June 2011

Add Bastardo?

By R.J. Anderson //

Charlie Manuel hinted on Tuesday that Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo will be the team’s first choice to close out ballgames in the wake of Ryan Madson being placed on the disabled list. Despite that, Bastardo remains available in two-thirds of ESPN’s fantasy leagues entering Thursday. Is Bastardo worth the addition for potential cheap saves, or do the fantasy owners know something more about him than the Phillies?

The easy answer is that Bastardo is still undervalued.  The lefty has a 0.96 earned run average on the season, a 0.86 WHIP, and has more strikeouts than innings pitched. Bastardo’s career splits do not indicate he has much in the way of a platoon split, so the Phillies can use him against lefties and righties without worry. Such flexibility could allow the Phillies to feel more comfortable with Bastardo in the ninth than other options, but it might backfire, and have them using him earlier in the games too.

The drawback to adding Bastardo is that the Phillies have had the third-least save opportunities in baseball, only ahead of the Rays and Dodgers. This is due to a confluence of factors. The Phillies, as a good team, often beat their opponents by more than three runs, and their rotation goes deeper into ballgames, allowing for more complete game opportunities. Add in other stuff—like walk-off wins—and it’s understandable how this can happen.

Adding Bastardo comes down to your league and roster. If Bastardo only holds value as a long-term closer, then consider passing, but if a few saves and holds the rest of the way is just what the doctor ordered, then pick him up and watch him go.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

Why Jason Heyward is Overrated (In Fantasy Baseball)

by Eno Sarris //

He has plenty of upside over the rest of his career. He’s very exciting and he’s young (22). He has excellent plate discipline. He looks like an athletic masher. He can play a fine corner outfield. But Jason Heyward is over-rated when it comes to his production over the rest of this season. And the key is where he’s hitting the ball.

First, let’s go over the components of batting average.

One component is contact, since the batting average on a strikeout is zero. Heyward is striking out almost exactly as much (24.3%) as he did last year (24.6%), and both numbers are worse than the national average (20% most years). He also whiffs on more swings (10%) than the average hitter (8.5%), so his per-pitch numbers support the fact that he makes contact at a below-average rate. Only four qualified batters that have struck out over 24% of the time this year have a batting average over .280, and among those four, the lowest BABIP is .344. If one or two of them still end up with a good batting average by the end of the year, that small group probably won’t include Heyward.

Another part of batting average is speed. Heyward is an athletic fellow, and has 15 stolen bases so far in his young career. He’s also only been successful on 65% of his attempts, which is below the break-even point — you need to get the extra base twice out of every three times to make the gamble ‘worth it.’ Bill James has a four-component speed score that uses triples, runs, stolen bases and stolen base success rates to judge a player’s speed in the context of the league. A 5.0 speed score is average. Heyward has a 4.8 so far in his career. He’s got average speed, but not enough that you can expect him to beat out a slow dribbler to short.

The last component of batting average is also important for the rest of non-batting average value: power. He’ll steal some bases, he might even up that batting average a little once his current BABIP (.263) moves, but that power is the key to his value the rest of this year. We know that fly balls offer more power — around 10% of them leave the park, and they have a much higher slugging percentage than ground balls (.547 to .252 around the league this year). Well, Heyward just hits too many ground balls. He’s now hit 55% of his balls on the ground over his first season and a half. He’s also hit close to two ground balls to every fly ball so far.

That would be good enough to be the tenth-highest ground-ball rate in the major leagues among qualified batters this year. Only eleven players hit two ground balls for every fly ball. The most powerful player above him on either of these lists is Yunel Escobar with his .416 slugging percentage and .140 ISO. It’s not great company if you’re expecting power. Last year, Heyward used a 17.8% line drive rate and 16.8% HR/FB rate to muscle 18 balls over the wall. This year, those numbers are 13.6% and 15.9% respectively, and he might need a little luck to manage the same home run pace.

Unfortunately for most of his fantasy owners, the Atlanta outfielder wasn’t valued as a .275-hitting, 18-home-run having, average-speed showing outfielder this year. As he ages and puts more weight on his frame and more loft in his swing, it’s obvious that this young man with a keen eye and a line drive stroke will achieve greater heights. But this year? In a re-draft league? It might be time to shop him.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

Outfielders On the Waiver Wire

Again manning the charge alone, fantasy expert, Rob Shaw takes a look at some of the best Outfielders in baseball that still might be hanging around your league’s fantasy wire.

