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Yonder Alonso, OF, Reds
For some reason the Washington Nationals acquired Jonny Gomes this week. They could not provide the Reds with a greater favor. Without Gomes, who was barely batting above the Mendoza line, the Reds were able to bring up 24-year-old rookie Yonder Alonso. The Havana, Cuba native was batting .296 with 12 home runs and 56 RBI. The Reds would like to see him add more power, but he is a patient batter now joining a fine lineup.
Javy Guerra, RP, Dodgers
A 26-year-old rookie with absolutely no fantasy expectations entering the season has turned into a fantasy steal. Guerra is the closer for the Dodgers who has allowed just one run over his last 13 appearances. On the season, Guerra is now 2-0 with eight saves and a 1.93 ERA. Though he originally looked like a short-term option while Jonathan Broxton was on the DL, however, with Broxton taking an indefinite stay on the DL, it looks like Guerra will hold down the fort and may end up being the closer for next season.
Cory Luebke, SP, Padres
At 26-years old Cory Luebke is making his case for the NL Rookie of the Year award. There is no way he’ll earn it based on the Padres losing ways and his low profile city, but the Ohio State alumnus has been splendid with a 2.65 ERA and a sensational 0.91 WHIP. Impressed by his stuff, the Padres have put the southpaw into the starting rotation and he has allowed just six earned runs through five starts. His best outing came on July 16 when he limited the Giants to four hits and two runs through seven innings, clinching his third win of the season. I guess we could have seen the success coming, as Luebke went 21-5 over the last two seasons in the Minor Leagues.
Eduardo Nunez, SS/3B, Yankees
One of the biggest surprise rookies this season has been Eduardo Sanchez. Sure, we could have seen it coming considering the age of the Yankees infielders, but still the rookie has played at a high level with three home runs, 10 doubles, 14 steals, and a .273 average. Nunez has earned himself a key role for the Yankees as he should be able to average 300 at bats the next few seasons before potentially taking over for Mr. Jeter at shortstop in 2014.
Alex Cobb, SP, Rays
A fourth round pick by the Rays out of high school in 2006, Alex Cobb is another one of those top prospects developed in the team’s farm system. He has been electric so far in spot-start duties, boasting a 3-0 record and 2.57 ERA in seven starts. Cobb can still improve on his control, but with the opposition hitting just .220 off him this season, it’s clear that the Rays have struck gold yet again.
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Carlos Beltran, OF, Giants
The numbers don’t do Carlos Beltran justice this season. Sure, he only has 15 home runs, but he also has 30 doubles. That tells me in a more favorable ballpark he’d have closer to 20 home runs. He may only have 3 steals, but he has scored 61 runs, that tells me he is not lagging on the basepaths. His on base percentage is .391, which is 30 points better than his career mark. His average, slugging, and OPS are all better than his season average as well. Now he is moving to San Francisco, which should have a minor impact on his production. The ballpark remains tough, but worse than that, he does not have Jose Reyes hitting in front of him. This might not be a bad time for fantasy managers to sell high on the veteran All-Star.
Lucas Duda, OF, Mets
In his first game as the Mets regular right-fielder, Lucas Duda sent one over the fence. There should be many more coming. The 6’4, 254 lbs. California native is a slugger. He may only boast two home runs this season, but he has 10 doubles and three triples despite just 123 at bats so far this season. His average is at a healthy .276 and the OBP of .350 is stellar. Duda will have every chance of earning the Mets starting right-field job next season, though honestly, what they should consider is moving him to left and Jason Bay off the roster.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays
A former first round pick who simply did not get along with Tony LaRussa, Rasmus is a five-tool talent who still has plenty of room for improvement. After blasting 23 home runs last season with 12 stolen bases, Rasmus has just 11 dingers this season. On that note, his numbers should progress quite well once he leaves St. Louis. He’ll have Jose Bautista instead of Albert Pujols providing protection, and also the Rogers Centre is a very favorable hitting environment. Rasmus is a popular buy-low option.
