Monday, May 20, 2013

Quarter Season Look-In

We're a little more than 1/4 of the way through the 2013 baseball season. I made some predictions for the 2013 season, which you can find here.

Today, I'm going to offer some of my awards for the first half of the first half of the baseball season.

Starting with the senior circuit, the National League.

My pick for NL MVP so far is none other than Paul Goldschmidt. If you're not a baseball follower, this name probably doesn't mean a whole lot to you. But Goldschimidt, who plays first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has had a fantastic first quarter-season. He's hitting .335 with 12 homers and 35 RBI's. His Diamondbacks are 6 games above .500 and sitting a game ahead of the Giants in the NL West.

However, the most incredible stat for Goldschimdt would have to be his WAR. WAR is the ultimate sabermetric stat, it's the abbreviation for "Wins Above Replacement." Effectively, what WAR calculates is how many wins a particular player is worth over a replacement (generally a Triple-A-level player). The formula for WAR is wildly complex, taking into account six components (batting runs, baserunning rins, runs added or lost due to grounding into double plays in double play situations, fielding runs, positional adjustment runs and replacement level runs [based on playing time]). Seriously, this is the most complex statistic in the world. Suffice it to say the higher the number, the better off you are (according to sabermetrics).

To put this into perspective, last year Mike Trout led the major leagues in WAR with a 10.9 (absolutely off the charts). Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown and the AL MVP over Trout had a WAR of 7.3. Divide those by 4, and you'd have (sort of) 2.7 for Trout and 1.8 for Cabrera over 1/4 of a season.

Goldschmidt is at 2.8 right now. An incredible start to the season, if he continues at his current pace, he'll definitely be the NL MVP.

Honorable Mentions for NL MVP: I'll give the nod to a few other players for Honorable Mention in the NL, namely Justin Upton and Joey Votto, both of whom are having fantastic seasons!

My NL Cy Young award pick is Clayton Kershaw (duh.). Kershaw is out of this world. He's boasting a 1.40 ERA, 67 strikeouts and an incredible .87 WHIP. His record stinks right now at 4-2, but he can't be blamed for the Dodgers being a dumpster fire so far this season. Don Mattingly is absolutely mismanaging this team of superstars. Kershaw has only given up 10 runs through the season but isn't getting the support he needs from the rest of the team. I can't fathom how he's only won 4 games.

Honorable Mentions for NL Cy Young: I'll give the honorable mention to the man who plays second fiddle to Stephen Strasburg in the Nationals' rotation, Jordan Zimmerman. Matt Harvey for the Mets is also having a great season.

Onto the American League, my choice for AL MVP is Robinson Cano.

Whoa whoa whoa, major homer pick there, right? I'm sure I'm blinded by my love of all things pinstripes, but I think Cano is a definite MVP pick for this portion of the season. He's hitting .295 with 12 homers (which co-leads the AL) and 31 RBIs. He's also been the catalyst for a surprisingly strong start for the Yankees, who were picked by just about everyone to finish at best 3rd in the AL East. They're currently sitting a half-game up on Boston in the division.

Cano is making his case for an MVP trophy by leading a team that would normally be STACKED with superstar talent. This could surely be the year he adds an MVP trophy next to his Home Run Derby championship.

Sabermetrically (not sure that's a word), Cano is boasting a solid 1.4 WAR.

Honorable Mention for AL MVP: In the honorable mention category, I have to mention Miguel Cabrera. He's leading the league in two of the three triple crown categories and only one off the homerun pace currently shared by 4 other players, including Cano.

Finally, my pick for AL first half of the first half Cy Young Award is Yu Darvish. Darvish started the season off with a bang, seeking out a perfect game and has been money all season. He has a 2.97 ERA with 86 strikeouts (that's 12.76 K/9 if you're counting) and a .92 WHIP. He also boasts a great 7-1 record, helping Texas to take a 6.5 game lead in the AL West which was supposed to be DOMINATED by the Angels.

Honorable Mentions are Felix Hernandez and Matt Moore. I've got a great big baseball crush on King Felix (I was really wanting him to become a Yankee). If he were playing on the east coast, I think he'd be the biggest name in baseball, but he's playing for the Mariners in Seattle and has to deal with the east coast bias. The simple fact is, though, people aren't able to watch him pitch a lot because his games start, quite frequently, at 10:00 eastern time.

