red light and get to my destination quicker but is it really worth the possibility of getting a speeding ticket? I think not.

The way people approach these short, in-town trips is no different than how they approach most activities in life. People everywhere seem to be in a hurry, warranted or not. The idea seems to be that "the quicker we can get through whatever it is we happen to be doing the sooner we can do something else." I'm not buying this train of thought. I try to savor the journey. Whatever you're currently doing, attempt to give it everything you have. Try to focus on what's happening now, not whatever comes next. This could be the last time you ever have the opportunity to do whatever is happening now, it'd be a shame to rush through it.

Published on 4/24/2016 9:31:35 PM

Production vs. Consumption

If there is a battle I fight daily, it’s that of production vs. consumption. No matter how hard I try to be a producer, the allure of consumption is always there to fighting for my precious time. The world is increasingly consumption based, and it's leaning more in that direction every day. With devices like tablets and smartphones, we’re always within reach of distractions that can consume as much time as we let them.

Producers are the movers and shakers in life. They’re the people who get stuff done and make things happen. The more you produce, the more potential you have to effect. The more time spent consuming, the less time available to produce. Nobody should ever take pride in the amount of time they spend reading Facebook updates, but I'm fine with someone bragging about the cool app they built. Production can impact life in positive ways. The passive nature of consumption can't really lead to anything great, but can be beneficial.

Consumers tend to sit on the sideline while producers generate value. If we aren't careful, it's easy to fall under the spell of consumption. With things like Netflix, Facebook, and the 24 hour news cycle, there is more empty-content than any person could ever ask for. Empty-content is anything that doesn't provide value. It's in one moment and out the next, it's simply there to pass the time. Note that not all consumption is bad. From watching a baseball game to reading a novel, consuming can be a great way to relax. It's important to minimize the amount of time spent on empty-content.

The key to avoiding the problems of consumption is to create as much as possible, then consume once you've reached it. By working in small, modular goals you can shift from production to consumption as desired. To maximize production, always write down ideas and try to make something of them. I tend to use OneNote to help me here. OneNote allows me to synchronize my notes on all my devices and I can access them at any time. Sometimes the ideas will be useful, other times nothing will come from them.

Through balancing production and consumption, we can achieve more. The current trend of humanity is to consume as much content as possible. Entertainment sources like TV and video games are constantly fighting to absorb as much time, and money, from us as they can. Limiting forms of empty-content consumption helps to maximize production. Maximizing production is instrumental to creating something that can potentially change the world.

Published on 4/23/2016 9:52:14 PM