Edwin Jackson, SP, Cardinals
A winner of three of the last four starts, Edwin Jackson is having a fine season despite the 7-7 record, his ERA is 3.92 and he has surrendered just eight home runs in 121.2 innings of work. The big concern with him is the high WHIP. This season it’s because he’s getting hit a bit too often to the tune of a .283 average. The good news for him is that he will now be under the tutelage of Dave Duncan. One of the best pitching coaches in the game, this can have a great impact on Jackson’s career.
Marc Rzepczynski, RP, Cardinals
Another winner in the big deal between the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Cardinals is Rzepczynski. Just 26 years old, this southpaw boasts a 2.97 ERA and 1.05 WHIP this season. I would also love to see how he handles starting. He was very promising a few years back and he can really miss some bats. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Rzepczynski in the Cardinals starting rotation next season. He has star potential.
By R.J. Anderson //
The White Sox made a big trade on Wednesday, moving Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Blue Jays for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart. Shortly after announcing the trade, the White Sox went on to reveal that Alex Rios would be benched in favor of Alejandro De Aza, thus, leaving Rios owners across the land wondering whether they should ditch Rios in favor of De Aza. It’s an unfortunate, but real scenario to ponder.
Let’s start with the basics. Rios is heading to the pine because he is in the midst of a hellacious season. Through 384 plate appearances, he is hitting .208/.255/.300 with only six home runs and eight stolen bases. This from a guy who hit 21 home runs and had 34 stolen bases in 2010. Rios’ power production this season looks a lot like what he did in 2004, but back then he was walking and hitting more singles than he is now. It’s unclear what Rios’ future holds with the White Sox, as he is signed through the 2014 season with an annual average salary over $12 million.
The White Sox recalled De Aza on Wednesday and threw him into their starting lineup immediately. He hit .322/.378/.494 in Triple-A while adding nine home runs and 22 stolen bases. De Aza is probably a new name to many, but this will mark his fourth season with some time in the majors, as back in 2007 and 2009 he saw action with the Marlins, and he appeared in 19 games for the White Sox last season. In 217 big league plate appearances, he owns a line of .242/.286/.325.
That’s not an inspiring effort, but to De Aza’s credit, he has always hit well in Triple-A, with a cumulative .309/.372/.479 offering in 1,100 plate appearances. Some of that came in the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for inflating offensive statistics, but over the last two seasons he has spent time improving his craft in the Independent League. His game is about contact and speed, and he has at least 20 doubles in each of the last three seasons too.
De Aza isn’t a sure thing to replicate his minor league performances, so tread carefully. If you are a Rios owner, then picking up his replacement might be a smart choice. After all, between the unclear playing time and nasty results so far this season, Rios is unlikely to be scooped up by anyone else in the interim.
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by Eno Sarris //
He’s a center fielder with power and speed. He’s young. He’s under team control until the end of 2014. Apparently all of these things were not good enough for manager Tony La Russa or the Cardinal’s General Manager, because Colby Rasmus has reportedly been shipped out of St. Louis. That’s fine for us, because all of those facets make him an immediate pickup in most fantasy leagues, and we know that fantasy baseball is the most important game of all.
The full trade looks like it will be the Cardinals shipping Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters to the Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson. The pitchers are immediately more interesting because they are moving to a pitchers’ league and park with a great ground-ball wizard of a pitching coach, but that’s for another time.
The fact that Rasmus is moving in the opposite direction should perk up your ears. The 25-year-old lefty will receive a power boost most definitely. The park factor for home runs by left-handed batters in St. Louis is 84, meaning they are suppressed by 16%. In Toronto, home runs by lefties are encouraged by 16%. Rasmus will also go from playing in Pittsburgh (-27%) and Houston (+7%) to New York (+43%) and Baltimore (+18%). To be fair, Milwaukee and Cincinatti are fine power parks, but the change in home address will be a boost.
