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Archive for July, 2010

vs. Wade Davis PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 9 0.444 0.444 0.444 0 1
Nick Swisher RF 6 0.000 0.333 0.000 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 9 0.143 0.333 0.286 0 1
Alex Rodriguez 3B 9 0.500 0.556 1.250 2 4
Robinson Cano 2B 8 0.375 0.375 0.750 1 2
Jorge Posada C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Curtis Granderson CF 6 0.400 0.500 0.600 0 0
Colin Curtis DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner LF 6 0.600 0.667 0.600 0 0
Total 53 0.370 0.453 0.609 3 8
vs. Phil Hughes PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
John Jaso C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Carl Crawford LF 6 0.400 0.500 0.400 0 1
Evan Longoria 3B 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Carlos Pena 1B 6 0.667 0.833 2.667 2 2
Matt Joyce RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Willy Aybar DH 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
B.J. Upton CF 8 0.333 0.500 0.333 0 0
Reid Brignac 2B 1 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 1
Jason Bartlett SS 1 1.000 1.000 4.000 1 1
Total 26 0.400 0.500 0.900 3 5
Yankees vs. Rays
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
TIED: 4-4 NYY: 11-7 NYY: 11-7 NYY: 137-73

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Last 10 Last 20 Last 30
Yankees 7-3 15-5 21-9
Rays 8-2 15-5 21-9

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Road vs. RHP
Yankees 31-20 43-22
Home vs. RHP
Rays 30-20 41-27
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According to numerous published reports based upon even more anonymous sources, which presumably are more reliable than the ones who got the Cliff Lee trade wrong, the Yankees are on the verge of acquiring Lance Berkman from the Astros for a “non-prospect” and the right to pay Berkman the final $7.5 million owed on his contract.

Despite being hampered by an early season knee surgery, Berkman has bounced back to have a solid season, compiling a line of .245/.372/.436 in an Astros lineup with absolutely no protection. The Yankees are probably banking on Berkman being rejuvenated by joining a contender as well as a lineup with ample protection, but even if he were to remain at his early season level, Berkman would represent a significant improvement over the combined production of the “bench players” forced into duty by Joe Girardi’s rotating DH system.

“We’ve used it to rotate our guys and try to keep our guys fresh, but if we have an everyday guy, we have an everyday guy. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen, but it has helped giving Alex a half day, and Jeet a half day, and Tex, and Swish. But if you get an everyday guy that can swing it, that could help our club.” – Joe Girardi, as quoted on the LoHud Yankees Blog

Judging by Joe Girardi’s comments, it doesn’t seem as if he fully embraces the notion of bringing in a full-time DH. Then again, Lance Berkman probably should not be installed in that role. Although a switch hitter, Berkman’s splits have skewed heavily toward the left side, from which he has posted a line of .261/.395/.479. As a right handed hitter, however, Berkman’s line of .188/.278/.281 makes you wonder if the Yankees are really getting a platoon player. Other than his hefty price tag, there really wouldn’t be a compelling reason to play him every day, especially with Marcus Thames on the roster and Curtis Granderson already exerting a drag on the lineup against left handed pitchers.

Another potential problem with the Berkman acquisition is the health of Jorge Posada. If the Yankee catcher can’t take a majority of his starts behind the plate, it doesn’t benefit the Yankees to have Berkman effectively replace him as the DH. In fact, Berkman’s production has closely matched what the Yankees have gotten from their rotating DH, so the only way the Yankees will enjoy an upgrade is if it prevents the likes of Francisco Cervelli and Colin Curtis from playing regularly. With Posada’s health always a concern, that isn’t a given.

