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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reds - Signed Phillips

Cincinnati Reds - Signed 2B Brandon Phillips to a 4-year, $27 million

I’m thinking of two second basemen.  One of those second basemen is Brandon Phillips.  The other is a mystery player.  Phillips is 27 for the 2008 sason, the mystery player is 28.  Phillips will cost the Reds $27 million for the next 4 years while the mystery player might not make a single year of Phillips’s salary over the new contract.  Phillips and the mystery player are both roughly average defensively at 2nd.  Phillips and the mystery player, when combining translations and major league numbers, you get the following performance by OPS+ for their careers:

Age     BP     M.P.
2000   80     COLLEGE
2001   98     COLLLEGE
2002   44     65
2003   86     78
2004   88     89
2005   64     101
2006   88     85
2007   105     117

Lest it be a question of major vs. minor performance, the Mystery Player has played nearly a full season in the majors and has a 106 OPS+ in the majors, while Phillips, in his best season, managed a 105.  Mystery Player is absolutely free for the Reds to acquire.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention at all, it isn’t hard to figure out that Mystery Player is Jeff Keppinger, also on the Reds.  Brandon Phillips is a good player, with enough power and speed to balance his hacking nature, but the Reds have two good second basemen, which would have made the one with the pretty homer total a tremendous trading chit to fill a hole.  Outside of the signing of Cordero, it has to be a pretty disappointing offseason for the Reds - they failed to sell high on Phillips as they should have and despite the amazing quartet of Bruce/Cueto/Votto/Bailey, they made absolutely no move to either design the roster to force Dusty to play them or to trade them for someone who Dusty will play.  The contract itself isn’t too unreasonable, however, so the loss is mainly opportunity cost.

2008 ZiPS Projection - Brandon Phillips
—————————————————————————————————————————
          AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS+  DR  
—————————————————————————————————————————
Projection   568 87 154 26 2 21 79 39 94 22 .271 .325 .435   94   1
2009?      572 86 154 26 3 22 86 37 93 22 .269 .323 .441   95   1
2010?      578 89 155 26 2 22 87 38 93 19 .268 .323 .434   93   0
2011?      556 84 146 24 2 20 79 37 87 15 .263 .318 .421   87   -1
—————————————————————————————————————————
Opt. (15%)  587 105 176 33 4 27 103 46 87 27 .300 .360 .508   119   4  
Pes. (15%)  525 57 128 21 1 15 65 29 99 15 .240 .286 .370   66   -4
—————————————————————————————————————————
Top Offensive Comps: Tony Cuccinello, Granny Hamner

 

 

Dan Szymborski Posted: February 16, 2008 at 07:57 PM | 131 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 21, 2008 at 03:30 PM (#2696442)
Do you also post under the name Bad News Cubs?
   102. Mark R. Garber Posted: February 21, 2008 at 03:30 PM (#2696443)

Unsure where "hasn't shown he can play every day and hit" is being answered with what is clearly part time duty on his AB totals, but whatever floats your boat Dan.


Jeff Keppinger At-Bats

2007: 481
2006: 510
2005: 255 (injured)
2004: 505

That's full-time duty.
   103. Computers are smart Posted: February 21, 2008 at 03:37 PM (#2696450)
Weeks easily over BP? I am scratching my head a bit on this one. .240 ish career average good for a dozen and 20 SBs? He rarely gets CS ... I'll give Weeks that. Its probably the notion of "but if he stays upright for 600ABs" that makes this a no-brainer for some, but Weeks has yet to establish his dependability.
   104. Computers are smart Posted: February 21, 2008 at 03:39 PM (#2696452)
@102 ... Dan used the phrase "Major League" in his response referring to play time, so only "Major League" AB totals were used in the tiddlywinks calculation.
   105. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 21, 2008 at 03:42 PM (#2696455)
@102 ... Dan used the phrase "Major League" in his response referring to play time, so only "Major League" AB totals were used in the tiddlywinks calculation.