There’s a chance, also, that the team philosophy in Toronto will play into his strengths. One of Tony La Russa’s complaints about the young center fielder was that he struck out too much. This year, Rasmus cut down on the Ks and lost his power. Strikeouts are also correlated with power across baseball, so this is not some small sample size thing. The Blue Jays? Their grip-it-and-rip-it philosophy is well known. They are ninth in strikeout rate in the American League and fourth in isolated slugging percentage. They won’t care about his strikeouts if he’s tearing the cover off the ball.
The Jays also like to run. They are fifth in the American League in stolen bases, while the Cardinals have the fewest steals in baseball. When Aaron Hill has 13 stolen bases, you know that the team is okay with giving the green light if you can be successful at least 66% of the time. Rasmus has been successful 65% of the time. Let’s give him a steals boost anyway. He certainly has speed.
Rasmus doesn’t profile as a player that will put up a good batting average. He hits more balls in the air than on the ground and strikes out a little too much to be a .300-hitting center fielder. But if you look past his flaws — something that his former manager couldn’t manage — you can see the power, speed and fantasy value that he represents. Enjoy Colby Rasmus, Blue Jay.
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Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
The fantasty season is not over for one of the biggest busts in the league Pedro Alvarez. The second overall pick of the 2008 draft, we expected big things out of the Vanderbilt alumnus, but instead, his average sits at just .211 with two home runs and 10 RBI. After an extended stay on the disabled list and then a month’s worth of at bats in the Minor Leagues, Alvarez is back. He will bat in the middle of the Pirates lineup and will have ever chance to succeed once again. The third base position is pretty shallow this season with talent, making fantasy managers quick to forgive players like Alvarez.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox
The man traded for Mark Teixeira a few years back is finally an everyday player in the Big Leagues. Just 26 years old, Salty is having his best season to date. His eight home runs are just one shy of his career-high and the same can be said of his 12 doubles. He is not the best defensive catcher in baseball, but he has been adequate and his respectable on base percentage with some pop makes him a dangerous bat in the Red Sox lineup.
Jeff Karstens, SP, Pirates
This former Yankees prospect is not just having a good season, he is having a Cy Young caliber season! At 28 years old, the right-handed finesse hurler boasts a 2.28 ERA with a stellar 1.04 WHIP. His lack of strikeouts may frustrate some fantasy managers, but Karstens has surrendered just 11 earned runs over his last 10 starts.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies
You have to wonder how many chances this guy will get but because of injuries and the struggles of his peers, Dexter Fowler is getting another shot to leadoff for the Rockies. Fowler is batting .342 since the All-Star break with 10 runs in 11 games with three steals. Just 25 years old, Fowler is too young to turn the page on for now.
James McDonald, SP, Pirates
There is no question about it, of all of the Pirates hurlers, James McDonald has the best stuff. Sure, he has some control issues, but his 92 strikeouts, seven wins, and 3.95 ERA will get your attention. A former top prospect with the Dodgers, McDonald has gone 11-9 with a 3.79 ERA in 31 starts. At 26 years old, McDonald should still have his best years ahead of him.
By Tommy Rancel //
A few weeks ago, I warned of the dangers associated with the waiver wire rush whenever a new prospect is called up to the big leagues. In most cases, the new car smell wears off after a few unproductive weeks at the highest level. That said, there are some outliers who can become your team’s best friend.
Dustin Ackley is one of those cases. As a unit, the Seattle Mariners’ offense is putrid – and that is being kind. While the rest of the group offers little-to-nothing in terms of fantasy value, Ackley appears to be a shooting star in an otherwise offensive black hole. He also plays a position – second base – that is void of many above-average producers.
As a whole, second basemen are hitting .256/.317/.379 league wide. Ackley, on the other hand, is hitting .297/.347/.505 in his first 120 plate appearances. While he is clearly hitting better than your average second baseman, his sample size is rather limited. At the same time, there are no signs that his production thus far has been a product of luck or fluke.