Nick Swisher, Yankees

The Yankees bats seem to be waking up, and while he won’t make the All-Star game, Swisher can very much still fix this season.  His average is just .245 right now, but consider that he is actually batting .316 this month with a stellar six home runs and 18 RBI.  To put that in perspective, in last year’s All-Star season, the most home runs Swisher belted in a month was seven and the most RBI was 19.  So he could actually outperform last year’s figures in the few days remaining in June.

 

Vernon Wells, Angels

Blue Jays fans are very much familiar with the streaky nature of Vernon Wells, but this is the first time that the Angels fan base sees it in person.  After a dismal start to the season, Wells is heating up with three home runs and 7 RBI over the last seven games.  Wells still has some power, he has nine blasts so far after swatting 31 dingers last season.

 

Nick Markakis, Orioles

Despite the .296 career average and solid arm in the outfield, Nick Markakis is often considered a disappointment because the power never developed.  However, at 27 years old, this Long Island native still has some time on his side.  This month Markakis is batting .337 with 13 RBI, which marks a season high.  He also has six steals on the season, so keep the Orioles outfielder on your watch list.

 

BJ Upton, Rays

Dropped in a lot of fantasy leagues thanks to the .219 average as of June 22, BJ Upton is making a case to be a great pickup.  He has at least one RBI in each of the last four games and has gone deep in the last three games.  On the season, Upton has 20 steals with 11 home runs while racking up 40-plus in runs and RBI.  While he will hurt you in average, Upton has the rare ability to help in every other statistic.  You have to pick him up if he’s available in your fantasy league’s waiver wire.

For more fantasy advice from the Shaw-man himself, check out our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BloombergSports

Lonnie Chisenhall Set To Debut: Buy or Pass?

By Tommy Rancel //

In many ways a top prospect is like a new toy for fantasy owners. You hear about it weeks, months, and in some cases, years before it is ready to be released and from there the anticipation builds. Once it hits the shelf, there is a rush to be the one on your block – or in this case, league – to get it first.

This season, we have had several top positional prospects make their debut as: Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Anthony Rizzo and Dustin Ackley have all debuted to much fanfare. While their debuts were heralded and their careers may be long and successful, it is rare for a prospect to jump into the major leagues with a large degree of success. It does happen from time to time, but those tend to be outliers more than the rule. With the impending call up of Lonnie Chisenhall, any potential buyer should beware of the production under that new toy shine.

Like all of the names above, Chisenhall, a Top 25 prospect according to Baseball America’s pre-season rankings, is projected to have an excellent career in the majors. On an Cleveland Indians team that has quickly fallen back to the back, the young third baseman could provide them with the offensive spark they need. He projects to hit for a lot of power (51 home runs in 373 minor league games) and will take a few walks as well. Meanwhile, he has not hit for a high average (.250-.270 range) and has been know to strikeout a bit (averaged a strikeout once every 5.8 at-bats in minors).

In addition to the “average” average and the strikeouts, Chisenhall, like many other young left-handed sluggers, has struggled with a platoon split. He has mashed against right-handed pitchers while struggling to hold his own against lefties. As the competition increases, and the usage of specialists in the bullpens, the Indians may opt to platoon him at first instead of a baptism by fire against southpaws.

Still, young power-hitting third baseman do not come around very often. If you are in a really deep AL-Only league, Chisenhall’s talent and potential for playing time against right-handed pitchers makes him a pick-up option. That said, if you are looking for hot corner power in standard leagues or shallower AL leagues names like Ty Wiggington and Mark Reynolds are likely lurking on waivers with similar power potential for the rest of the season without the need to prove they can hit major league pitching out of the park.  

For more on Chisenhall and other top prospects, check out Bloomberg Sports Front Office.

Around the Horn: Waiver Wire Pick-Ups

Absent the beautiful Michelle Steele, Bloomberg Sport’s own Rob Shaw goes around-the-horn offering some advice on how to put a solid bat in your fantasy line up.