So, what exactly will Berkman’s role be? The $7.5 million price tag is not only relevant in that discussion, but also in revisiting Brian Cashman’s offseason decision to let Johnny Damon leave town. The Yankees are basically paying the same amount of money for two months of Lance Berkman as they would have had to pay for an entire year of Johnny Damon. At the time, Cashman’s decision, which he claimed was predicated on a need to cut payroll, seemed to be penny wise, but pound foolish. The acquisition of Berkman is a confirmation of that assessment, especially with Nick Johnson now collecting $5 million to rehab from his latest injury.

Over his 13 seasons as general manager, Brian Cashman has contributed greatly to the Yankees success. This off season, however, he had more than his fair share of missteps. Now, with Lance Berkman, he is seeking to right one of his wrongs. Hopefully, Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t mind writing the extra check.

Lance Berkman versus Yankee DHs, 2010 Peformance

PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Lance Berkman 358 39 13 49 0.245 0.372 0.436
Yankees DH 408 56 13 48 0.250 0.358 0.424

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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After acquiring Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays last December, the Phillies had the chance to feature the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Instead, General Manager Ruben Amaro opted to trade Cliff Lee to the Mariners, citing both a concern over Lee’s impending free agency as well as the organization’s need to replenish its farm system. That line of reasoning was severely flawed at the time, but has since been proven to be even more short sighted.

If we had just acquired Roy and not moved Lee, we would have been in position to have lost seven of the best 10 prospects in our organization. That is not the way you do business in baseball.” – Phillies GM Rueben Amaro, quoted on ESPN.com

The Phillies acquired Roy Oswalt for the stretch run, but would be better off with Cliff Lee.

To get Cliff Lee from Cleveland, the Phillies parted with a quartet of prospects, including Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Lou Marson and Jason Donald. When they subsequently traded him to the Mariners, however, they received a lighter package of Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gilles and Juan Ramirez. Still, assuming Amaro was really under a mandate to acquire prospects and trim payroll, you could justify the downgrade in talent as a necessary evil of getting Halladay as well as the cost of reaching the 2009 World Series. Unfortunately for Amaro, when Lee was traded yet again, it further exposed the foolishness of his earlier decision.

When Texas acquired Lee from the Mariners just before the All Star break, they parted with highly touted 1B Justin Smoak. What’s more, they also had their pick of another top prospect, the Yankees’ Jesus Montero. In other words, in the three deals involving Cliff Lee in one calendar year, the Phillies brought back the smallest return.

As you can see, it’s one thing to replenish the farm with quantity, but quality is what really matters. Besides, a veteran team like the Phillies should be concerned about winning now, not trying to cultivate middle-level prospects. After getting off to a slow start this season, Amaro finally came to that conclusion and pulled the trigger on a deal for Roy Oswalt. This time, the cost was J.A. Happ and prospects Anthony Gose (later traded by the Astros to the Blue Jays for Brett Wallace) and Jonathan Villar.

So, after an eventful seven months, the Phillies are back to where they started: a formidable 1-2 punch atop their rotation (really1-2-3 with Cole Hamels resurgence). To get there, however, they had to endure a bumpy road. What’s more, they are now on the hook for an additional $14 million in guaranteed money owed to Oswalt, and likely will not be in a position to offer him arbitration when he departs after 2011, meaning they will not recoup two draft picks, as they would have done with Lee.

The bottom line for the Phillies is they simply should have held onto Lee. Had they made that decision, they’d have wound up with a better pitcher (and a lefty at that), less of a financial commitment, potentially better prospects in their farm system, two draft picks in the 2011 draft and perhaps a lead, instead of a deficit, in the NL East. By anyone’s math, Amaro’s decision backfired, so now he has to hope Oswalt can help balance the equation.