Ackley’s .297 may be a bit above his true talent level; however a .319 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) along with a 17.9 line drive rate are both sustainable over a two month period. In terms of power, Ackley’s .207 ISO – or Isolated Power which measures extra-base hit production by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage – ranks second best in the American League at the keystone position behind Robinson Cano’s .213 (minimum 120 plate appearances). The 23-year-old did not show much home run power in the minors, but could reach double-digits this season. Even without balls clearing the fence, his left-handed bat should find plenty of gaps in spacious Safeco Field.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ackley’s 30 games in the majors is his keen sense of the strike zone. His walk rate is a tick lower than the average batter, but he strikes out less often which puts his K/BB slightly above the league’s average. In addition to the solid rate stats, he swings at less than 20% of pitches outside of the strike zone (league average is 30% according to fangraphs.com), and makes contact on more than 75% of his swings. Because of this, his swing and miss rate is also very low.
Despite the shallow talent pool, Ackley is owned in just 35% according to Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office tool. The same tool projects him with a .734 OPS for the remainder of the season. While that projection may be a bit harsh, it would still be nearly .40 points better than the league’s average for the position. If Ackley is sitting on your waiver wire, make the move now as the Pacific Northwest’s best kept secret might not be such a secret for much longer.
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Fantasy Baseball’s Surprise Party:
1) Ichiro hits under .300
The future Hall of Famer may be labeled somewhat of a one-trick pony, but at least he always had that trick, which was the ability to rack up hits at an unprecedented level. Suzuki boasts a .327 career average and never before has hit for lower than a .303 average through 10 years in the Major Leagues. However, at the moment, Suzuki’s average is under .270. When you consider that Ichiro actually started the season quite well with a .328 average through the first month of the season, you have to wonder if the 37-year-old veteran is finally slowing down. Suzuki will also have his third straight season with fewer than 100 runs scored.
2) Lance Berkman’s Power Stroke
Since blasting a career-high 45 home runs in 2006, Lance Berkman’s annual home run total has declined in four straight seasons. That streak has come to an end this season, as the 35-year-old veteran has nearly doubled last year’s total already with 27 home runs. After hitting just one dinger in 106 at bats last season with the Yankees, it looked like Berkman was playing on borrowed time. However, the Cardinals outfielder is instead enjoying an MVP caliber season.
3) Manny’s Retirement
With just one hit through 17 at bats, it looked like the worst was out of the way for Rays recently acquired outfielder Manny Ramirez. However, the legend in Boston who enjoyed a heck of a half-season with the Dodgers would never again stare down another pitch. No, Ramirez, approaching his 38th birthday, was caught using performance-enhancing drugs for the second time in his career and a hasty and quiet retirement soon followed. 555 home runs and a .312 average likely won’t be enough to bring Manny to Cooperstown.
4) Bartolo Colon Back in the Majors
He’s a former Cy Young award winner with 150-plus wins under his belt, but Colon was never expected to play a key role in this season considering we last saw him pitch in 2009 when he finished a season with the White Sox with a 3-6 record. However, after plenty of rest and a controversial arm surgery, Colon is back in a big way for the Yankees. Armed with great command and some serious heat, Colon improved his record to 7-6 this weekend with a fine 3.29 ERA
5) 2011 Free Agent Busts: Werth, Crawford, and Dunn
The big bats on the market this past winter were Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Adam Dunn. They all came into the season with stellar career marked with consistency and fairly predictable production.
Jayson Werth, for instance, has belted 20-plus home runs with 10 plus steals, and an average north of .265 in each of the last three seasons. Werth is currently batting just .219 with 11 home runs in what was supposed to be his prime at 32-years old.
Carl Crawford has hit less than .300 just once in the last six seasons entering this season. Well, now he’s batting .254, and his steals are on pace to be his lowest season total since his rookie season.
Finally, Adam Dunn has hit either 38 or 40 home runs in each of the last six seasons. He currently boasts just nine home runs, and his .160 average is 100 points off last season’s batting clip.
By Eriq Gardner //
What do you like most about fantasy baseball — being able to test your knowledge of players against other competitors or having the power to act like a general manager with various choices to make in the pursuit of a league championship?
