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Sunday, June 03, 2018

Kenny: Davey Johnson on the “opener”

The @RaysBaseball used #TheOpener again today. 17-yr manager Davey Johnson is, it seems, Not a fan. @Joelsherman1 & Dan O’Dowd do the heavy lifting. #MLBNow

That’s putting it… mildly.

Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 11:33 AM | 85 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: brian kenny, davey johnson, old coot, opener, pitching

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   1. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: June 03, 2018 at 01:40 PM (#5684888)
Heh, I coined the phrase the last year I played softball. Our regular pitcher had trouble making to the game on time, so I'd pitch til he showed up. We had loose substitution rules, so I could slide to DH or C for a few innings. It worked out pretty well.

That was the year that I played the whole double header in Central Park -- I severely weakened my ACL that day and did a season ending strain a couple of weeks later, effectively ending my softball career, such as it was. I couldn't inflict my wife with that again -- doing it once in my dotage was fine; twice, NFW.
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 03, 2018 at 01:43 PM (#5684890)
Davey seems to be quite graciously assuming the role of grumpy old baseball man at exactly the time when we need more targets. Gossage can only do so much on his own.
   3. ??'s Biggest Fan! Posted: June 03, 2018 at 01:47 PM (#5684893)
I like how Sherman cited examples of Davey deploying non-traditional strategy only to have Davey declare it’s not the same thing. If Davey’s Nationals bullpen couldn’t deal with non-linear usage, than that’s on the player and front office. And also probably part of the reason why he isn’t the manager any more. I keep hearing how the opener is a dumb idea from certain quarters, only to have them totally misunderstand why the Rays are doing it. Can’t tell if its the current hot take culture or if people are really that deficient in intellectual curiosity.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 03, 2018 at 01:50 PM (#5684895)
if people are really that deficient in intellectual curiosity.
Are you new to America?
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:01 PM (#5684900)
I'm still not sure what the "opener" is trying to achieve. Unless you have the weird situation with the Angels where their first four hitters are all RH, I'm not sure what you gain.
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:07 PM (#5684904)
I'm still not sure what the "opener" is trying to achieve. Unless you have the weird situation with the Angels where their first four hitters are all RH, I'm not sure what you gain.


And that's not a requirement. If the Rays want to start a righthanded reliever, the Angels don't have to put four righthanders at the top of the lineup.

I'm with the certain quarters ?? mentioned above. I don't understand why the Rays are doing it, but I'm certainly open to hearing the reasons. None of the explanations I've read so far have swayed me to its wisdom.
   7. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:36 PM (#5684921)
I'm still not sure what the "opener" is trying to achieve. Unless you have the weird situation with the Angels where their first four hitters are all RH, I'm not sure what you gain.
Seriously? In the absence of a young and/or cromulent starter, the Rays have an above-average reliever face the other team's best hitters.

Meanwhile, Eric Byrnes noted the other day how the use of the opener affects the lineup of the other team. It means those batters are considerably less likely to face the starter the third time through the lineup.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:41 PM (#5684927)
Seriously? In the absence of a young and/or cromulent starter, the Rays have an above-average reliever face the other team's best hitters.

But all you're doing is have the above average reliever (and we can debate if Romo is above average) face those hitters in the first instead of later in the game.

They're not shifting innings to the pen. They're just having the starter pitch 2-6 or 7, instead of 1-5 or 6.

And, if you use a very good RP, you're using him in a lower leverage situation. If you don't gain anything in total effectiveness, you're losing value by committing one of your better relievers before you see how the game will evolve.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:42 PM (#5684928)
Seriously? In the absence of a young and/or cromulent starter, the Rays have an above-average reliever face the other team's best hitters.


No, they've had Sergio Romo face the other team's best hitters, who have responded by scoring four runs over 4.2 innings against him. That's because Sergio Romo, even given the most favorable of circumstances (rarely throwing more than one inning at a time), is still a shitty pitcher. And, shockingly, forcing him to face the other team's best hitters doesn't suddenly make him good.
   10. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:46 PM (#5684931)
But all you're doing is have the above average reliever (and we can debate if Romo is above average) face those hitters in the first instead of later in the game.
It's the only inning in the game when a manager gets to determine exactly who gets to bat. And now that most no. 2 hitters are no longer light-hitting middle infielders, we're generally talking about facing the three or four best hitters on the club.
No, they've had Sergio Romo face the other team's best hitters, who have responded by scoring four runs over 4.2 innings against him. That's because Sergio Romo, even given the most favorable of circumstances (rarely throwing more than one inning at a time), is still a shitty pitcher. Forcing him to face the other team's best hitters doesn't suddenly make him good.
That's an argument against deploying Romo in the first inning, not using an opener.
   11. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:49 PM (#5684934)
And, if you use a very good RP, you're using him in a lower leverage situation. If you don't gain anything in total effectiveness, you're losing value by committing one of your better relievers before you see how the game will evolve.
MLBN recently showed a graphic showing that more runs are scored in the first inning than any other, suggesting that the first inning is pretty damn important.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:51 PM (#5684936)
That's an argument against deploying Romo in the first inning, not using an opener.


If you deploy a shitty reliever in the slot, like Sergio Romo, then you're exposing a crappy pitcher to the heart of the lineup, and you're going to get Romo-like results.

If you deploy one of your best relievers this way, then you're going to end up using up a lot of the 60 innings your best reliever is going to give you in blowouts.

I don't think this is some kind of catastrophe. I think it's pointless. You'll gain some things here, which you'll offset by losing things elsewhere. Ultimately, since it's merely a redistribution of usage rather than a change in usage, it will be a wash. It sure as hell isn't some revolutionary way to manage a baseball game.
   13. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:54 PM (#5684942)
Manny Randhawa:
N. Arenado on #TheOpener :
"It would definitely make it harder" on hitters to have to face relievers in the first inning if the concept spreads. Wonders how workload would be managed and whether guys would be tired in Aug/Sept ..
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:54 PM (#5684943)
If you deploy a shitty reliever in the slot, like Sergio Romo, then you're exposing a crappy pitcher to the heart of the lineup, and you're going to get Romo-like results.