Catcher: Jorge Posada, Yankees

This was a sleeper in many drafts because of the fact that he was going to be in the lineup everyday without the grueling task of catcher, but apparently it took some time for Jorge Posada to adjust to the designated hitter role.  He hit .132 in April, and didn’t have a homer in May, but in June, Posada is hitting .393 with two home runs.  His season average is suddenly a more respectable .234 and his 8 home runs rank well amongst catchers.  Looks like Posada is still a fantasy option.

 

First Base: Daniel Murphy, Mets

He has five hits over the last nine games with four RBI and four runs.  His average is now at .296 for the season and despite just four home runs, he does have four steals, which is good for a corner infielder.  Murphy is simply a professional hitter who will offer consistency and a great deal of position eligibility, he can play first, second, and third.  Just don’t put him in the outfield, the Mets learned that lesson a few years back.

 

Second Base: Danny Espinosa, Nationals

We have called him the Nationals version of Dan Uggla on this very show and we are not messing around.  The rookie second baseman is putting up an Uggla type season with 14 home runs, 47 RBI, but the improvement is the nine stolen bases, which justifies his entry into your fantasy lineup despite the .242 average.  At this point, Espinosa has been an upgrade over Uggla.

 

Shortstop: Jeff Keppinger, Astros

He kind of fits the Daniel Murphy mold, Keppinger is a crafty hitter despite a lack of power and speed.  At 31 years old, Keppinger is not a prospect, so his playing time may diminish, but it till be tough to remove him from the Astros lineup as long as he is hitting .336 with a couple of home runs.  Keppinger once hit .332 in 67 games for the Reds back in 2007, but he has never hit more than seven home runs or swiped more than four bases.

 

Third Base: Ty Wigginton, Rockies

With four home runs over the last four games, there is no one hotter than Ty Wigginton right now.  By the way, all four of those home ru8ns have come on the road, so don’t think this is a product of Coors Field.  His average is just .275 on the season, but his 12 home runs are legit, after all, he hit 22 bombs last season.  Similar to Murphy, this ex-Mets infielder is a jack of all trades and offers eligibility throughout the infield.

If you need more Rob Shaw, check out our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BloombergSports

Fantasy Baseball Pitchers Pick Ups & Jim Riggleman

Again accompanied by their live studio audience Rob Shaw and Michelle Steele break-down some Pitcher Pick-Up’s for your Fantasy Baseball team, as well as discuss Jim Riggleman and the Nationals.

John Danks, SP, White Sox

Remember when John Danks was 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA.  Well that was at the end of May, and as it turns he hit rock bottom.  Ever since, Danks has won all three starts while allowing a combined three runs to score.  His ERA, down a full run to 4.29 and his record a not as bad 3-8.  Folks, this is a young southpaw with 40 wins over the last three seasons with a solid strikeout total.  This is a player you want on your team.  Pick him up if he’s available.

 

Jason Vargas, SP, Mariners

The last time Jason Vargas took the mound, he tossed a 3-hitter.  He improved to 5-4 with a 3.75 ERA and an even better 1.18 WHIP.  While his lack of K’s keep him away from stardom, his solid control and favorable home park makes him a solid fantasy spot starter.  His career record at Safeco is 13-10 with a 3.18 ERA.

Tim Wakefield, SP, Red Sox

At 44-years old, Tim Wakefield is the oldest player in the game, but he is an oldie but goodie.  The hurler, who is three wins shy of 200 for his career has won four of his last five decisions, and his ERA isn’t all that bad either at 4.26 ERA.  What makes him unique, even among fellow knuckleballers is his control.  Wakefield’s 1.14 WHIP is incredible when you consider he has the slowest fastball in the Majors at just 73 MPH.

Tyler Clippard, RP, Nationals

He is not a closer, but yet just like my favorite middle reliever Al Alburquerque, he is worth adding to your fantasy lineup.  Tyler Clippard boasts a 1.85 ERA and sensational 0.89 WHIP.  Then there are the strikeouts.  With 56 K’s in 43.2 innings, he is doing even better than last season when he finished with 112 strikeouts.  Picking up Clippard is a sneaky way to improve in strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA for your fantasy team.