No, I didn't say that those were Keppinger's Major League at-bats, I said those were the at-bats that proved Keppinger could play in the Major Leagues. The determinant factor of whether or not one can play in the Major Leagues is whether a player is a good player or not, not whether he earned some magic Major League Pixie Dust.
   106. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 21, 2008 at 04:05 PM (#2696464)
Weeks over Phillips is an easy choice.

Not at all. Phillips is considerably better with the glove and much more durable. And while it's easy to call '07 a career year for Phillips, Weeks' only real success at the MLB level was for two months of last year. He's a nice player but not an "easy choice" over Phillips.
   107. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 21, 2008 at 04:16 PM (#2696471)
and much more durable

Weeks broke his wrist when he got hit by a pitch. I don't think there's a durability issue on either side.

Weeks is also two years younger than Phillips.

Weeks' only real success at the MLB level was for two months of last year.

He is a second baseman with a career OPS+ of 98. Discounting his 12 AB callup in 2003 he's been successful in every single major league season. If we exclude "seasons" of less than 50 ABs, Phillips's second best season at the plate is worse than all three of Weeks's reasonably full seasons in MLB.
   108. JPWF13 Posted: February 21, 2008 at 04:20 PM (#2696477)
Weeks easily over BP? I am scratching my head a bit on this one.


as a hitter yes, as 106 said, with the glove no.

Weeks has career numbers of .249/.357/.410/98
Phillips is at .262/.306/.419/85

even in Phillips career year of 2007 Weeks had a higher OPS+
Weeks is also 2 years younger

Weeks has some power, is a good baserunner, will take a walk, but he does not hist for good averages
   109. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 21, 2008 at 04:25 PM (#2696483)
as a hitter yes, as 106 said, with the glove no

To be clear, I was talking about hitting (which is the context in which Weeks was brought up). The defense favors Phillips, certainly, but if we're looking at the whole picture I would still much prefer Weeks because he is going to hit well enough to move to an easier defensive position - and I think he's athletic enough to make a reasonable centerfielder should Milwaukee decide to move him.
   110. JPWF13 Posted: February 21, 2008 at 04:28 PM (#2696484)
I've been looking at Phillips' BBREF pages (MLB and minors) and here's guy with career minor league numbers of .274/.332/.418 and career MLB numbers of .262/.306/.419

Keppinger is .309/.367/.439 in the majors and .321/.374/.420 in the minors for his career. Given that they are only 1 year apart in age I doubt any system would project Phillips to have higher rate numbers in 2008 than Phillips.

Phillips is likely the better glove man though.
   111. JPWF13 Posted: February 21, 2008 at 04:35 PM (#2696492)
Ok here's every 30/30 season ranked by OPS+:
Cnt Player   OPSHR  SB Year Age
+----+-----------------+----+--+---+----+---+
 
1 Barry Bonds  205 34  39 1992  27 
 2 Barry Bonds  188 42  40 1996  31 
 3 Hank Aaron   179 44  31 1963  29 
 4 Larry Walker 178 49  33 1997  30 
 5 Willie Mays  174 35  38 1957  26 
 6 Barry Bonds  170 40  37 1997  32 
 7 Barry Bonds  170 33  52 1990  25 
 8 Jose Canseco 170 42  40 1988  23 
 9 Howard Johnson  169 36  41 1989  28 
   10 Jeff Bagwell 168 43  31 1997  29 
   11 Barry Bonds  168 33  31 1995  30 
   12 Ken Williams 165 39  37 1922  32 
   13 Jeff Bagwell 162 42  30 1999  31 
   14 Darryl Strawberry  162 39  36 1987  25 
   15 Vladimir Guerrero  160 39  40 2002  26 
   16 Eric Davis   155 37  50 1987  25 
   17 Barry Larkin 154 33  36 1996  32 
   18 Bobby Bonds  151 32  30 1975  29 
   19 David Wright 150 30  34 2007  24 
   20 Ellis Burks  149 40  32 1996  31 
   21 Dale Murphy  149 36  30 1983  27 
   22 Tommy Harper 146 31  38 1970  29 
   23 Willie Mays  146 36  40 1956  25 
   24 Bobby Abreu  145 30  40 2004  30 
   25 Howard Johnson  145 38  30 1991  30 
+----+-----------------+----+--+---+----+---+
  