Balancing the Ledger: The Net Cost/Benefit of the Phillies’ Lee and Oswalt Trades

From the Phillies:

  • Cliff Lee (Could have traded for Justin Smoak [9], Jesus Montero [10])
  • J.A. Happ
  • Anthony Gose (Could have traded for Brett Wallace [20])
  • Jonathan Villar
  • Loss of 2011 draft picks
  • Lee’s guaranteed $9 million salary removed from payroll

To the Phillies:

  • Roy Oswalt
  • Phillippe Aumont
  • Tyson Gilles
  • Juan Ramirez
  • Oswalt’s guaranteed $14 million salary added to 2010-11 payroll

Note: Number in brackets is Keith Law’s Top-100 Preseason Prospect Ranking

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Going into last night’s game, the Yankees starting lineup had an OPS of 1.011 against Fausto Carmona, so there was no cause for concern about a lack of familiarity. As a result, one day after sleeping walking against rookie Josh Tomlin, the Yankees’ lumber awoke from its slumber, scoring seven runs on 10 hits in two-plus innings against the Indians’ veteran.

Arod hangs on to 2B after a sixth inning double (Photo: AP).

Starting with Alex Rodriquez’ RBI single in the first and ending with Robinson Cano’s 19th homerun in the fourth, the Yankees quickly built an 8-0 lead in the game and dispelled all doubt about the eventual outcome. The Yankees’ large lead allowed the attention of the game to shift back toward Arod’s pursuit of 600 homeruns, but once again, history was denied. Despite failing to go deep, Arod still managed to have a productive evening, which in addition to his run scoring single also included a humorous line drive double in the sixth that required the Yankees’ third baseman to make a slide that left him holding second base like a teddy bear.

Even though Arod’s pursuit of a milestone was once again denied, the only disappointment on the evening was the continued struggles of Derek Jeter. While everyone else joined in on the hit parade, the captain was held hitless in five at bats, although one out was the result of a fine running catch by Shin-Soo Choo, who seems do something impressive in every game.

Over the last few starts, a dark cloud has seemed to be following AJ Burnett around…both figuratively and literally. In two starts since cutting his hand on a clubhouse wall, Burnett has encountered lengthy rain delays. Unlike the storm in his last start, which truncated his outing to five innings, this time around Burnett had to deal with a pre-game disruption and a revised start time that was off the mark. According to the broadcast, Burnett wound up warming up too early, leading to speculation about how he would cope. The concern was unwarranted, however, as Burnett battled through six-plus scoreless innings before calling it a night.

The most encouraging thing about Burnett’s outing was he did not have great stuff or command (although his curve ball was sharp), but still persevered. The Indians had at least one base runner in every inning and forced Burnett to throw a lot of pitches, but instead of giving into frustration, the Yankees mercurial righty navigated through each jam without suffering damage. In a season in which Burnett has either been lights out or blown out, the gritty performance was a welcomed middle ground.

After Burnett’s exit with one out in the seventh, Joe Girardi then used the remainder of the game to help rehabilitate two wayward pitchers. Girardi first called on Joba Chamberlain to get the final two outs of the seventh before going to Sergio Mitre for the last six outs. This time last week, Chamberlain and Mitre were the “eighth inning guy” and “fifth starter”, respectively, so being called upon for mop-up duty further highlights their declining roles on the team.

  • A.J. Burnett’s victory was his first in five career starts at Progressive Field.
  • After a horrendous June, A.J. Burnett is now 3-1 with an ERA of 2.00 in July.
  • In the six games since hitting homerun 599, Arod is batting .280/.333/.360 with 4 RBIs.

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vs. Fausto Carmona PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 19 0.353 0.421 0.353 0 3
Nick Swisher RF 23 0.333 0.435 0.778 2 6
Mark Teixeira 1B 19 0.375 0.474 0.563 1 3
Alex Rodriguez 3B 12 0.250 0.500 0.625 1 1
Robinson Cano 2B 18 0.389 0.389 0.389 0 3
Jorge Posada DH 7 0.286 0.286 0.714 1 1
Curtis Granderson CF 41 0.412 0.512 0.794 2 4
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner LF 8 0.000 0.125 0.000 0 1
Total 147 0.347 0.422 0.589 7 22
vs. AJ Burnett PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Trevor Crowe CF 4 0.500 0.500 0.750 0 1
Asdrubal Cabrera SS 6 0.250 0.500 1.000 1 2
Shin-Soo Choo RF 11 0.125 0.364 0.500 1 1
Carlos Santana C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Travis Hafner DH 7 7.000 0.400 0.556 1 4
Austin Kearns LF 20 0.333 0.400 0.556 1 5
Matt LaPorta 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Andy Marte 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jason Donald 2B 3 0.500 0.500 1.500 0 1
Total 51 0.286 0.373 0.667 4 14
Yankees vs. Indians
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 4-2 NYY: 5-3 CLE: 4-3 NYY: 1089-866