Recently, Baseball HQ founder Ron Shandler proposed moving the fantasy sports market more to “draft-and-hold” leagues — formats where competitors draft their teams and then sit back without the power (or worry) of making roster transactions during the course of a season. Shandler advocates these leagues because he seems to think fantasy baseball leagues are a test of knowledge and that in-season moves represent a poor test at that. I disagree with these points. You can hear more about our recent back-and-forth about the wisdom of moving the fantasy sports world to “draft-and-hold” leagues on the two most recent editions of Baseball HQ’s fantasy podcast.
Beyond the discussion of which formats serve competitors best, however, there are much bigger questions that underpin the discussion: Where’s fantasy baseball heading? What’s the real value of being able to forecast the future? And what competitive skills will define success in future fantasy leagues?
I’ll admit that I have a somewhat radical view of fantasy sports world and more generally, competitive pursuits at large. In an age where good, cheap information is proliferating and tools for data analysis are continually getting better, I believe that doing things like buying real estate, leading businesses, and yes, drafting fantasy baseball rosters will never be the same.
Let me quickly explain:
Ever since Michael Lewis first published his influential book, “Moneyball,” there’s been a widespread realization that statistical research can aide better decision-making. In the decade since the book came out, professional and amateur pundits are spreading sabermetric wisdom in mainstream sports publications, on blogs, on Facebook and Twitter. And the knowledge continues to get ever closer to the point-of-decision-making: It doesn’t take very long with Google to stumble upon a pitcher’s xFIP. People draft alongside ADP guides; And when people look at roster moves and potential trades, player pages now include both analysis and projections.
Not only is the information spreading, but the analytical tools are advancing, too. If you’re reading this post, you’re likely familiar with Bloomberg’s Front Office, a web-based application that crunches data and advises its users on their decision-making.
In short, we’re getting ever more closer to a situation of play that economic game theorists call “perfect information,” where everyone has near equal access to the best foresight out there about player performance. If I told you that Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison is getting lucky, is this really a secret that you wouldn’t have assimilated already or discovered soon by a cursory web search? And if you try to trade Matt Harrison to another member in your league, won’t your competitor also have an inkling — or the potential to easily find out– he’s due for some regression?
If knowledge itself is increasingly less advantageous in competition, what is?
I’d argue there are things beyond having insights about players or foresight about what’s likely to happen that matter in fantasy leagues.
For one thing, how to best use that information. Thankfully, all leagues out there are not alike: The standings are different from one league to the next. No fantasy roster is the same. Every competitor has different needs. And every competitor has their own personality quirks. Being able to look at the standings and calculate how to improve based on the best information out there and how to make the appropriate adjustments on shifting circumstances and how to do so by negotiating with one’s competitors — these are things often quite missed by pundits who mostly share generally applicable information instead of context-dependent know-how on ways to exploit the information to full advantage.
Perhaps computer algorithms will eventually conquer this terrain too, but for now, knowing that a pitcher has been lucky or unlucky doesn’t define success in the same sort of way that knowing the market value of a house doesn’t exactly tell us the price paid on that house by its specific buyer. Each situation is different. Figuring out how to adjust oneself and thrive in a world without secrets is the core challenge and should remain what counts.
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Ailment: Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians
The former Indians MVP candidate has been slowed by injuries and will now miss the next month because of another knee injury coupled with a sports hernia. Even when he was on the field, this is not the Sizemore who was routinely a first round pick in fantasy leagues. Nope, the All-Star who once swiped 38 bases has not stolen a single bag this season through 61 games.
Cure: Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres
It seems like he has been a top prospect for more than a decade. The truth is that at just 24-years-old, Maybin is still plenty young, and he is currently enjoying his best season to date. He seems to fit well in Petco Park playing small ball with 44 runs and 17 steals through 80 games.
Ailment: Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies
After a stellar rookie campaign we expected more of the same from Chacin this season. However, the Rockies hurler has inexplicably lost his demand, most recently walking seven Braves on Thursday. His ERA spiked to 3.60, which isn’t bad at all for the ballpark he pitches in, but still Chacin has surrendered four or more runs in four of his last five starts.
