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Thursday, May 08, 2003

Bi-Weekly Review: A.L. West

The A.L. West through May 7th.

American League West Standings - Through May 5 (Previous Update Apr. 20)

                     May 5                   At Last Update           Since Last Update
           -------------------------    -------------------------     -----------------
Team        W      L     Pct.     GB     W      L     Pct.     GB     W      L     Pct.     Str
Seattle    20     11     .645      -    11      8     .579      -     9      3     .750     W 3
Oakland    19     12     .613      1    10      9     .526      1     9      3     .750     W 2
Texas      14     17     .452      6     8     11     .421      3     6      6     .500     L 1
Anaheim    13     17     .433    6.5     9     10     .474      2     4      7     .364     L 3

American League West Pythagorean Standings - Through May 5 (Previous Update Apr. 22)

                    May 5                At Last Update       Since Last Update
          --------------------------   -------------------    ------------------
Team        R     RA     Pct.   Diff     R     RA     Pct.     R     RA     Pct.
Seattle   159    111     .661  -.016    99     85     .572    60     26     .817
Oakland   148    111     .629  -.016   108     81     .634    40     30     .617
Texas     165    188     .434  +.018    81    130     .281    84     58     .687
Anaheim   144    145     .497  -.064   107    101     .528    37     44     .422

American League West Team Stats - Through May 5

Team        AVG     OBP     SLG     ERA   BABIP  BABIP Allowed
Seattle    .269    .355    .420    3.35    .303      .265
Oakland    .257    .330    .420    3.25    .278      .243
Texas      .271    .343    .481    5.48    .297      .325
Anaheim    .280    .340    .419    4.58    .303      .284

In a division that figured to be tightly contested, and certainly looked that way at the last update, there may be a bit of stratification emerging here in the form of a two-team race.  While Anaheim has slumped, Seattle and Oakland have surged.  But a six-and-a-half game deficit is not insurmountable, and neither Anaheim nor Texas is out of this yet at all.  Last year showed us that the AL West can surprise with reversals of fortune and dark horses, and this year could bring more of the same.  Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that Seattle and Oakland have emerged for the time being.

Before we get to the reasons why, let’s take a foray into the world of drama.  The complaint I get most here is that there aren’t enough bad mini-plays in the divisional reviews.  I want to rectify that problem.  So with that in mind:

THE BIG DANCE

SCENE 1

[Two girls are sitting on a bench on the sidelines of a high school football game.  They are dressed as cheerleaders.  One, a stunning blond named Mary Ners, chews gum and polishes her nails.  The other, a smartly attractive brunette named Oakley Hayes, reads a book on differential calculus.  Suddenly, a football player crashes over the bench between them.  As the girls look on, startled, he rises, with his helmet in one hand and a football in the other.  The crowd cheers.  It is the tall and strikingly handsome Dirk Championship.]

DIRK: [With a goofy grin] Sorry about that, girls.

MARY: Dirk, are you okay?

OAKLEY: You’re not hurt, are you?

DIRK: Aw, don’t worry about me, ladies.  It’s all part of the game.

[Dirk rushes back onto the field, offstage.]

MARY and OAKLEY: [In unison] Be careful out there, Dirk!

[The two girls glare menacingly at each other.]

PA ANNOUNCER: [Over loudspeakers] And with that quarterback sneak, Dirk Championship has broken the state record for rushing yards in a season.  And it’s only the third game of the year!

MARY: Wow!  Dirk is so dreamy.

OAKLEY: Yes, Mary, and he’s going to take me to the prom.

MARY: Dream on, Oakley!  Dirk would never ask a girl who buys all her clothes at Goodwill!

OAKLEY: Oh, and why not?  I pay less than half what you pay for clothes, and mine are just as nice—if not nicer.

MARY: Please, Oakley.  Why, that blouse you were wearing today is one I got rid of months ago.

OAKLEY: It’s not my fault you throw away clothes that are still perfectly attractive.

[The girls, both annoyed, cross their arms and look away from each other.  Then the crowd roars.]

PA ANNOUNCER: Touchdown, Dirk Championship!  Never in the history of our state has there been such a display of athletic prowess.  And by such an attractive and well-bred individual!

[Suddenly excited at the touchdown, the girls stand to do a cheerleading routine.]