Cnt Player   OPSHR  SB Year Age
+----+-----------------+----+--+---+----+---+
   
26 Bobby Bonds  142 39  43 1973  27 
   27 Bobby Abreu  141 31  36 2001  27 
   28 Raul Mondesi 140 30  32 1997  26 
   29 Vladimir Guerrero  139 34  37 2001  25 
   30 Ron Gant  139 32  33 1990  25 
   31 Alex Rodriguez  136 42  46 1998  22 
   32 Bobby Bonds  136 37  41 1977  31 
   33 Alfonso Soriano 135 46  41 2006  30 
   34 Howard Johnson  133 36  32 1987  26 
   35 Bobby Bonds  133 31  43 1978  32 
   36 Carlos Beltran  132 38  42 2004  27 
   37 Bobby Bonds  131 32  45 1969  23 
   38 Alfonso Soriano 129 39  41 2002  26 
   39 Ron Gant  127 32  34 1991  26 
   40 Alfonso Soriano 126 38  35 2003  27 
   41 Sammy Sosa   121 36  34 1995  26 
   42 Jose Cruz 119 34  32 2001  27 
   43 Jimmy Rollins   118 30  41 2007  28 
   44 Shawn Green  116 35  35 1998  25 
   45 Dante Bichette  112 31  31 1996  32 
   46 Sammy Sosa   111 33  36 1993  24 
   47 Alfonso Soriano 109 36  30 2005  29 
   48 Preston Wilson  109 31  36 2000  25 
   49 Raul Mondesi 108 33  36 1999  28 
   50 Brandon Phillips   105 30  32 2007  26 
+----+-----------------+----+--+---+----+---+
  
Cnt Player   OPSHR  SB Year Age
+----+-----------------+----+--+---+----+---+
   
51 Joe Carter   104 32  31 1987  27 
   112. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 21, 2008 at 04:37 PM (#2696493)
Weeks broke his wrist when he got hit by a pitch. I don't think there's a durability issue on either side.

I thought there were additional concerns other than the wrist. It looks like he's had thumb issues, though he's healthy coming into ST this year.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt reports Milwaukee Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks is pain-free entering spring training. "This is the first time in three years I've had a rehab-free offseason," said Weeks. Weeks (wrist, thumb) tore a tendon in his left thumb in 2005 and then had wrist problems for two years. "I think it's (the wrist) pretty much good to go right now," said Weeks. "I've been able to do everything I need to do this winter."
   113. Computers are smart Posted: February 21, 2008 at 07:42 PM (#2696692)
"No, I didn't say that those were Keppinger's Major League at-bats, I said those were the at-bats that proved Keppinger could play in the Major Leagues."
No, actually it was more like "Keppinger's shown for years that he can play every day and hit that near-magic .290 in the majors."
   114. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 21, 2008 at 07:56 PM (#2696707)
"No, I didn't say that those were Keppinger's Major League at-bats, I said those were the at-bats that proved Keppinger could play in the Major Leagues."
No, actually it was more like "Keppinger's shown for years that he can play every day and hit that near-magic .290 in the majors."


Which he has. He's hit .309 in 466 MLB PA, .334 playing everyday in over 1000 AAA PA, and .338 playing everyday in 400ish AA PA. That's a player that's demonstrated he can play everyday in the majors and hit .290.
   115. JPWF13 Posted: February 21, 2008 at 08:22 PM (#2696722)
Dan did you ever notice that many of those who do not "believe" in minor league translations or equivalencies will also refuse to look at the evidence, in their mindset such a system simply cannot work - just as when you drop a hammer it can't fall upward.

Don't try arguing with them.

I think Keppinger and Phillips are an interesting contrast- as shown by their corresponding MLB and minor league rate stats- Keppinger has always outhit Phillips- at virtually every age and level- including the majors (which is why literally every projection system has Keppinger better by rate stats)

and yet...