If you deploy one of your best relievers this way, then you're going to end up using up a lot of the 60 innings your best reliever is going to give you in blowouts.


Exactly. The best relievers have a leverage index of 1.5. Turning that into 1.0 by starting them reduced their value. If you're not gaining anywhere on individual pitcher performance, you're destroying value.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:55 PM (#5684944)
MLBN recently showed a graphic showing that more runs are scored in the first inning than any other, suggesting that the first inning is pretty damn important.

But that's often because the starter is struggling with settling in on the mound and finding his mechanics. That's still going to happen in the 2nd.
   16. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:58 PM (#5684947)
If you deploy one of your best relievers this way, then you're going to end up using up a lot of the 60 innings your best reliever is going to give you in blowouts.
How many wins by blowouts are there per season on average? And remember: the Rays aren't using the opener all the time. For example, Archer and Snell face batters in the first inning.

As for losses by blowouts, the use of an above-average reliever reduces the likelihood that such an occurrence happens in the first place.
   17. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 02:59 PM (#5684948)
But that's often because the starter is struggling with settling in on the mound and finding his mechanics. That's still going to happen in the 2nd.
Except he'll face inferior batters. And if the above-average reliever is permitted to face one or more batters in the second inning, then the advantage will be even more pronounced.
   18. AuntBea calls himself Sky Panther Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:00 PM (#5684949)

If you deploy a shitty reliever in the slot, like Sergio Romo, then you're exposing a crappy pitcher to the heart of the lineup, and you're going to get Romo-like results.

If you deploy one of your best relievers this way, then you're going to end up using up a lot of the 60 innings your best reliever is going to give you in blowouts.

I don't think this is some kind of catastrophe. I think it's pointless. You'll gain some things here, which you'll offset by losing things elsewhere. Ultimately, since it's merely a redistribution of usage rather than a change in usage, it will be a wash.
Right. there are counterbalancing factors. Before we can definitively declare it a bad (or good) strategy, shouldn't somebody run some actual numbers? (No, I'm not volunteering.) Maybe it's at least justified with certain types of relievers or bullpen, or certain opposing line-ups.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:02 PM (#5684950)
As for losses by blowouts, the use of an above-average reliever reduces the likelihood that it happens.

No it doesn't. They're still asking mediocre starters to go 5+ innings. If they suck, you're getting blown out regardless of who pitches the first.

How many wins by blowouts are there per season? And remember: the Rays aren't using the opener all the time. For example, Archer and Snell face batters in the first inning.

The Yankees have 16 wins or losses by 5 or more runs so far out of 54 games.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:04 PM (#5684951)
Except he'll face inferior batters. And if the above-average reliever is permitted to face one or more batters in the second inning, then the advantage will be even more pronounced.

The starter will face inferior batters, but the reliever will face superior batters. Unless you get a platoon advantage of some sort, you're just lowering your SP's RA, and raising your RP's RA.

As Sosh already pointed out, Romo is pitching to an ERA close to 9.00.
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:05 PM (#5684952)
How many wins by blowouts are there per season on average?


Eyeballing the Rays, it looks like around 40 (as defined by BBRef as 5+plus* runs). But you'd also be using him in a lot of games in the 3-4 run range that you might otherwise not.

As for losses by blowouts, the use of an above-average reliever reduces the likelihood that such an occurrence happens in the first place.


Sure. Microscopically.


* Not sure if that's 5 and over or over 5.

   22. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:13 PM (#5684958)
No it doesn't. They're still asking mediocre starters to go 5+ innings. If they suck, you're getting blown out regardless of who pitches the first.
You just got through telling us that many starters have hiccups upon taking the mound so it matters that a Nervous Nellie's appearance will begin facing lesser batters.
As Sosh already pointed out, Romo is pitching to an ERA close to 9.00.
Again, that's the argument against Romo. It's not an argument against using a reliever.
   23. BDC Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:14 PM (#5684960)
As people have noted, judging a tactic by the talent of the players currently executing it is problematic. If John Stockton had been setting picks while Karl Malone handled the ball, you might have concluded that the pick-and-roll was the dumbest play on earth :)
   24. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:15 PM (#5684962)
The starter will face inferior batters, but the reliever will face superior batters. Unless you get a platoon advantage of some sort, you're just lowering your SP's RA, and raising your RP's RA.
And again, the Rays aren't deploying the opener every game. Of course Cash is looking at a bunch of factors, including both his rotation's strengths and weakness and the players in the other team's lineup.
   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:16 PM (#5684963)
You just got through telling us that many starters have hiccups upon taking the mound so it matters that his appearance will begin facing lesser batters.

It matters for his own effectiveness, not the team's overall run prevention effectiveness. The reliever who used to face those lesser batters now have to face the better ones.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:17 PM (#5684965)
You just got through telling us that many starters have hiccups upon taking the mound so it matters that his appearance will begin facing lesser batters.


And his ERA should go down.

Of course, the guy who's stuck facing only good hitters will see his ERA go up.

Any argument you make for it will have a counter-argument. It's unavoidable because this is merely redistributing the workload.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:21 PM (#5684968)
Any argument you make for it will have a counter-argument. It's unavoidable because this is merely redistributing the workload.

Exactly. You have to be able to get some absolute effectiveness gain somewhere to make this work.

For example, if you told me know that your best set up men could give you 100 IP a year, instead of 60-70, (2 IP every third day) because they were on a regular schedule, and pitch to the same effectiveness, that would be an argument for the opener
   28. bookbook Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:44 PM (#5684978)
The team that takes the lead first wins a high percentage of the time. And the offensive line up is (theoretically best set up to score runs in the first inning. Are we sure the leverage index is only 1.0 in the first?
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:46 PM (#5684979)
The team that takes the lead first wins a high percentage of the time.
Well, that's just because they have one more run. The first-in-time nature of that run doesn't have anything to do with winning above and beyond the existence of the run itself, I would imagine.
   30. SoSH U at work Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5684980)
The team that takes the lead first wins a high percentage of the time.