MARY and OAKLEY: [Dancing and singing in unison]

    He does eleven players’ work!
    He’s Dirk!  He’s Dirk!
    He is the reason for our perk!
    He’s Dirk!  He’s Dirk!
    He’s a misogynistic jerk!
    He’s Dirk!  He’s Dirk!
    But we don’t mind that little quirk!
    He’s Dirk!  He’s Dirk!

[With that, the girls cheer giddily, shake their pom-poms, and kick their legs high into the air for no reason.  Dirk rushes onstage to the sideline, helmet in hand, for some water.]

MARY and OAKLEY: [Again in unison] Hi, Dirk!

MARY: Dirk, I’ll get your water.

DIRK: Thanks, Mary.

[Mary fills up a cup of water at the water cooler next to the bench and hands it to Dirk.]

OAKLEY: So, Dirk—have you decided who you’re going to invite to the prom?

[As the girls wait tensely for an answer, Dirk slowly drinks the entire cup of water.]

DIRK: Oh, not yet, girls.  [He chuckles brainlessly.] I may not know for sure until I go to pick her up at Biff’s Burger Stand that night!

[The girls smile at this priceless bit of information as Dirk runs back onto the field and offstage.]

OAKLEY: Well, if that wasn’t a hint, I don’t know what is.

MARY: Puh-lease, Oakley!  Obviously he meant for me to be there, not you!

OAKLEY: I know Dirk, Mary, and he’ll always take my brains over your beauty.

MARY: Then why did he keep seeing that snooty New York girl over and over again?

OAKLEY: Well, that was different.  She had scads of money.

MARY: Well, I guess we’ll find out for sure on Saturday at Biff’s Burger Stand!

CURTAIN

SCENE 2

[Mary is sitting at a table in a busy high school cafeteria.  She picks at a green salad with no dressing.  Oakley approaches with a tray with a sandwich on it.]

OAKLEY: Mind if I sit with you?

MARY: [Tersely] It’s a free country.

[Oakley sits down next to Mary.  Mary turns away.]

OAKLEY: Mary, I’m sorry about last night.

MARY: [Softened] Me, too Oakley.  I just get so worked up about Dirk.  I’m tired of going to dances with Al Westcrown!

OAKLEY: Me too.  He’s not half the man Dirk is.  He’s almost as bad as Will Card.

MARY: Don’t get me started on Will Card.  He’ll go with any girl that shows signs of life.

[A small, mousy, shy girl approaches the table.  She is obviously uncomfortable.  She looks plain, with her hair pulled unattractively into a tight bun, and thick glasses obscuring her eyes.  Her clothes are ill-fitting and rumpled.  Her name is Anna Heim.]

OAKLEY: What do you want, Anna?

ANNA: Um . . . do you mind if I sit with you two?  The other girls won’t let me sit with them since I got laughed out of cheerleader tryouts.

MARY: [Rolls her eyes] Whatever.

[Anna sits down.]

ANNA: So, do you two have dates for the prom yet?

MARY and OAKLEY: [Quickly, sharply, and in unison] Yes.

[Mary and Oakley glare at each other again.]

MARY: What about you, Anna?

ANNA: [Blushing, unable to conceal her pride] Well, not yet—not officially.  But I heard Will Card might ask me!

[Oakley and Mary look at each other and smirk knowingly.]

OAKLEY: [Patronizingly] Oh, that’s wonderful, Anna.  I’m sure you two will have loads of fun.  Maybe he’ll pick you up in his Pinto, and take you to Hot Dog Palace!

ANNA: [Unaware that she’s being made fun of] Oh, well, he doesn’t have to go to any trouble for me.

MARY: So, Anna, who do you think Dirk Championship will ask, me or Oakley?

ANNA: Gosh, I don’t know.  You’re both so beautiful.  Haven’t you both gone out with him before?

[Mary and Oakley both cringe slightly.]

MARY: Well, Oakley’s never made it past the first date.

OAKLEY: [To Mary] So?  You’ve never made it past the second!

ANNA: Oh, well, I’m sure whoever he picks, you’ll both have fun!  And the other one can go with Al Westcrown.  I’d love to go to the prom with him.

[Mary and Oakley shudder.  The bell rings, and they and the other students begin to stand up and walk offstage.]

CURTAIN

SCENE 3

[Mary and Oakley sit at a table in a busy fast-food restaurant.  They are wearing prom dresses—Mary’s is teal, and Oakley’s is emerald green.  A large menu above and behind them identifies the restaurant as Biff’s Burger Stand.  The girls are not eating.  They check their watches nervously and repeatedly.]