Phillips clearly has the physical ability to be so much better...
If any of the two is going to have a Rollins' 2007 season it's clearly Phillips, on the other hand it's more likely that Kepp has a Freddy Sanchez 2006 season than Phillips ever has a season like Rollins just did...
   116. Ziggy Posted: February 21, 2008 at 10:35 PM (#2696884)
Alright, I know the internet encourages people to start yelling, but let's try this approach instead:

Since a large number of players have played in any given minor league as well as the major leagues, it is possible to project how well a player will play in the future (in the majors) on the basis of minor league numbers with roughly the same accuracy that you can on the basis of major league numbers. That is, you can correlate how well players did in the minors with how well they did in the majors, and since we have an enormous number of players to work with, the translations are quite accurate. (As these things go.) I believe that Bill James first demonstrated this in the 1985 Abstract, which is a good introduction to methods that translate minor league performances into major league projections.

Kepplinger's minor league performance has been terrific. Because lots and lots of players have played at both for the Reds/Mets/etc farm teams and in MLB, the projections based on minor league data are roughly as accurate as the projections based on major league data. Projections from Kepplinger's minor league data show him to project to be a very good MLB player in the future. And the methodology used to derive these projections is about as good as methods used to predict Phillip's future MLB performance on the basis of MLB data.

So now, the argument is that since Kepplinger is good, cheap, and with little trade value (because translations from minor league numbers are under-appreciated), and Phillips is good, somewhat more expensive, and with much more trade value, why not trade Phillips for something good, and play your other good second baseman?
   117. JPWF13 Posted: February 22, 2008 at 11:04 PM (#2697662)
why not trade Phillips for something good, and play your other good second baseman?


Because
1: The potential downside is much worse- If a GM does that, and Keppinger is a bust- well the Gm will be regarded as one huge dumbass and probably just shortened his tenure quite a bit (unless his owner cares more about saving money on salaries than anything else)
2: The downside of not making the move is much less, keeping Phillips, letting Kepp rot on the bench, won't raise barely an eyebrow from the MSM- plus if Phillips turns back into a pumpkin you have a handy replacement.
   118. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: February 23, 2008 at 06:52 PM (#2698026)
JPWF13, I don't disagree with anything you've said. That said, if I have the confidence of my owner, I still consider making a move.
   119. Walt Davis Posted: February 23, 2008 at 10:46 PM (#2698162)
The legit issue with MLEs is selection bias. The MLE is based on the players who are given a shot at MLB, heavily weighted in favor of those who are given a good shot and produce in their opportunity. The guys who are good minor-leaguers but deemed by their team to not be ML-worthy often never make it to the majors or make it only in very limited roles.

So ideally you'd like to correct for this bias but that will require having a good model to predict selection that doesn't rely on the same variables you're using to predict performance ... and I don't know that we have any.

You might be able to make a case that the selection bias is minimal if you could show that the guys who don't get a real shot actually perform, in the aggregate, at about what you'd expect. The issue here, of course, is selection bias in the other direction. When one of the Phelps-types gets called up and struggles in their first 30-50 PA, they're going back down. If they do well, they get more playing time and are not in your low-PA sample. We'd expect the low-PA group to have worse than expected production.

If you could get this detailed, the best sample might be the one where the team had basically no choice but to play the guy because of injury to the starter and see if those guys performed to expectation (kind of a quasi-experimental setup).

Anyway, I don't think we will be able to statistically show that teams are making mistakes in cases like that. The players who never get a shot may indeed have serious flaws that don't show up in AAA but would in ML. The ones the teams deem "have what it takes" may indeed have what it takes.

Or to translate to snark: the idiots running the experiment that tells us how good players like Keppinger really are at the ML level are the same idiots who don't give players like Keppinger a shot.

Until we get some GMs with a truly scientific mindset -- I hypothesize that Keppinger will not consistently produce in MLB despite his MLEs, let's test that hypothesis! -- we'll never really know. :-)

-----------------

Many of the "pro-Phillips" posts are based solely on last year's numbers. If Phillips repeats his 2007 performance, he's a pretty good player -- depending on what his true defensive value is, maybe very good. I don't think anyone here disagrees with that. There's just no good reason to think he'll repeat that performance, especially with the bat and maybe the glove given, as far as I know, there wasn't any evidence before this year that he was a top defensive 2B (and defensive numbers bounce around a LOT from year to year so it is definitely possible for an average guy in some metric to lead the league in that metric in any given year).