Cure: Vance Worley, SP, Phillies
The 24-year-old hurler came out of nowhere, but it looks like he is here to stay. Injuries to Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt have thrust Vance Worley into the Phillies rotation and he has responded with a 6-1 record and a 2.02 ERA. He can still get plagued by wildness at times, but he does rack up a decent amount of whiffs, and he has won his last four decisions.
Ailment: Ty Wigginton, 3B/1B/2B/OF, Rockies
This is what happens to streaky hitters. Ty Wigginton was on top of the world in June with 8 home runs and 18 RBI. However, he has yet to go deep once this month and his average this month is down to .204. It’s not a bad idea to look for other options.
Cure: Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays
Just 28 years old, Encarnacion has 107 home runs under his belt, but they do come in bunches. He has been red-hot since the All-Star break with a home run and a .400 average. With the veteran seeing the ball so well in a fine lineup, it’s not a bad idea to invest in his fantasy services for the short-term.
Ailment: Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers
He was once the best closer in the business and he holds the record for most saves in a season, however, a less than dominant tenure in New York landed him in Milwaukee where he now offers middle relief. Despite pitching in middle relief, K-Rod was credited with a blown save on Thursday. He does not get enough strikeouts or offer a low enough ERA and WHIP to remain on a fantasy roster.
Cure: Edward Mujica, RP, Marlins
Marlins manager Jack McKeon showed his cards this week, stating that if Leo Nunoz gets moved, Mujica becomes his closer. This is well-deserved to Mujica, who boasts a 35:5 strikeout to walk ratio. His 2.85 ERA and 0.87 WHIP makes him a solid pick up for fantasy managers hoping to snare a closer for later in the season.
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Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Brewers
There’s been talk of the Brewers looking to upgrade at shortstop, but those plans may be on hold now that Betancourt is starting to show some life at the plate. The 29-year-old had a fine 2010 campaign with the Royals, blasting 16 home runs with 78 RBI, despite a .288 on base percentage. That on base percentage is just .265 this season, but with two home runs and four RBI over the last three games, he may be on the rebound.
Josh Reddick, OF, Red Sox
There have been bigger prospects to play in the Red Sox outfield in recent years, but few have had the impact of Josh Reddick. The 17th round pick out of Middle Georgia Junior College has been en fuego all season. He has 3 home runs over the last 10 games and now boasts a .378 average. He has also been patient at the plate and has been hitting the ball with power. Look for the Red Sox to continue to give Reddick at bats as long as he sustains the production.
Javier Vazquez, SP, Marlins
On June 11, there were some questions as to whether the Marlins would simply cut Javier Vazquez loose considering his ERA had ballooned up to 7.09 through 13 starts this season after enduring a 5.32 ERA in the Bronx last season. The Marlins stuck with the soon to be 35-year-old, and it has paid off handsomely. Vazquez has surrendered seven earned runs over the last six starts. In his last start he handled the Cubs with 10 K’s in 7 innings. Considering his high strikeout potential and past dominance, it’s not a bad idea to take a flyer on the veteran hurler.
Emilio Bonifacio, SS/3B/OF/2B, Marlins
One of the bigger success stories on the Marlins this season has been 26-year-old speedster Emilio Bonifacio. The story here is of a player who has all the speed in the world, but has historically struggled to reach base. That’s not the credit this season. His on base percentage has soared from 30% to 32% and finally 37% over the last three seasons. Bonifacio currently boasts 18 steals with 42 runs scored. He’s something of a one-dimensional weapon, but Bonifacio will get you steals.
Michael Martinez, OF/2B/SS/3B, Phillies
The 28-year-old rookie has already manned five of the nine positions this season. I know Mets fans would love to know who Michael Martinez is after he belted a key home run again them last series. It’s a little bit of a tough question to answer because of his limited playing time. We can say that last season he blasted 11 home runs with 56 RBI and 23 steals while splitting time between AA and AAA. So, there is a nice blend of pop and speed there, but in the Phillies lineup and in the favorable ballpark some damage can be done. Fantasy managers should pay attention considering the position eligibility.