Sure, you're spotting them 1 run against their opponent. I'm sure the team that scores the game's second run also wins a high percentage of the time.
   31. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 03:51 PM (#5684984)
Of course, the guy who's stuck facing only good hitters will see his ERA go up.
I'd rather have a talented reliever pitch against the top three batters in the other team's lineup and more likely not fall behind early than have a mediocre and/or nervous starter do it. Obviously, YMMV.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:02 PM (#5684993)
I'd rather have a talented reliever pitch against the top three batters in the other team's lineup and more likely not fall behind early than have a mediocre and/or nervous starter do it. Obviously, YMMV.

But, that's not your choice. Your choice is to use the good reliever in the first and get that advantage, and then not have him available in the 7th-9th when you have a lead to protect. To gain that first inning advantage, you're now forced to use a lesser reliever in 60-70 high leverage innings.
   33. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:11 PM (#5685003)
But, that's not your choice. Your choice is to use the good reliever in the first and get that advantage, and then not have him available in the 7th-9th when you have a lead to protect. To gain that first inning advantage, you're now forced to use a lesser reliever in 60-70 high leverage innings.
How so? Let's say the reliever chosen usually pitches the 7th inning but on same days is asked to pitch the 1st. All that means is that the starter, who is usually asked to go six innings, will pitch the seventh -- and of course, we don't know who will be due up that inning. In contrast, we *do know ahead of time* who's up in the first inning.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:19 PM (#5685012)
Your choice is to use the good reliever in the first and get that advantage, and then not have him available in the 7th-9th when you have a lead to protect. To gain that first inning advantage, you're now forced to use a lesser reliever in 60-70 high leverage innings.


Or, alternatively, it's no longer a close game and will be no Leverage Index situation of 1.00 available.
   35. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:21 PM (#5685015)
How so? Let's say the reliever chosen usually pitches the 7th inning but on same days is asked to pitch the 1st. All that means is that the starter, who is usually asked to go six innings, will pitch the seventh -- and of course, we don't know who will be due up that inning. In contrast, we *do know ahead of time* who's up in the first inning.

Because you're not allowing yourself to choose when you use your good RP. In your scenario, a lot of the time that 7th inning is going to low leverage, because you're being blown out or blowing out the other team. So, say half the time, you've effectively used your RP to pitch a low leverage 7th.

With the traditional usage, your best 3 RPs almost always pitch in high leverage innings. Now that reliever is only doing it half the time, by proxy.
   36. PreservedFish Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:21 PM (#5685016)
Also, is leverage index measuring something real, or is it just a fun stat? The top of the first is rated at a LI of 0.9. Top of the 7th, tie game, is 1.5. Does that stand scrutiny? Or is it like saying that games in August "count more" than games in September?
   37. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:25 PM (#5685020)
Or, alternatively, it's no longer a close game and will be no Leverage Index situation of 1.00 available.

Then you don't use your good RPs, and save your bullets for another day.

Also, is leverage index measuring something real, or is it just a fun stat? The top of the first is rated at a LI of 0.9. Top of the 7th is 1.5. Does that stand scrutiny?

I wouldn't count on it being precise, but I think the broad concept holds up. Knowing the game state helps inform your decisions. A tie game in the 7th is much more likely to end as a close game than a tie game in the top of the first.
   38. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:29 PM (#5685022)
In your scenario, a lot of the time that 7th inning is going to low leverage, because you're being blown out or blowing out the other team.
To add to what PF said, leverage index doesn't take into account what batters are due up so that's not the strongest argument in your favor.
   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:32 PM (#5685029)
To add to what PF said, leverage index doesn't take into account what batters are due up so that's not the strongest argument in your favor.

It doesn't matter what batters are due. If the game is 7-2 one way or the other, the situation is very low leverage.
   40. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:35 PM (#5685033)
It doesn't matter what batters are due. If the game is 7-2 one way or the other, the situation is very low leverage.
My point is that a manager is less concerned at who he's got pitching in a tie game in the 7th inning if the 6, 7, and 8 or 7, 8, and 9 batters are due up than the top of the order.
   41. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:40 PM (#5685039)
My point is that a manager is less concerned at who he's got pitching in a tie game in the 7th inning if the 6, 7, and 8 or 7, 8, and 9 batters are due up than the top of the order.

But there's no way to know that before the game is played. That's the whole point of leveraging your best relievers. You can choose when to use them, against which batters, depending on game state.

By starting the reliever, you let the other team choose who gets to face him. If a team knows that Romo is opening, they should stack LHB at the top of the lineup.
   42. Stormy JE Posted: June 03, 2018 at 04:45 PM (#5685044)
ut there's no way to know that before the game is played. That's the whole point of leveraging your best relievers. You can choose when to use them, against which batters, depending on game state.

By starting the reliever, you let the other team choose who gets to face him. If a team knows that Romo is opening, they should stack LHB at the top of the lineup.
So why didn't the Halos do that? I'm pretty sure the answer is that the lineup cards are filed simultaneously.
   43. cardsfanboy Posted: June 03, 2018 at 05:02 PM (#5685049)
So why didn't the Halos do that? I'm pretty sure the answer is that the lineup cards are filed simultaneously.


Mostly because it's always going to make sense to ensure your best bats, regardless of hands, get as many pa as possible in a game/season.
Lineup cards are not filed simultaneously, teams have to announce the starting pitcher well before the filing of lineup cards. (Well technically lineup cards are filed simultaneously, but a team has to announce the starting pitcher well before the filing of a lineup card, and if it's a late scratch, that announcement will also happen before filing the actual lineup cards(which doesn't happen until just before warm-ups for the first pitch).