 

For more Fantasy Baseball news and advice check out our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BloombergSports

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Report: Who is Chris Heisey?

Rob Shaw and Michelle Steele report on the waiver wire, including Yankee killer Chris Heisey, joined for the first time ever by a live studio audience!

Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves

Beachy has just two wins on the season, but with a 3.22 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, fantasy managers are picking up a reliable hurler.  Best of all, Beachy, who was undrafted of Indiana Wesleyan, is a strikeout artist.  In fact, fresh from more than a month on the disabled list, Beachy fanned 11 batters in just 6 innings on Thursday night.  He has 57 K’s on the season in just 50.1 innings of work.

Carlos Pena, 1B, Cubs
He is an all or nothing type slugger, but the good news is that lately he has been more all than nothing.  He has gone three straight games with a homer, and make that 5 dingers over the last seven games.  Sure, only once did he get an additional hit in those games, but the RBI are piling up as well as the runs scored.  This is a guy who can swat 40 in a season, so feel free to pick up the hot bat.

Travis Hafner, 1B, Indians

One of the biggest surprises this season has been the play of the Indians, and if you’re wondering where they’re getting their offense from, well the answer is an oldie, but goodie.  Travis Hafner has turned back the clock to hit .338 this season.  This is a former .300-plus hitter, so the fact that he is raking is not unprecedented.  He is 34-years old, so invest accordingly.

Chris Heisey, OF, Reds 

Yankees fans are wondering who the heck is Chris Heisey.  Turns out this newfound Yankee killer, Red Sox fans will love this, went to a college called Messiah!  Not sure if he is the chosen one, but in a small sampling, Heisey now has 16 home runs in just 329 at bats.  This year his slugging is .492, to put that in perspective, his teammate Joey Votto is not that far above him at .519. In 2009, at the high levels of Minor League ball, Heisey blasted 22 home runs with 21 steals and a .314 average.  Looks like fantasy managers should put this outfielder on their radar, although playing time could be an issue unless Jonny Gomes finds the bench with his .222 average.

Jonathan Broxton, RP, Dodgers

If you cut Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton following his most recent blowup in early May before landing on the DL, it may be a good idea to pick him right up.  We have no idea if his struggles are in the past, but we do know that his manager intends on returning him to the closer’s role once he is healthy.  Broxton is on the road to recovery, most recently pitching at Triple-A in a rehab appearance.

For more Fantasy Baseball news and advice check out our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BloombergSports

Steve Phillips On A-Rod, Jose Reyes, Madoff, and More

Steve Phillips

A-Rod Almost Signed with the Mets?

Sitting down with Steve Phillips gave us the opportunity to re-look at a major “What If?” for the New York Mets.

Imagine the 2011 Mets infield of Wright, A-Rod, and Reyes.  After expressing interest to play for the Mets in 2000, A Rod’s then-agent Scott Boras and Mets GM Steve Phillips discussed the possibility.  Before the numbers were even reached, Boras demanded these perks, amongst others, for A-Rod:          

  1. A tent in Spring Training for A-Rod Apparel and Merchandise.
  2. A personal suite in the stadium.
  3. A private office for his marketing representative to work during the day.
  4. Permission to use the team logo.

Phillips felt uncomfortable giving A-Rod such special attention.  He memorably, and regrettably, gave A-Rod the “24-plus-1” label that succinctly defined the divide that A-Rod’s contract could bring to the Mets and between other superstars such as Mike Piazza.

What is still debated, however, is as soon as Phillips heard about A-Rod’s demands, he pulled out faster than a snowman melts in July. The real “What if?” revolves around putting the contract on the table, and telling A-Rod to take it or leave it. What if Phillips had at least offered a 180 million dollar deal, with none of the perks? Would A-Rod have taken a pay and perk cut to play for a winning team that he loved ever since he was a child? We’ll never know for sure.

A-Rod signed with Texas for the memorable contract of 10 years at 252 million.  Why not $250 million? Because then it wouldn’t be exactly double the previous high contract in sports, a titled previously owned by Kevin Garnett at $126 million.