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Last 10 Last 20 Last 30
Yankees 6-4 15-5 21-10
Indians 6-4 10-10 16-14

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Road vs. RHP
Yankees 29-20 41-22
Home vs. RHP
Indians 23-24 29-40
  • Before the game the Indians traded Johnny Peralta to the Tigers for minor league pitcher Giovanni Soto.
  • AJ Burnett has never won a game at Progressive Field/Jacobs Field. In four starts, Burnett is 0-4 with an ERA of 9.00.

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Last night, the Yankees lost to a pitcher making his major league debut, an all too common occurrence as any Yankee fan can attest. In fact, the sight of a pitcher making his first start against the Yankees is enough to make those who follow the team let out with an audible groan. Based on the results that often follow, one wonders if those in the lineup do the same.

Sometimes, perceived trends emerge in baseball, but in reality, they are really myths. For example, the idea that Miguel Cairo is a clutch hitter who always comes up big can gain a life of its own. Despite evidence to the contrary, what sticks out in most people’s minds are events that defy expectations, so when a poor hitter like Cairo comes through, it becomes indelible. Similarly, the notion that the Yankees never hit new pitchers is prone to the same effect. Everyone expects the Yankees to pound the wide-eyed rookie, so when he turns in a strong outing, we all remember. The only problem with that theory is the evidence actually supports the myth, at least with regard to pitchers making their major league debut.

Listed below is a chart that displays every major league debut by a starting pitcher against the Yankees since 2000. In the 11 games the Yankees have played against pitchers making their debut, the Bronx Bombers are a paltry 3-8. And, it’s not just that the Yankees lose to their green mound opponents, but they seem to be dominated by them. In the 11 starts, the collective ERA is an astoundingly low 2.32. What’s more, only one pitcher from among the group, the Royals’ Eduardo Villacis, posted a game score lower than 52.

Yankees vs. Starters Making Their Major League Debuts, Since 2000

Pitcher Date Team NY Rslt IP H ER BB SO HR GSc ERA
Josh Tomlin 7/27/10 CLE L 7 3 1 0 2 0 69 1.29
Jake Arrieta 6/10/10 BAL L 6 4 3 4 6 0 54 4.50
Koji Uehara 4/8/09 BAL L 5 5 1 1 0 0 52 1.80
Daryl Thompson 6/21/08 CIN L 5 4 0 4 2 0 57 0.00
Anibal Sanchez 6/25/06 FLA L 5.3 7 0 0 2 0 57 0.00
Gustavo Chacin 9/20/04 TOR L 7 4 3 3 2 0 56 3.86
Eduardo Villacis 5/1/04 KCR W 3.7 6 5 4 0 1 24 13.5
Jake Peavy 6/22/02 SDP W 6 3 1 2 4 0 64 1.50
Brian Sikorski 8/16/00 TEX L 7 4 0 4 5 0 70 0.00
John Parrish 7/24/00 BAL W 7 4 3 2 9 1 62 3.86
Paul Rigdon 5/21/00 CLE L 7 2 0 4 2 0 71 0.00
Totals 66 46 17 28 34 2 57.8 2.32

Source: Baseball-reference.com

One of the theories advanced for this strange phenomenon is the Yankees are a veteran team that is used to using their familiarity with a pitcher to out think him while at the plate. Another reason put forth is the Yankees’ resources allow them to accumulate an inordinate amount of scouting materials, but that advantage becomes mitigated when their isn’t as much history upon which to draw. Of course, if both of those theories were true, you’d expect the team to also struggle when facing relievers who are making their major league debuts. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t cooperate. Even though it should be noted that in 20 of 35 appearances no earned runs were charged to the reliever, the analysis does not take into account inherited runners and leverage. Nonetheless, the chart below provides a snapshot of how the Yankees have performed in the particular situation.