I'm a fan of this, but yes I can see why it's hard to grasp it, but it makes sense to me. You are putting a reliever in a role where he is facing a tough lineup, average leverage to start the game, simply to make the third time through the lineup for the starting pitcher later in the game happen 1 inning later. And for the advantage of third time through the lineup to be against lesser hitters for the starting pitcher instead of the best of their lineup. Both of those work for me.
   44. PreservedFish Posted: June 03, 2018 at 05:07 PM (#5685050)
So why didn't the Halos do that? I'm pretty sure the answer is that the lineup cards are filed simultaneously.


No, I think it's stubbornness.
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 06:08 PM (#5685067)
Mostly because it's always going to make sense to ensure your best bats, regardless of hands, get as many pa as possible in a game/season.

Not really, no. If the other team is going to throw someone like Romo with a huge split (career 3.94 FIP vs LHP, 2.49 vs RHB) you stack lefties against him. Just like you would PH lefties in the late innings.

   46. cardsfanboy Posted: June 03, 2018 at 06:22 PM (#5685070)

Not really, no. If the other team is going to throw someone like Romo with a huge split (career 3.94 FIP vs LHP, 2.49 vs RHB) you stack lefties against him. Just like you would PH lefties in the late innings.


Maybe, we'll see how the thinking evolves if this becomes a thing.

I'm a fan of this for your 4th and/or fifth starters, guys who are possibly actually inferior pitchers to your third best reliever. Ultimately stacking the lineup against him, means that you are stacking the lineup in favor of the starter who is the opposite hand later on in the game. I don't see the advantage of changing your lineup for this.

   47. Ziggy's screen name Posted: June 03, 2018 at 06:34 PM (#5685072)
If PF is right, and you need to announce your starter well ahead of time, you can still have your starter be a surprise. Announce that a starter who is on his throw day is the starter, have him throw one pitch, and then bring in the pitcher you really want starting. He can finish his throw session in the pen (or he could have done the whole thing already - except for this one pitch).

But Aunt Bea's got it right. Someone run a simulation and see what happens. That'll be the best we can do until people have tried this for a while. Anyway, I love it, even if it doesn't end up working. It's interesting and fun and weird. Checks all the boxes (expect for the one about actually working, we'll see about that one).
   48. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 06:36 PM (#5685073)
Ultimately stacking the lineup against him, means that you are stacking the lineup in favor of the starter who is the opposite hand later on in the game. I don't see the advantage of changing your lineup for this.

I'm not saying start scrubs. But say you're the Yankees facing the Rays who are starting a lefty (the opposite of Romo). They might normally go with Hicks, Judge, Bird, Stanton, Sanchez, Gregorius, Torres, Andujar, Gardner vs. a Lefty starter. But that lets Romo face righties in 3 of 4 of the first batters, and forces Gregorius and Gardner to face a lefty the first time through.

Instead, I'd go Gardner, Judge, Gregorius, Bird, Stanton, Sanchez, Hicks, Torres, Andujar. Now Romo faces 2 or 3 lefties, and the lefty starter gets righties 5 of the first 6 batters he faces.

With my lineup, I'm putting my hitters in a better place to succeed.
   49. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 06:37 PM (#5685076)
If PF is right, and you need to announce your starter well ahead of time, you can still have your starter be a surprise. Announce that a starter who is on his throw day is the starter, have him throw one pitch, and then bring in the pitcher you really want starting. He can finish his throw session in the pen (or he could have done the whole thing already - except for this one pitch).

That is definitely against the unwritten rules of baseball. If a team tried that gimmick, it would soon be part of the written rules.
   50. cardsfanboy Posted: June 03, 2018 at 06:44 PM (#5685078)

That is definitely against the unwritten rules of baseball. If a team tried that gimmick, it would soon be part of the written rules.


agreed, you have to announce the starters ahead of presentation of the lineup. And if teams try to circumvent that, there will quickly be retribution. Heck even the Rays aren't lying, they are letting the opposing team know that Romo is getting the one inning start, and even who is pitching the second inning(I don't think they are actually saying that, but they aren't hiding their rotation system either)


I'm not saying start scrubs. But say you're the Yankees facing the Rays who are starting a lefty (the opposite of Romo). They might normally go with Hicks, Judge, Bird, Stanton, Sanchez, Gregorius, Torres, Andujar, Gardner vs. a Lefty starter. But that lets Romo face righties in 3 of 4 of the first batters, and forces Gregorius and Gardner to face a lefty the first time through.

Instead, I'd go Gardner, Judge, Gregorius, Bird, Stanton, Sanchez, Hicks, Torres, Andujar. No Romo faces 2 or 3 lefties, and the lefty starter gets righties 5 of the first 6 batters he faces.

With my lineup, I'm putting my hitters in a better place to succeed.


And that is part of the matchup options that teams will start to explore if this becomes a thing. I'm thinking that the manager trying to make this decision is thinking what lineup options his reliever/starter can potentially face and factor that in the decision making process.
   51. Walt Davis Posted: June 03, 2018 at 06:57 PM (#5685082)
It's fair to say that you shouldn't judge the strategy by the personnel used to execute it ... except that here we pretty much need to.

First, the Rays are deploying this for their 4th/5th starter slot. The strategy begins with the assumption this is a below-average starter.

Second, you probably aren't going to use one of your top 3 relievers in this role. Probably at best this is whichever of your 4-6 relievers is rested and of the correct handedness. If you do use one of your best 3 relievers (3 best available on that day) then you are clearly running the risk it will be a high leverage game later and you won't have that guy available and we have to correct for that absence.

The argument I see for it is the 3rd time through. For a 5th starter, he's usually not going deeper than maybe 22 batters faced. So that's facing the top 4 a 3rd time, then using that 4-6 reliever to face the 5th-8th guys in the lineup. It seems reasonable to use that already pretty low-leveraged reliever in the first so that your "tiring" starter faces batters 5-8 three times instead. It's also reasonable to think this won't matter a lot -- as noted, your reliever's RA goes up, your starter's goes down but maybe you save yourself .1 runs every 5th start or 2-3 runs over the season.