Jose Reyes

Under Steve Phillips, Jose Reyes was drafted and began what appears to be the start of a prolific career with the Mets. As Steve Phillips says, he is the “most exciting player in baseball.” The question is, will the Mets try and resign Reyes now before he hits free-agency, will they trade him to try and get something out of him, or do they take the two draft picks?

Steve Phillips says that the two draft picks wouldn’t cut it for Reyes if he was still the Mets GM, as he believes he could get a lot more than that through a mid-season trade. In fact, he says that the sooner the Mets trade him, the better, because it will eliminate any shards of hope Mets fans have for a playoff run sooner rather than later.

When asked if he would personally re-sign Jose Reyes as the GM, Phillips says he absolutely would sign him, but he would protect the contract by addressing Reyes’s history of frequent injuries by having incentives for Reyes to stay on the field, measured by statistics such as plate appearances and games played.  

Just yesterday, we discovered that Jose Reyes is not willing to negotiate a contract with the Mets during the season, making it seem all the more likely that Jose Reyes will not be a Met next season, and the Mets will end up with the two draft picks.

This is especially a real blow to the Mets because if they were able to negotiate with Reyes mid-season, they could get a better idea if they actually have a chance of signing him and of trading him, but now that’s all in the dark. The Mets will have to wait until the seasons over, which works against them because they simply can’t compete with teams like the Yankees on the free agent market while in the financial condition that they’ve been in since the Madoff scandal.

Players will sometimes choose to play with a team they love at a pay cut of a couple of millions of dollars, but likely not the size pay-cut he would take by signing with the Mets.

On the Wilpon Madoff Relationship

Phillips a long-time Mets General Manager (1997-2003), touched briefly on the much-talked about Mets ownership. In the news recently, Mets owner Fred Wilpon has come under fire due to his connection to Bernie Madoff.

Phillips recalls that the Madoff name was not unfamiliar in the organization, stating that he “heard Bernie Madoff’s name every week.” The former GM went on to explain that Madoff served as an “investment vehicle” in the organization, to defer payment on player contracts and serve other financial functions for the Mets. 

When asked about Fred Wilpon’s involvement, Phillips stated that he would honestly be surprised that Wilpon “smelled something fishy.” Wilpon is fighting to keep the team head on, bringing in minority share holders such as hedge fund manager David Einhorn. Of this Phillips noted that Fred would like to keep the organization in the family, citing his son, COO, Jeff Wilpon.

Overall, Phillips said that he thinks Wilpon will keep ownership of the team, citing Fred as a “do the next right thing type of guy.” Steve Phillips can be heard on SIRIUS XM Radio on the Mad Dog and Fantasy Sports Network.

Bloomberg Sports’ Robert Shaw sits down to talk with Steve Phillips about life, baseball and the state of the New York Metropolitans.

Phillips a long-time Mets General Manager (1997-2003), touched briefly on the much-talked about Mets ownership. In the news recently, Mets owner Fred Wilpon has come under fire due to his connection to Bernie Madoff.

Phillips recalls that the Madoff name was not unfamiliar in the organization, stating that he “heard Bernie Madoff’s name every week.” The former GM went on to explain that Madoff served as an “investment vehicle” in the organization, to defer payment on player contracts and serve other financial functions for the Mets. 

When asked about Fred Wilpon’s involvement, Phillips stated that he would honestly be surprised that Wilpon “smelled something fishy.” Wilpon is fighting to keep the team head on, bringing in minority share holders such as hedge fund manager David Einhorn. Of this Phillips noted that Fred would like to keep the organization in the family, citing his son, COO, Jeff Wilpon.

Overall, Phillips said that he thinks Wilpon will keep ownership of the team, citing Fred as a “do the next right thing type of guy.”

Steve Phillips can be heard on SIRIUS XM Radio on the Mad Dog and Fantasy Sports Network.

Is Andrew Miller Worth The Time?

By R.J. Anderson //

Andrew Miller’s career has been anything but picturesque. When Detroit nabbed Miller in the top 10 of the 2006 draft, he appeared to be an integral part of the future. Left-handed starters with the arsenal Miller displayed don’t come around too often, so it was understandable when the Marlins demanded the Tigers build a package around Miller and Cameron Maybin before they would part with Miguel Cabrera.