----------------

But there is a real question about what the Reds could get in trade for Phillips. I tend to agree with Dan in this thread -- remember, in the intro, Dan even says the contract in itself isn't unreasonable -- but it's hard for him to, on the one hand, argue the Reds can fill a significant hole by trading Phillips while, on the other hand, writing this:

Even if I accept "proven" which I don't really, on what world is Brandon Phillips a proven valuable commodity? Prior to 2006, he was thought of as a failed prospect that the Reds picked up on the scrap heap with a .735 OPS in AAA and he had all of an 88 OPS+ in 2006.

Well, if Phillips is going to bring value in trade, it needs to be this world where he's considered a proven valuable commodity. Granted, all the Reds needed was for him to be that in the "world" of at least one GM. Unfortunately for them, that turned out to be their own GM.

And no, it's not that unfortunate. But you just shouldn't sign these arb buyouts after a guy's career year. Make him repeat it. Would that make him more expensive next year? Actually, probably not or at least not by much. Look at those contract comps -- I believe most if not all of those contracts were signed after the player established a given performance level and they still aren't making more than Phillips. The Reds are paying him as though he has established 2007 as his level of production. The Reds didn't need to commit 4 years to Phillips and they shouldn't have. And that's regardless of whether they should have traded him and started Keppinger or not. But it's not a big enough deal to really restrict them.

Now, who could the Reds have traded him to? One option presumably was the Cubs who were hot after a 2B for no particularly good reason and have decent young starters to trade -- and the Cubs might well see Phillips as a good leadoff option to move Soriano down. But teams shy away from trading within their division. The Mets needed a 2B before resigning Castillo, maybe they could have gotten one of the pitchers who went to the Twins. Given how much they liked Hunter, the White Sox might have gone for Phillips with some high-risk, high-reward starting prospects in return. The Padres might be another possibility. I don't see a deal here that blows me away. So maybe if I could fill a couple holes -- good 4th OF (Griffey insurance) plus a good reliever (something like Murton and Gallagher perhaps).

And of course, there is an easier answer to Affeldt as default 5th starter than trading Phillips -- namely having done a better job in finding minor-league FAs, NRIs, Josh Fogg (who they just signed), maybe giving Lohse a call, etc. Krivsky still seems to have some major flaws and trading Phillips might have helped paper over one of them but it wouldn't change the fact that he doesn't seem a very good GM.

As to Dunn, I don't think I'd resign him if I was the Reds. It's not even that I don't think he'll age well -- I don't think he will, but I mean with regard to his post-31/32 career while he should be fine for, oh, 2008-2012 at least. But with his defense in LF and Votto at 1B (assuming Dusty sticks with him), he's just a bad investment for the Reds. Of course, I don't know if the Reds have any non-Bruce OF on the way and Junior will be off the books soon, so I could possibly be talked into it were I the Reds' GM.
   120. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 23, 2008 at 10:51 PM (#2698166)
Given that they are only 1 year apart in age I doubt any system would project Phillips to have higher rate numbers in 2008 than Phillips.

You'd be surprised, some of these projection systems are really advanced.
   121.   Posted: February 23, 2008 at 11:00 PM (#2698174)
This has been an amusing thread.

People are quick to dismiss Keppinger's 2007 as a fluke, while in the same breath declaring Phillips the best 2B ever based on, um...2007.

You're falling into the same trap that the MSM usually does...wowed by impressive milestones like 30/30 and ignoring the actual data.
   122. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 23, 2008 at 11:29 PM (#2698211)
The legit issue with MLEs is selection bias. The MLE is based on the players who are given a shot at MLB, heavily weighted in favor of those who are given a good shot and produce in their opportunity. The guys who are good minor-leaguers but deemed by their team to not be ML-worthy often never make it to the majors or make it only in very limited roles.