Another way to think of it is that you know they're itching to get that 5th starter out of there before a 3rd time through and use a reliever to face that top of the lineup in the 5th inning. But they also realize that limiting 5th starters to (usually) 4 or a bit more innings per start would put further burden on a pen already stretched to its (modern) limits. This way you get to use the reliever that you would prefer to face 1-4, except in the first not the 5th.

It does seem to boil down to the two scenarios:

Pitcher A faces the top 3 times and the bottom twice while Pitcher B faces the bottom once.

Pitcher B faces the top once and Pitcher B faces the top twice and the bottom 3 times.

The issue is that Pitcher B's leverage goes down but, assuming he's your 4-6 reliever, it probably wasn't that high anyway. He's gonna pitch in some blowouts but guys like that often do pitch in blowouts anyway. For a "standard" 4-6 reliever, their only leveraged use is the occasional "high" leverage 6th, being a ROOGY/LOOGY in innings 7-8, and fill in for relievers 2-3 when they're tired. The latter one suggests that if your top relievers are tired, this is not a good day to start reliever 4-6.

As a reminder, the reliever "bonus" basically only applies to relievers 1-5 (i.e. they're the ones who are substantially better over 1 inning than a starter). Relief slots 6-8 tend to be below replacement level. In Cub terms, you probably do no want to use an Eddie Butler or Luke Farrell as your starting reliever. If Justin Wilson could be relied on not to walk the ballpark, he might make sense against a LHB-heavy lineup.

Or a time this might have made sense was the 2016 World Series when the Indians were down to Kluber and two guys you didn't want starting World Series games but had a deep, effective pen. Would it have helped the Indians?

The Cubs did score 4 in the first off of Bauer/Tomlin but 3 of those were in game 6 off Tomlin who gave up another 3 in the 3rd on the way to a 9-3 Cubs win -- in short, it probably didn't matter what innings Tomlin tried to pitch that day.

G2: Bauer does give up runs to the top of the lineup in the 1st and 3rd. In the 4th, facing the bottom of the lineup for the 2nd time, he gives up a walk, DP and single and is then pulled for Zach McAllister with the top coming up for the third time and McAllister finishes the 4th. But McAllister proceeds to start the 5th with K, BB, triple gets yanked on the way to the Cubs putting up 3 in the 5th. It seems unlikely the Indians would have been better off starting McAllister (or Bryan Shaw who ineffectively relieved McAllister for batters 5-9).

G3: Indians won 1-0 so obviously they couldn't have done any better with different pitching usage. Tomlin gave up just 2 singles and a walk through 4.2, being yanked for Miller (vs. Montero!) with a runner on second and two outs.

G5: Bauer cruised through the first 3, got into big trouble in the 4th, facing the lineup the 2nd time. Possibly if somebody else had pitched a good 1st then Bauer cruised through innings 2 and 3 before facing the top of the lineup for the first time in the 4th things would have gone better. But in that inning he gave up singles to Russell (5th) and Baez (7th) and a sac fly to Ross. Still maybe that works out better but we're now talking about not letting him face the top of the order twice.

G6: Discussed above.

Now of course that's the World Series where if your best chance of winning a game is restricting Buaer to three innings then you do it. So maybe the strategy would have helped in G5 which could have won the Series for the Indians. But when we pull that back to the regular season, there's no way you can afford to regularly use your 5th starter for just three innings only to keep yourself in for a game or two. As I guesstimate above, I doubt this strategy can gain you more than 2-3 runs a season -- obviously something you do if there's little/no risk but not something that really matters.
   52. PreservedFish Posted: June 03, 2018 at 07:33 PM (#5685089)
That is definitely against the unwritten rules of baseball.


It is, and my first thought was that this is a good unwritten rule. But then I think about the NFL, where a team can debut a totally novel strategy in the game without any hint beforehand, and I wonder whether or not the gamesmanship that could result from this might be fun.
   53. Walt Davis Posted: June 03, 2018 at 10:49 PM (#5685235)
I'm a fan of this for your 4th and/or fifth starters, guys who are possibly actually inferior pitchers to your third best reliever.

To clarify (and repeat from #51 cuz I didn't see this post yet) ... teams would not be using their 3rd best reliever for this. Your 3rd best reliever is your 7th inning guy with a lead or your 8th inning guy in a tie/close game or when your #2 guy needs the day off. Teams aren't expecting their #4-5 starters to go 6 full innings anymore, those guys are nearly always capped around 21-22 batters which generally means leaving sometime in the 6th at the latest. (Given these guys are #4-5 starters because they have WHIPs around 1.4-1.5, teams are pretty happy with 5 innings). So it's your 6th-inning guy who would start ... unless you're actually willing to use your #3 guy in the first and, if all goes well, put your 7th-inning lead in the hands of your #4 reliever.

It's probably more realistic that teams reserve their top 4 relievers for innings 7-9 with 3 RHP and 1 LHP (usually) -- I'm calling these "leveraged" relievers mostly. So even if all of those guys are rested, it's probably still the #5 reliever who would start. If one of those top 4 guys has pitched the previous two days, you're probably gonna hold back #5 and start #6.

The Cubs pen was theoretically set up for this sort of thing with lots of veteran relievers and solid depth. Morrow, Edwards and Strop were probably #1-#3; Wilson was probably the intended leveraged LHP but we seem to have settled back on Duensing. Montgomery could go multi-innings and was 6th starter, Cishek is the ROOGy and generally a 6th inning guy with a lead or other tough spot and Butler was the garbage guy.