Miller’s time with the Marlins wasn’t pretty. He walked more a batter every other inning and while the strikeout totals were impressive, it’s hard to escape jam after jam when you continue to give away bases. Eventually, the Marlins, sensing Miller was hopeless, spun him to Boston for another pitcher, Dustin Richardson. Miller has since spent his career in Triple-A, working on improving what ails his control. The common theory is that he nibbles too much, thus running up his pitch count and leading to the walks. Supposedly a new pre-game preparation has Miller becoming more aggressive early in the game.

Whatever the reasons for a recent stretch of strong performances are, Miller finally found himself back in the majors earlier this week. With Clay Buchholz on the disabled list, Miller was called upon to take his rotation spot. His first start, against the Padres, concluded after 5 2/3 innings pitched, he walked three, struck out six, and allowed three earned runs on seven hits (including a home run).

It wasn’t the prettiest start, as the Padres offense tends to be hapless, but with Miller’s next few starts also scheduled against National League teams, he could be worth picking up. Even if he struggles, Boston’s offense could net him a win or two. And, should everything go right in Miller’s development, he could provide above-average contributions the rest of the way.

 

For access to the top baseball analytics and fantasy tool Bloomberg Sports Front Office visit BloombergSports.com

What To Do About Ian Desmond

By Eno Sarris //

The more we learn, the less we know. For example, we know about batting average on balls in play (BABIP). We know that the league BABIP is usually around .300, and that a player’s unique mix of batted balls can be used to judge a player’s specific expected BABIP (xBABIP). But what happens when a player with some major league track record in the bank is showing a poor batting average but a BABIP that is just about luck-neutral?

Consider Ian Desmond. The shortstop is flawed, but he had power and speed while coming up in the minor leagues, and power and speed at shortstop is almost always playable in fantasy baseball. The problem with Ian Desmond right now is that he has a .234 batting average to go with his three home runs and 20 stolen bases. And his BABIP is .295. And his xBABIP is .286. He’s not unlucky on batted balls right now, but he has a batting average that’s thirty points under his career number in the category. Why?

Obviously, BABIP is not the only component of batting average. The elements that go into a batting average are diverse. Contact is part of it – you have to make contact to get the ball in play. Power is also part of it – power can turn a liner to the shortstop into a liner into short center field. Plate discipline is also a component. You want to avoid swinging at pitches outside of the zone, and you want to make contact on pitches inside the zone. In all three of these categories, there’s some hope for Desmond owners.

At first glance, contact is a problem for Desmond. He’s striking out in a quarter of his at-bats right now and his whiff rate (8.8%) is above average (8.4% this year). But already there’s something not quite right. He’s only slightly more likely to swing and miss than the average player, but his strikeout rate is 5% above average. Given that fact, and the fact that Desmond has improved his whiff rate over last year (10%), it seems likely that Desmond will strike out a little less often going forward.

Power is also not going Desmond’s way right now. He has a below-average ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) right now and has shown better power numbers in the past. In fact his current ISO (.098) would be his lowest number since rookie ball. His minor league ISO was .129 and his Double-A ISOs were both above .155. His major league ISO is .131. And power is the last statistic to stabilize over the course of a season. Give him a good week and he may find his power stroke once again. All it takes is a few doubles.

Lastly, though Desmond does not have great plate discipline, he has made improvements. He is reaching at balls outside the zone less than he has in his career (29.3% this year, 31.4% career, 29.5% is average this year). He’s also making more contact than he has in his career (80.3% this year, 79.2% career, 81% is average this year). Maybe he’s a little too passive right now – he’s only swinging at 63.2% of pitches within the zone, and league-wide that number is 64.7% and his personal career number is 65.5%. But he’s not reaching, and just a few more swings at solid pitches within the zone could really help.

Give Desmond a little more power – possibly from swinging at a few more pitches within the zone – and subtract a few strikeouts, and his batting average will improve. Given the fact that he’ll probably still strike out more than the average player and still won’t show much better than average power, his batting average won’t be awesome. But with power and speed, at shortstop, a .250+ batting average would work in most leagues. If it won’t work for your team, you’re probably best off looking for a new man in the middle.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

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