MARY: I can’t believe it’s already prom night!

OAKLEY: And one of us is going to be Prom Queen, together with Prom King Dirk Championship.

MARY: And it’s going to be me!  I’m so excited.

OAKLEY: It’s actually going to be me, but I’m glad you’re excited for me.

[Dirk Championship enters.  He walks up to Mary and Oakley’s table, wearing a tux.]

DIRK: Hi, ladies!

MARY and OAKLEY: Hi, Dirk!

MARY: Dirk, have you decided who you’re taking to prom?

DIRK: Yes, I have.  I was just coming over to ask you—

OAKLEY: Yes?

MARY: Yes, Dirk?

DIRK:—if you’d seen her.

[Oakley and Mary are shocked.  Their mouths fall agape.]

OAKLEY: Seen her?  Seen who, Dirk?

DIRK: Anna Heim.

MARY and OAKLEY: [Together, astonished] Anna Heim?!

[Anna Heim enters, wearing a stunning red velvet prom dress.  Her hair is down; long, rich cascades spill over her bare shoulders.  Her glasses are gone, revealing piercingly beautiful sapphire eyes.  Simply put, she is angelic, and Mary and Oakley suddenly seem unattractive by comparison.  She is comfortable, confident, and charming.]

DIRK: Anna!

ANNA: Hi, Dirk.  Hi, girls.

[Mary and Oakley are speechless.]

ANNA: Dirk, we’d better get going.  We have a 7:00 reservation.

DIRK: Okay, Anna.  See you later, girls!

[As Dirk and Anna turn to leave, Mary finally regains her power of speech.]

MARY: Dirk!  Wait!  What about us?

DIRK: Oh, don’t worry!  Al Westcrown and Will Card should be here any minute!

[Mary and Oakley look at each other in horror.]

ANNA: Have fun at Hot Dog Palace, girls!

[The happy, attractive couple laughs and walks offstage.  Mary and Oakley watch them leave and do not speak for several moments.]

MARY: [Finally] Well . . . I guess the moral is that any girl can get the guy, as long as she has a good heart.

OAKLEY: Yes . . . a good heart and the capacity to become suddenly and inexplicably gorgeous.

[Several more moments pass.  Mary and Oakley have not looked away from the direction Dirk and Anna left.]

MARY: What now, Oakley?

OAKLEY: Well, from now on, I’m listening to what Jill James said: never date a guy out of high school.

MARY: But what about tonight?

OAKLEY: [Hesitates] I’ll take Al Westcrown.

MARY: What?  Are you crazy?  Al is mine.  You get Will Card.

[The girls continue to bicker indistinctly.]

CURTAIN

With that out of the way, let’s look at the teams:

Seattle Mariners

60 runs scored and 26 allowed since the last update.  It’s good when that happens.  Other than losing two of three to the Yankees, the Mariners have looked as good as a big plate of some kind of really good food on a table where the other food is bad and covered with mold and stuff.

Key Mariners:

Jeff Cirillo has been hitting well lately.  Over the course of a six-game hitting streak, he’s 10-19 with nine singles, one home run, and four walks.  If Cirillo continues to hit well, and even becomes a mediocre singles guy, it’ll make a big difference for the Mariners over what he did in 2002.  Nobody can play third base for Seattle like Cirillo can, and getting any kind of offense out of the position would be a big help.

Seattle’s two key players last time were Kazuhiro Sasaki and Greg Colbrunn.  Sasaki should be back off the DL shortly, and with any luck, back to his former (effective) self.  Colbrunn has picked up a couple starts, but John Mabry pinch-hitting for him was about as ridiculous as John Mabry being traded for Jeremy Giambi.  (Poor John Mabry, always picked on.  He’s not without his value.)

Oakland Athletics

Sure, Oakland’s gone 9-3 also.  But they just haven’t done it with the same flair as the Mariners.  It doesn’t matter, though; either way, they’ve preserved their position in the race.  Oakland and Seattle currently have the best ERAs in the American League, though luck may be helping them both in that area.  While both of their opponents’ BABIPs are likely to rise, Oakland’s has a lot more rising to do, as it’s all the way down at .243 and they don’t have Safeco Field helping the cause.  On the other hand, Oakland’s offensive deficit may be reduced for similar reasons.