So depending on opposing lineup, we could have started Cishek or Wilson. Possibly Monty but we wouldn't necessarily want to limit him to a single inning. Of course now, Monty is in the rotation, Butler is on the DL, Edwards is on the DL and our #6-8 relievers are Rosario (pitching great), Farrell (a great game yesterday) and Mazzoni (no idea). Cishek/Duensing are now #3-4 relievers and my guess is Joe would hold back Wilson. That would leave the starts to Rosario (LHP) and Farrell (RHP) which might be just fine but they did start the year at AAA and Farrell is our multi-inning garbage/extras guy.

But then since Chatwood is gonna walk two guys an inning regardless, I suppose I'd prefer he used more of those walks on the opponent's best hitters. :-)
   54. Bote Man the walk-off king Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:35 AM (#5685288)
It's important to keep in mind the reasons that spurred the Rays to try this. It's not something for every team, it's stuffing bubble gum in the interstices between the planks to keep the ship from sinking further with a drastically depleted pitching staff.

This is the Kobayashi Maru test for baseball managers.
   55. Mudpout Posted: June 04, 2018 at 02:21 AM (#5685289)
One tradeoff of stacking LH or RH hitters in a way that differs from your normal lineup as a response to this is that you've made it that much easier to turn a LOOGY into a LTOGY later in the game. And it would make sense then to use an "opener" with a relatively low or neutral LH/RH split to try to counter stacking the top of the lineup.

Also, if the hitting team moves a lesser hitter up in the order they gain the platoon advantage in the 1st but sacrifice plate appearances for the guy moved down in the lineup in the 9th on average. I won't try off the top of my head to tell you which offers more value, but I could see lineup stacking as a counter breaking even in the long run.
   56. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 05:53 AM (#5685298)

Also, is leverage index measuring something real, or is it just a fun stat? The top of the first is rated at a LI of 0.9. Top of the 7th, tie game, is 1.5. Does that stand scrutiny? Or is it like saying that games in August "count more" than games in September?
It's a garbage stat. It measures knowledge rather than importance. Every inning within a particular game has the same leverage. You just don't know what that leverage is until after the game is over. To be clear, every situation doesn't; if a pitcher comes into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out, that's different than coming in with the bases empty and two out. What LI mistakenly tells you, though, is that the 8th inning of a one-run game is more important than the 2nd inning of that same one-run game, which is wrong.
   57. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 06:08 AM (#5685299)
If PF is right, and you need to announce your starter well ahead of time, you can still have your starter be a surprise. Announce that a starter who is on his throw day is the starter, have him throw one pitch, and then bring in the pitcher you really want starting. He can finish his throw session in the pen (or he could have done the whole thing already - except for this one pitch).

That is definitely against the unwritten rules of baseball. If a team tried that gimmick, it would soon be part of the written rules.
Well, as described, it's actually against the written rules. Pitchers have to complete at least one plate appearance (barring injury), remember? So the announced starter can't throw one pitch and then leave (unless of course the leadoff batter gets a hit or out on that pitch.) Besides, who is going to be fooled by announcing that the pitcher on his throw day is the starter? (Maybe once -- but after that?)
   58. BDC Posted: June 04, 2018 at 08:46 AM (#5685322)
Walt makes good points about bullpen construction, but the success of an “opener” still seems to me to come down to whether your 5th-best reliever is better than Sergio Romo.
   59. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 09:15 AM (#5685335)
It's a garbage stat. It measures knowledge rather than importance.

That means it's not garbage. The additional knowledge gained as the game goes on is important to making correct moves. Knowing that you're not going to be using your best RPs in a blow-out has value.
   60. SoSH U at work Posted: June 04, 2018 at 09:49 AM (#5685363)
It's a garbage stat. It measures knowledge rather than importance.


In this case, knowledge is what's important. Relievers are leveraged based on knowledge. The Red Sox don't use Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning of a 14-1 game, because that's a waste of the limited number of innings he's capable of throwing at his rate of effectiveness.

One problem with using one of your top three relievers in the first is that we don't know how the game will unfold. So while it's true the first inning of a one-run game is as important as the eighth-inning of a one-run game, it's only with the latter that we know we're going to have a one-run game.* And this inability to optimally leverage your short-stint assets means the that this tactic is even less useful than the 2-3 runs PER SEASON Walt estimated it would save. And why, as I said earlier, it's pretty much pointless.

* Or, to be precise, we're much more likely to finish with a one-run game.
   61. PreservedFish Posted: June 04, 2018 at 09:55 AM (#5685371)
And this inability to optimally leverage your short-stint assets means the that this tactic is even less useful than the 2-3 runs PER SEASON Walt estimated it would save. And why, as I said earlier, it's pretty much pointless.


But we love arguing about 2-3 runs per season! There are so many strategies that will only result in 2-3 runs per season. You give me three or four novel strategies that each gain 2-3 runs per season, and I might be the best manager in baseball history.
   62. Stormy JE Posted: June 04, 2018 at 09:59 AM (#5685382)
One problem with using one of your top three relievers in the first is that we don't know how the game will unfold.
Applying this kind of logic, the Astros should consider not pitching Verlander, the club's scheduled starter, if their offense scores four or more runs in the top of the first inning. Otherwise, they will have wasted him.
   63. SoSH U at work Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:00 AM (#5685386)
But we love arguing about 2-3 runs per season! There are so many strategies that will only result in 2-3 runs per season. You give me three or four novel strategies that each gain 2-3 runs per season, and I might be the best manager in baseball history.


Sure, provided you were already a Hall of Fame caliber manager to begin with.
   64. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:01 AM (#5685388)
Theoretically using a good reliever in the first helps shapes how the game will unfold. Theoretically good relievers should be a more known value in their first inning as one theoretically would not employ them if they are not good to go whereas managers seem to trot out their starters regardless of whether or not they are good to go because managers tend to think they have no other option. Now this could be an argument for managers handling starters just like relievers in that if they are not good to go they don't use them but until that day it should be possible to use a good reliever in the first to reduce the odds of scoring runs in the first.