Yankees vs. Relievers Making Their Major League Debuts, Since 2000

Relievers IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
35 46 2/3 53 41 39 23 32 8 7.52

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Finally, it is entirely possible that if the Yankees struggle against debuting starters, then maybe everyone does.  Again, however, the numbers do not comply. Since 2000, 381 starters have made their major league debuts, but the results have been somewhat lackluster. In total, the team record in the aforementioned sample was 190-191, while the ERA of the pitchers involved was 5.29 and the average game score was 45.6 (see below for comparison to Yankees).

Relative Performance of Starters Making Their Major League Debuts, Since 2000

W L IP H R ER BB SO HR Avg. GSc ERA
vs. MLB 190 191 1964.3 2056 1231 1155 925 1317 302 45.6 5.29
vs. Yankees 8 3 66 46 18 17 28 34 2 57.8 2.32
vs. MLB – Yankees 182 188 1898.3 2010 1213 1138 897 1283 300 45.3 5.40

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Now that we have established that the Yankees’ lack of success against debuting starters is contrary to the general experience around the league, let’s take a look at how their own freshly minted pitchers have done. Well, maybe it would be better to look away? In the 16 starts made by Yankee pitchers just breaking into the big leagues, the team has managed to go 9-7 despite some absolutely horrendous outings. In total, the 16 pitchers have accounted for less than five innings per game to go along with an ERA of 6.54 and an abysmal average game score of 36.4. To be fair, the last three Yankees to make their major league debuts have had success, but otherwise the landscape has been littered with land mines.

Yankees Starters’ Performance in Their Major League Debut, Since 2000

Player Date Opp Rslt IP H ER BB SO HR GSc ERA
Ian Kennedy 9/1/07 TBD W 7 5 1 2 6 1 63 1.29
Tyler Clippard 5/20/07 NYM W 6 3 1 3 6 1 65 1.50
Matt DeSalvo 5/7/07 SEA L 7 3 1 3 0 0 64 1.29
Phil Hughes 4/26/07 TOR L 4.3 7 4 1 5 0 37 8.31
Chase Wright 4/17/07 CLE W 5 5 3 3 3 1 45 5.40
Kei Igawa 4/7/07 BAL W 5 8 7 3 2 2 22 12.6
Jeff Karstens 8/22/06 SEA L 5.7 6 3 2 2 2 45 4.76
Sean Henn 5/4/05 TBD L 2.3 7 5 2 0 0 19 19.3
Chien-Ming Wang 4/30/05 TOR W 7 6 2 2 0 0 55 2.57
Brad Halsey 6/19/04 LAD W 5.7 5 2 1 3 1 53 3.18
Alex Graman 4/20/04 CHW W 2.7 8 5 2 2 0 22 16.9
Brandon Claussen 6/28/03 NYM W 6.3 8 1 1 5 1 55 1.42
Brett Jodie 7/20/01 TOR L 2 7 6 1 0 3 17 27.0
Christian Parker 4/6/01 TOR L 3 8 7 1 1 2 15 21.0
Randy Keisler 9/10/00 BOS W 5 4 1 3 2 0 54 1.80
Jake Westbrook 6/17/00 CHW L 1.7 7 6 2 0 1 15 32.4
Totals 9-7 75.7 97 55 32 37 15 36.4 6.54

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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C.C. Sabathia lost his first game since May 23, but the only real mistake that the big lefty made was allowing the Indians to put the ball in play.