Key Athletics:

Mark Mulder.  Wow.  Since the last update: Three starts.  Three wins.  Three complete games.  One run.  Three walks.  15 strikeouts.  No home runs.  Barry who?  A little more of this, and Mulder will no longer be the Other Guy in the Big Three.

As for last update’s key players: Miguel Tejada was mired in a slump with a .549 OPS.  But you can’t keep a good shortstop down.  Tejada has ratcheted that number all the way up to .550.  Baby steps for Mr. Tejada.

And Erubiel Durazo has cooled down just a little.  His OPS has dropped from 1.021 to .900.  Ramon Hernandez is licking his chops at the prospect of definitively establishing himself as the team’s best hitter.

Texas Rangers

If I were the commissioner, I would move the Rangers to the AL Central for several reasons.  First, it would make these divisional updates much easier for me, and Aaron Gleeman probably wouldn’t even notice another twenty-page entry in his Bi-Weekly Encyclopedia of the American League Central.  Second, they’re way over there in the middle of the country.  Third, their big-slugging, below-.500, no-pitching style is not the image we’re trying to present here in the AL West.  Fourth, there’s a good chance they could win the AL Central, and then Alex Rodriguez could be MVP.

My plan is flawless, but I’m not commissioner, so the Rangers are stuck in the AL, looking like a pork chop in a wedding cake.  And like most pork chops in wedding cakes, they have a tendency to sink to the bottom.

Key Rangers:

John Thomson is the only Rangers pitcher who’s been particularly good.  His 4.61 ERA is decent, and his 27 strikeouts and seven walks aren’t bad numbers at all, but his giving up seven home runs so far could spell trouble.

>From the last update: Chan Ho Park is doing even worse; his ERA is up to 7.16, and he’s still walking more hitters than he strikes out.  Hank Blalock has necessarily slowed somewhat, but he’s still doing fantastically well.  In fact, the Rangers’ offense as a whole has picked up quite a bit, scoring more runs in the last 11 games (84) than they scored in the first 20 (81).

Anaheim Angels

Surely a penchant for drama has inspired the Angels to fall back, seemingly out of the race, just so their rise to victory will be as dramatic as it was last year.  It’s a marvelous risk to take in the name of quality entertainment—and there’s just not enough of that going on.

Whether the Angels will continue to lose is unknown by everyone who has failed to travel into the future to purchase Sports Almanacs.  Don’t write them off yet; it’s earlier than a July Christmas present right now.

Key Angels:

Jarrod Washburn’s ERA is down to 3.71, earning him the title of “The Angels Starter That Isn’t Terrible.”  Okay, Ramon Ortiz hasn’t been that bad either.  But the Angels have an ERA of 5.29 when starting, so Washburn’s being decent is good news.

Last update’s players: Brad Fullmer is still hitting quite well.  With an OPS of 1.038, he’s easily been the most productive Angel when playing, which hasn’t been all the time.  John Lackey is still pitching poorly, however.  His ERA is still up above seven.  But his last start included five strikeouts and no walks, so there are signs of life.

Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: May 08, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610776)
Dan, that's the worst thing I've ever read. Just so you know. Otherwise, good job.
   2. David Brazeal Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610779)
How long until Harold Reynolds and Peter Gammons re-enact one of these scenes for a Baseball Tonight promo?
   3. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610780)
I loved it. It was much better than Cats. I'm going to see it again and again.
   4. bob mong Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610782)
Beautiful.

A few questions/comments:

You wrote, While both of their opponents' BABIPs are likely to rise, Oakland's has a lot more rising to do, as it's all the way down at .243 and they don't have Safeco Field helping the cause. On the other hand, Oakland's offensive deficit may be reduced for similar reasons.

First, what is the league-average BABIP?

And, second, I was under the impression that while there isn't much difference between pitchers on BABIP allowed, there are great differences between batters in BABIP. Which would imply that, while we should certainly expect Oakland's BABIP allowed to come up (and Texas' to come down), we should not necessarily expect Seattle's BABIP, by their hitters, to come down. Is that true?
   5. Shredder Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610784)
You had me at They are dressed as cheerleaders.

I think Dan is really a closet Angels fan.
   6. Shredder Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610786)
Also, I would have named the guy "Earl Series" as opposed to Dirk Championship, but that's just me.
   7. Danny Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610792)
Oakland and Seattle currently have the best ERAs in the American League, though luck may be helping them both in that area. While both of their opponents' BABIPs are likely to rise, Oakland's has a lot more rising to do, as it's all the way down at .243 and they don't have Safeco Field helping the cause.