Scoring 10 runs has little value if you give up 12 runs. A blowout only looks like a blowout if your pitchers prevent enough runs to make it a blowout or vice versa.

Theoretically you might even get an extra inning or two out of your "starter" since he would only have to face the best hitters twice if he's pitching well instead of three times with the third time being at his most used point in his usage. If the reliever does his job the starter comes in in the second to face 4, 5, 6. 7, 8, 9 in the third. Finally in the 4th he sees the top of the lineup and if he's cruising he doesn't see them for a second time until the 7th. So instead of seeing for the third time in his 7th inning of work he would be seeing them for a second time in his 6th inning of work. In terms of results I got to think that Tango's number would show that a pitcher gets better results facing a batter a second time in his 6th inning of work rather than 3rd time facing in his 7th inning of work.
   65. PreservedFish Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:02 AM (#5685390)
Applying this kind of logic, the Astros should consider not pitching Verlander, the club's scheduled starter, if their offense scores four or more runs in the top of the first inning. Otherwise, they will have wasted him.


Tough to disagree with! Sounds like an excellent video game strategy.
   66. SoSH U at work Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:02 AM (#5685391)
Applying this logic, the Astros should consider not pitching Verlander if their offense scores four or more runs in the top of the first inning. Otherwise, they will have wasted him.


Well, they can't do that for a number of reasons (he has to pitch to at least one batter, he's already warmed up, you don't really have anyone else ready). And, of course, a 4-run lead in the first isn't quite as secure as a four-run lead in the eighth.

Still, if it was a reasonable option, then that probably go a lot further to extracting extra wins than what this little bit of reshuffling could ever get you.

   67. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:57 AM (#5685478)
My favorite Dave Johnson move was having Jesse Orosco(L) and Roger McDowell (R) play the outfield one game. He was short players and switched the pitcher depending on whether it was a lefty or righty batter. Put the pitcher in left against the lefties and right and against the right handers.
   68. Stormy JE Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:07 AM (#5685489)
My favorite Dave Johnson move was having Jesse Orosco(L) and Roger McDowell (R) play the outfield one game. He was short players and switched the pitcher depending on whether it was a lefty or righty batter. Put the pitcher in left against the lefties and right and against the right handers.
That's why it's beyond hysterical to hear Davey bellow to Kenny in bad-mouthing the opener that mental preparation is everything and relievers must, by gum, know their assigned roles!
   69. PreservedFish Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:09 AM (#5685491)
Are there any exercises one can engage in to prevent the brain from becoming grumpily calcified?
   70. Ziggy's screen name Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:30 AM (#5685515)
#57: You're not trying to fool them into thinking that the throw-day starter is actually you're starter, you're using him to cover up your opener, so they won't know if your opener is going to be RH or LH. But yeah, the whole "completing a PA" thing would get in the way.

But I'm starting to think that shenanigans are unnecessary. Looking over the rules, I don't see a requirement that you announce your starting pitcher in advance, only that his name appear on the line-up card. Here are the rules that concern the beginning of the game.

So you could just have a lefty and a righty opener getting ready, make a guess about the line-up the other team is likely to use, and put the name of the appropriate opener on your line-up card.
   71. AuntBea calls himself Sky Panther Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:51 AM (#5685538)
Well, they can't do that for a number of reasons (he has to pitch to at least one batter, he's already warmed up, you don't really have anyone else ready).
This, and it's generally considered bad player management to sit a guy after he's loaded up on his greenies.
   72. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:53 AM (#5685543)
Baseball would create a new rule pretty darn fast if teams started playing shenanigans with their lineups and announcing of starters. It would probably last 2 games at most before they came down and create an easy fix to the glitch.
   73. SoSH U at work Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:59 AM (#5685555)

Baseball would create a new rule pretty darn fast if teams started playing shenanigans with their lineups and announcing of starters. It would probably last 2 games at most before they came down and create an easy fix to the glitch.


I agree. If there's nothing that specifies that a starting pitcher must be named before the opponent announces its batting order, there would be fairly soon after some team started doing what Ziggy suggested.

   74. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 02:18 PM (#5685710)

Baseball would create a new rule pretty darn fast if teams started playing shenanigans with their lineups and announcing of starters. It would probably last 2 games at most before they came down and create an easy fix to the glitch.
There's historical precedent. Earl Weaver used a lot of platoon players. So he named a starting pitcher (who wasn't starting that day) as his DH. That way, just in case the opposing starter was knocked out of the game before the DH came to bat, Earl could put in the appropriate handed DH without burning a position player. He did that for about two weeks, and then they banned it, just on general grounds that baseball doesn't like people outthinking the rules.

(Or they didn't technically ban it, but they made the strategy unusable by requiring the DH to bat unless the starting pitcher was removed.)
   75. dlf Posted: June 04, 2018 at 02:42 PM (#5685724)
There's historical precedent. Earl Weaver used a lot of platoon players. So he named a starting pitcher (who wasn't starting that day) as his DH.


He also would sometimes start one of his platoon bats like Lowenstein, Ayala, Roenicke, or Crowley at SS in road games and bat him at the top of the order. Then after the one AB and zero time in the field, Belanger would substitute in.

My favorite Dave Johnson move was having Jesse Orosco(L) and Roger McDowell (R) play the outfield one game.


I liked his defensive platoon at SS, starting the defensively limited Kevin Mitchell or Howard Johnson there when fly ball pitcher Sid Fernandez was on the mound and a D-only player like Raphael Santana when a sinker baller like Ojeda started.

Strategies like these simply can't happen with a 14 man pitching staff.
   76. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 04, 2018 at 02:50 PM (#5685728)
Applying this kind of logic, the Astros should consider not pitching Verlander, the club's scheduled starter, if their offense scores four or more runs in the top of the first inning. Otherwise, they will have wasted him.


Tough to disagree with! Sounds like an excellent video game strategy.