The thing is that MLEs don't miss on just one side - translations say a lot of bad things, too. Teams also aren't selecting players based on the accuracy of the MLEs, they're basing it on whether the players are good or not. As such, if teams possessed this ability, we'd see other things happening. We'd see players that should exceed their MLEs being called up. We'd see an ability to recognize which MLB numbers won't be predictive for future MLB play. We'd also see the failure rate for AAA->MLB promotions be lower than AA->AAA promotions because of teams showing a greater selectivity of promoting players for play (comparatively few players are ever labelled a AA.5 player and not given a promotion if they play very well). And if translation didn't work, it would also mess up the distribution of ability, completely screwing up the geometric distribution as players get worse.

Obviously MLEs, like MLB numbers, aren't perfect. One problem is that it's typically a linear model, which it really shouldn't be. I've spent about 80 hours in the last month reformulating my translations using roughly a million major and minor league plate appearances to a non-linear model with Statistica. Previously, there was a very small correlation (under .10) between the percentage of at-bats that were major league and the accuracy of the future projections - I've got that down to a hair above 0 now, suggesting that any issue with translations weren't philosophical ones but just too simple a model.
   123. tommyd Posted: February 24, 2008 at 06:18 PM (#2698600)
What a great thread. Couldn't agree more that the Reds should take advantage of Keppinger and get him in the lineup at 2B. But I'd like to see, as someone else has proposed, Phillips moved to SS and Gonzalez, who I believe will return to form with the bat this year, dealt off for help elsewhere.
   124. shattnering his Dominicano G Strings on that Mound Posted: February 24, 2008 at 08:06 PM (#2698685)
But that's the problem. What are you seriously going to get in return for Gonzalez...? Who would want him? Phillips would generate the most interest. He is a 30/30 guy at 2b now. After this season, who knows. But there are stupid GMs out there who might make a trade for an "established 2b w/ power," without really understanding that Phillips doesn't exactly project to get any better than that, and may in fact get worse, and that, even with those shiny HR totals, Phillips is too much of a free swinger to make the huge offensive impact one would expect of a 2b who hits 30 HR. I can't help but think that someone like B. Sabean or B. Smith might give up a good young arm for a player like Phillips, based on the notion that he is a proven commodity, still relatively young, and has "displayed" a level of talent in the majors.
   125. JPWF13 Posted: February 25, 2008 at 05:27 PM (#2699273)

You'd be surprised, some of these projection systems are really advanced.


The composite projections posted here awhile back have Kepp at .303/.362/.417
and Phillips at .276/.321/.459

CBS Sportsline: Kepp: .280/.346/.408
Phillips: .280/.325/.476

That appears to be the outlier
and having my Roto league on CBS Sportsline for a few years, and being familiar with their projections- I'd take Marcel any day

Kepp's career MLB line is .309/.367/.439 he hit .332/.400/.477 last year
Phillip's career MLB line is .262/.306/.419 and he hit .288/.331/.485 last year.

Why is Kepp going to do much worse than his career line and Phillips so much better?
Phillips K/d 3X as often as he walked.
Kepp walked more than he K'd - which he had consistently done in the high minors.
   126. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 25, 2008 at 05:51 PM (#2699294)
Why is Kepp going to do much worse than his career line and Phillips so much better?

#120 is making a joke about a mistake in the quoted portion.
   127. JPWF13 Posted: February 25, 2008 at 08:42 PM (#2699478)
#120 is making a joke about a mistake in the quoted portion.


ouch
   128. Margo Adams FC Posted: February 25, 2008 at 08:50 PM (#2699491)
Definitely an interesting thread. I traded Phillips for Kelly Johnson (and his extra cost-controlled year) in my sabermetrically-oriented fantasy league largely on the merits of some of the arguments made here. I guess will see how that shakes out.
   129. Moe Greene Posted: February 29, 2008 at 08:43 PM (#2703242)
Gonzalez has a fractured knee.

Out three weeks. I guess this is why Krivsky wouldn't trade Phillips -- he knew an injury was imminent!
   130. spycake Posted: March 04, 2008 at 01:41 AM (#2705263)
To be fair, Gonzalez has missed significant time the previous 3 seasons due to injury, even before this latest setback.
   131. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: March 04, 2008 at 01:51 AM (#2705269)
Reds have signed Corey Patterson to a minor league deal from the looks of things.
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