Curtis Granderson and the ball both lay on the ground after the Yankees’ centerfielder could reel in Austin Kearns long drive in the sixth inning (Photo: Getty Images).

For most of the game, Sabathia was dealing one of his best fastballs of the season, consistently throwing in the mid-90s and topping out at 98mph, along with a devastating change. On most nights, that would have been enough to dominate the opposition lineup, but a comedy of errors in the fourth inning effectively scuttled Sabathia’s entire outing. After allowing a leadoff single to Asdrubal Cabrera and an “excuse me” opposite field double to Shin-Soo Choo, Sabathia induced a groundball to third off the bat of Austin Kearns. Arod fielded the ball quickly and fired home to Cervelli, but the excitable catcher lost control of the ball while attempting an easy tag. After a pop out by Shelley Duncan, Sabathia seemingly extracted himself from the mess by getting Johnny Peralta to hit into an inning ending double play. The only problems were Robinson Cano failed to touch second base and the umpire at first awarded a close call to the runner. So, instead of two outs, the Yankees got none. A sacrifice fly by Matt LaPorta plated the Indians second unearned run in the inning before Sabathia finally took matters into his own hands by striking out Jason Donald to end the frame.

Normally, allowing two runs wouldn’t be such a make or break event, but the Yankees lineup was once again dormant against a pitcher making his major league debut. Rookie Josh Tomlin kept the Yankees hitless until the fifth inning, and only allowed one run on three hits in his seven-plus innings. The truth is the stats don’t even tell the whole story. Tomlin kept the entire Yankees lineup off balance for his entire outing, which made him look like an accomplished veteran facing an offense of impatient rookies.

After needing 25 hard pitches to get through the fourth inning, Sabathia seemed to lose a bit of his command. Still, he battled for three more innings, but in the process encountered more shaky defense. In the bottom of the sixth, Kearns led off with a long drive to center that Curtis Granderson seemed to track well. Once again, however, a Yankee defender simply dropped the ball. Although it would have been a fine play, Granderson’s inability to make the grab resulted in a man on third with no outs and created a do or die situation that eventually consumed Sabathia. By the time the lefty extracted himself from this latest jam, the Indians had two more runs and the Yankees had what seemed like an insurmountable deficit to overcome.

The Yankees finally broke through against Tomlin in the eighth when Cano led off with a double that chased the rookie from the game. Cano eventually scored on a groundball by pinch hitter Colin Curtis, but no further damage was done. As they often do, the Yankees did manage to bring the heart  of their order to the plate as the tying run in the ninth, but Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira and Arod all appropriately made weak outs to end what was a lackluster effort.

Later wins by the Rays and Red Sox added insult to the injury of last night’s loss, but the bigger concerns continue to be developing cracks in the Yankees’ defense along with an offense that melts at the sight of a rookie and falls off considerably on the road. As Brian Cashman wavers on possible trade scenarios, a night like yesterday might push him back toward looking for a bat.

C.C. Sabathia’s Pitch Breakdown

Avg. Speed Max Speed Count Strikes Percentage
Changeup 88.2 90 27 18 66.7%
Curve 80.8 83.3 11 8 72.7%
Four Seam Fastball 95.9 98.1 61 43 70.5%
Slider 81.5 84.1 10 5 50.0%
Sinker 95.3 97 10 5 50.0%
Inning Pitches Strikes Percentage
1 11 8 72.7%
2 9 7 77.8%
3 22 16 72.7%
4 25 16 64.0%
5 13 9 69.2%
6 23 12 52.2%
7 16 11 68.8%
Total 119 79 66.4%
  • By failing to reach base, Mark Teixeira’s streak of reaching base in 42 consecutive games came to an end.
  • Before the game, Jorge Posada was scratched from the lineup with a sore left knee. According to the Yankees, he is day-to-day.

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