No, it's a dumb analogy that's pretty easy to disagree with. Starting pitchers arrange their routines to be ready to throw every fifth day. If Verlander got himself ready to pitch, including going through his full pregame warmup routine, and then was told AFTER THE GAME STARTED that he wasn't going to pitch that day, when would you start him again? The next day? Would he be ready to go again right away after having gotten himself ready the day before? Would he need to be held another five days, to get back on his regular rhythm? Would he appreciate having his routine disrupted at the very last second?
   77. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 04, 2018 at 03:05 PM (#5685733)
Would he be ready to go again right away after having gotten himself ready the day before? Would he need to be held another five days, to get back on his regular rhythm? Would he appreciate having his routine disrupted at the very last second?
I don't think video game pixel guys are particularly concerned with these things, but I might be wrong. I haven't really played video games since Super Nintendo.
   78. PreservedFish Posted: June 04, 2018 at 04:28 PM (#5685807)
Tom, that was the entire point of my "video game" comment, as Elroy understood. If you could do it without all the routine disruption, you'd do it.
   79. Leroy Kincaid Posted: June 04, 2018 at 06:45 PM (#5685865)
No, it's a dumb analogy that's pretty easy to disagree with. Starting pitchers arrange their routines to be ready to throw every fifth day. If Verlander got himself ready to pitch, including going through his full pregame warmup routine, and then was told AFTER THE GAME STARTED that he wasn't going to pitch that day, when would you start him again? The next day? Would he be ready to go again right away after having gotten himself ready the day before? Would he need to be held another five days, to get back on his regular rhythm? Would he appreciate having his routine disrupted at the very last second?


Sounds like a prima donna.
   80. cardsfanboy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 07:07 PM (#5685869)
I like novel strategies and most of the things mentioned in this thread I would support, (Johnson wasn't the only one to put his reliever in the outfield, in one of the few times that Whitey Herzog actually managed to utilize tactics, he did the same thing with Todd Worrell who appeared in 4 games as an outfielder in his career. )
   81. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 07:31 PM (#5685884)
(80) Funny, I'm the exact opposite. I hate managerial strategy having an impact on the outcome. I'd be thrilled if they required a player manager and banned coaches from the field during the game. In the NFL I would force QBs to call the plays, and ban substitutions except before 1st down.
   82. PreservedFish Posted: June 04, 2018 at 08:16 PM (#5685904)
Do you like football? I feel like you're deleting one of the sport's major appeals, that there is an extremely complex and serious strategy battle going on.
   83. cardsfanboy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 08:19 PM (#5685905)
(80) Funny, I'm the exact opposite. I hate managerial strategy having an impact on the outcome. I'd be thrilled if they required a player manager and banned coaches from the field during the game. In the NFL I would force QBs to call the plays, and ban substitutions except before 1st down.


As long as it doesn't affect the pace of play too much, I don't have a problem with managerial strategies... The double switch, pulling the goalie, zone defense, prevent defense etc... all of these things are managerial strategies that change the way the game is played going forward, some I like more than others, but the point is that it makes sense to have tactics within the rules, and within the intent of the rules is fine. Whether this particular strategy is within the intent of the rules though is a debate. (and by intent I mean the spirit of the game to an extent, being within the rules doesn't mean it doesn't violate the spirit... and it's arguable that this particular strategy is violating the spirit of the game....)
   84. Jay Z Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:15 PM (#5686002)
He also would sometimes start one of his platoon bats like Lowenstein, Ayala, Roenicke, or Crowley at SS in road games and bat him at the top of the order. Then after the one AB and zero time in the field, Belanger would substitute in.


From what I have seen, this strategy was confined to September 1975. Royle Stillman, a September rookie call up, started 6 games at shortstop. Each time Belanger replaced him in the field after his at bat, or ran for him if he got on base. Weaver also did the same thing once with Stillman for Paul Blair.

I think it would be a push for me as to whether the strategy is even positive. The problem is that Belanger usually batted 9th in 1975. To use the strategy, Belanger was moved up to the #2 hole. So you're really only moving Belanger back 2 spots in the order, from 9th to 11th. I think the question is Stillman better than the average Baltimore Oriole of 1975, because it's more likely that some player other than Belanger/Stillman is going to lose an AB by moving one spot back in the lineup.

The 1975 Orioles averaged .252/.326/.373. Stillman for his career averaged .213/.305/.329. Stillman actually performed well when given this unique opportunity, going 3-7 (all singles.) But over time, he wouldn't have been good enough. To make this work, you need a player on your bench that is better than your average batter. That's not going to happen most of the time. It might happen for an AL team going to an NL park, where the DH is on the bench. It's going to be rarer otherwise.
   85. Mudpout Posted: June 05, 2018 at 01:58 AM (#5686033)
While Johnson deserves credit for being open to swapping McDowell and Orosco between the mound and the outfield, it's worth pointing out that he did it once with those two, and it was from the 10th to the 14th inning. It shows uncharacteristic flexibility, and in this case it worked as neither allowed a run, but I'm sure Johnson draws a line between tactics like that which come out of spur of the moment needs for unusual situations, and ones like the "opener" which are premeditated.

So as I've seen it put elsewhere, one of the reasons why the 1st is such a high-scoring inning is because it's an inning in which a team's 1-2-3 hitters (so if a manager's smart, his 3 best, and even in old-school, outdated lineup thought usually 3 of the team's best 5 hitters) are up. The obvious reason why this is the case is because it's the one inning in the game where the manager has complete control over who bats in a particular inning.

We might not think of this as being a tactical advantage, but clearly it helps make the 1st a relatively high-scoring inning (the trade-off is that the 2nd is relatively low-scoring). So as I see it, the offensive team is able to take advantage of a situation by choosing who gets to hit in that particular inning, while the defensive team usually just matches them up with whichever starter is going that day. I think this "opener" strategy is at least an attempt to disrupt the tactical advantage the offensive team has, and is worth giving a chance.

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