Matt Moore has had an incredible start to his season, going 8-0 for the Rays. ESPN even told me tonight that his 8-0 start is somewhat unparalleled. He's the youngest left-handed pitcher to start the season 8-0 since 1917 when a young fella named Babe Ruth did it for the Boston Red Sox.

The last baseball related topic is Biggest Surprise. The biggest surprise of the 2013 season has been the Los Angeles Angels. This team should be far and away the best in baseball. Their lineup is incredible. The 2-5 hitters are Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo. Seriously, those names are fantastic. They traded away what was thought to be dead (old) weight in Vernon Wells. If you're counting, Wells has more homeruns than Trout, Pujols or Hamilton (tied with Trumbo at 10). He's also hitting .286, which is better than all 4 of the Angels' big bats. Maybe Wells is part of this biggest surprise, for me.

But seriously, the Angels should be MUCH better than 12 games back in their division.

Also, if you're keeping track. If the season ended today, I would've correctly picked 3 of the 10 postseason teams (none of them in their proper place though).

What about you, what do you think of my picks so far?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writer's Block

They say the more you do something, the better you will get at it. It should be no secret that I enjoy writing. This is my third blog attempt, each on focused a little differently. I find difficulty in blogging, however, because I think the majority of people who I'm already connected with won't be interested in a lot of the things I could sit down to talk about.

For instance, I finished A Dance With Dragons tonight. It's the 5th book in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series which has been made wildly popular by the show Game of Thrones on HBO. I had read the previous four books a while ago but was reluctant to read the 5th book because it garnered pretty negative reviews from readers (especially on amazon).

However, when compiling a list of 30 books to read, I went ahead and added it onto the list. It took me three weeks to read it, and I absolutely loved it! It continues the very adult saga of Martin's world, but is hands down the greatest fantasy literature over (Yes, move over Tolkein)!

My greatest frustration, however, is Martin's incessant use of cliff hangers. There are what feel like 100 cliffs that we're hanging on, waiting for the next volume of the epic series. There were 6 years between the publication of the 4th and 5th books. I'm horribly anxious for the next book in the series!

But alas, most of my friends don't want to read my musings on that book. So, I could write about some new music. I recently picked up 2 albums from Benjamin Dunn from The first one is called Fable. It's an amazing album. RadioU plays 2 singles from the album, and I loved both of the songs.

Fable (at least for the first 5-6 songs) plays on a litany of Narnia references. If you've gotten to know me at all over my life, you may know that The Chronicles of Narnia has a very special place in my heart. The Narnia novels remain one of my favorite book series of all time.

Sail to the End speaks about Reepicheep and his journeys to the end of the world to travel to Aslan's country.

My Name is Eustace is a wonderful song rendition of Eustance Clarence Scrubb being transformed by Aslan's grace and mercy.

Sing references the Emperor/Aslan creating the world of Narnia by singing it into being.

But alas, I'm not sure I'm musically aware enough to write an entire post about an album (or even two). However, I highly recommend the Benjamin Dunn albums. Find them and get them!

What I could spend a lot of time talking about is my idea for a gaming adventure. I want to have an adventure published by next August. This gives me more than a year to get an adventure written and published. I also want to fill a journal up with only gaming ideas (not necessarily just Pathfinder). Why gaming ideas? Because gaming forces me to be creative. Writing is a creative endeavor, but writing for gaming really embraces my imagination in a completely different way.

So, I went to Barnes and Noble and got a new "Gaming Journal." I must admit, I actually bought my first Moleskine journal. After using it a little, I can see why they're so popular.

Anyrate, I've started brainstorming ideas for my new adventure. I have a title and a very loose concept in my head. I spent a few hours yesterday writing down a lot of information on the setting of the adventure. It needs to be loose enough to fit into any campaign world, and not be tied down to a single campaign setting.

I can literally feel more than 3/4 of my readers clicking away from this post already.

The issue I'm having, though, is where to begin?! I can see the end-game really well. Kill the BBEG (That's gamer talk for Big Bad Evil Guy), take treasure, WIN!

I can see the mid-points well. Get to BBEG, travel through dungeon full of traps and monsters.

But the beginning of adventures is so vexing for me. How do great stories begin?

A hole in the ground.
The beheading of a Night's Watch Deserter.
4 children avoiding the blitz by moving into a country mansion.
Traveling along the road in the desert and being blown up.
A traveling merchant singing a song about hot nights before peddling his wares.

(Bonus points to anyone who can name all 5 of those stories based only on my interpretation of their beginnings)

What about you, I've hit some writer's block, can you help? What's a great way to begin an adventuring story? The old school gaming trope is to meet in a tavern, get the mission pitched, save the world. So, I'd prefer to avoid that type of introduction altogether.

At any rate, thanks for reading. Leave comments below!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reflections on the year that was

On May 6, 2012, at about 2 in the morning, my wife made what I've grown fond of calling her "ninja move" out of the bed as her water broke. The next 24 hours were spent in the hospital eagerly awaiting the birth of Xavier.

That day was the culmination of a lot of expectation and the beginning of an entirely new chapter in our lives.

In order to properly place my emotions of that day, a little bit of historical perspective is necessary. Things at my job weren't going well. I knew that there was a chance a staff member was going to be let go before the pastoral search was finished up. We had been explicitly told that it wasn't a problem if we were sending out our resume.

To be honest, the writing was written in big, bold letters on the wall that the staff member who would be let go was me. I was the least tenured of the staff in pastoral ministry, and I had been at High Street the least amount of time. I started sending out my resume, feeling helpless against the onslaught of "things" that were happening to me. I told one of my good friends that I couldn't wait to hold my baby boy. I knew that holding him would make things better.

So, on May 7, when Xavier finally arrived, I felt like my life was complete. Holding him for that first time was literally the greatest feeling I ever felt. I really did feel like nothing could go wrong in my life.

The last year has been a whirlwind. Losing my job was incredibly difficult for me, the idea that I couldn't provide for my wife and my son was difficult. I've spent a lot of time on that here in this blog. I don't suppose I need to go further into detail.

Losing my job isn't the only thing that happened this year! It's been a complete whirlwind!

When we brought Xavier home, we thought we were so ready.

Xavier crashed out on me the day we brought him home.

We. Were. So. Wrong.

We put him to bed, and went to bed ourselves, ready for a night of blissful sleep (something that had eluded me for a few nights and something that had eluded Holly for much longer). He started crying after about an hour and he would not stop! We did everything we could, and couldn't get him to stop crying and go back to sleep. Feeling like complete failures as parents, we both were crying and finally broke down and called Holly's mom, asking her to come stay with us for the night (and maybe more).

Xavier didn't have trouble sleeping, just when we wanted him to sleep, apparently.
 Man, we had no idea what we were getting into!

We moved in with Holly's parents after I lost my job, it's been interesting having three generations in one house. It's not what we had planned, but it's definitely been a blessing, especially as the search for a new job has taken much longer than we thought it would.

Watching Xavier grow has been incredible, he's learning so much, starting to understand things and respond to more and more with "trained" responses. For example, he gives "fives" now if you hold your hand out to him.

The year has been intense. There have been tears.

There have been smiles.

We've traveled to Michigan:

to London (OH) to meet our friends Nate, Kristen and Cole:

Learned to crawl:

Found ourselves trapped in rotten situations that we didn't like:

Felt on top of the world:

And we even stood strong during difficulties:

All in all, it's been a crazy year! Happy birthday to my little monster man! He turns one year old tomorrow. It's an absolute joy to be a daddy!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Every throne?

We sang a song at church on Sunday. I'm pretty sure I'd heard it before. The song was "Crown Him," by Chris Tomlin. The chorus of the song says,

Majesty, Lord of all
Let every throne, before Him fall
The king of kings, O come adore
Our God who reigns forevermore.

I think a lot of times, we sing words without taking time to digest the complexity or theological significance of the words. So, as I was singing the song, I was struck by the phrase, "Let every throne before Him fall."

That's a really powerful, political statement though, isn't it? It's not just a clever lyric that rhymes and fits with the tempo of the song. 

I was thinking about the thrones that we build in our own lives. For some of us, our thrones are money, cars, sex, drugs or something like that. We generally recognize those things as vices (when placed on thrones or used outside of God's design. 

But what if there are other things we need to remove from the throne? I've been spending time this week considering my own thrones and ensuring that they fall before the Lord. 

What are yours?