I'm pretty sure this is a misapplication of DIPS. If I'm not mistaken, DIPS states that pitchers on the same team will have similar BABIP, not that pitching staffs will have similar BABIP to other pitching staffs. An entire pitching staff having a low BABIP could be explained by the entire staff being extremely lucky, but is more likely explained by the A's having a great defense.

With Long, Byrnes, and Singleton in the OF, the A's are very speedy. Chavez, Tejada, Ellis, and Hatteberg are all plus defenders. Hernandez is reputationally good behind the plate. I think that all Oakland's low BABIP means is that Oaklands fielders should be getting some of the credit that their pitchers are getting.

A's pitchers are striking out very few batters, especially Hudson, Zito, Mulder, Halama, and Bradford. Perhaps they have been told to trust their defense more?
   8. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610795)
Thanks, everyone.

First, what is the league-average BABIP?

All I have handy is sac-flyless data for both leagues: In 2002, .296. For 99-02, .301.

And, second, I was under the impression that while there isn't much difference between pitchers on BABIP allowed, there are great differences between batters in BABIP. Which would imply that, while we should certainly expect Oakland's BABIP allowed to come up (and Texas' to come down), we should not necessarily expect Seattle's BABIP, by their hitters, to come down. Is that true?

Well, it's not just pitchers, it's also defense. And for hitters, it's much less consistent than other areas. This gives me an idea to look at team BABIP consistency the same as I've looked at it for players. Until I do, though, I'd still suspect that BABIP is more luck-influenced than other stats (it's just intuitive; there's so much that can happen).

Which brings me to Danny:

I'm pretty sure this is a misapplication of DIPS ... An entire pitching staff having a low BABIP could be explained by the entire staff being extremely lucky, but is more likely explained by the A's having a great defense.

Well, it's not intended to be an application of DIPS at all. And yes, defense does play a part. But I can pretty much assure you that Oakland's defense isn't that good.

For a couple examples:

1. Right now, Oakland's BABIP allowed as calculated by (H-HR)/((IP*2.82)+H-HR-SO) is .252. By that admittedly imperfect measure, if Oakland kept it up all season, there would be 18 teams since 1901 that did better. Six of them came after 1918--four between 1968 and 1972, one in 1955, and one in 1981.

2. Right now, Oakland's BABIP allowed as calculated by (H-HR)/(AB-HR-SO) [No sac flies] is .249 (give or take a percentage point--I had to back AB out of BA). Here's how that stacks up against teams from the last 4 years:
TEAM   YR   BABIP Allowed
OAK   2003  .249
SEA   2001  .265
CIN   1999  .269
ANA   2002  .274
LAD   2002  .277
ATL   2002  .278

Every other team from the last four years was at .285 or above. Oakland last year was at .287 and the year before at .288.

While it's possible that Oakland's defense has improved, I'm willing to bet big money that their BABIP allowed ends up substantially higher.

Perhaps they have been told to trust their defense more?

That wouldn't be the worst lesson. I believe the AL's OPS on BIPs last year was around .670.
   9. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610797)
And sorry, the A's defense is and has been very good. You don't win 100+ games two years in a row without one.

Paul, I'm not sure if my last post was up when you made this one. But just to clarify: I'm not saying the A's defense isn't good.

A BABIP allowed that low is not the mark of a very good defense--it is the mark of a defense that includes Bugs Bunny.
   10. tangotiger Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610799)
Dan, I enjoyed your story very much!

As for Oakland's DER, I recently published the park factors for DER, and it showed Coors and Fenway on one side, and Oakland on the other side.
   11. DCW3_ Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610802)
I think Tessa Granger would be the girl who spent thousands of dollars on plastic surgery but still has BO that would kill a mule.
   12. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: May 08, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610804)
As for Oakland's DER, I recently published the park factors for DER, and it showed Coors and Fenway on one side, and Oakland on the other side.

Well, I guess I blew that, then. Safeco is still the greater pitchers' park over all, no?

Either way, it doesn't make Oakland's BABIP allowed anywhere near reasonable.

Mr. On BIP: I am aware that there's a relationship between Ks and BABIP, and it is something to think about, but it's not particularly applicable here, because we're not talking about pitchers at all but entire defensive units.

Is this...uhm, creative output the reason why this bi-weekly review took longer than a "bi-week" to come out?

Not sure what you mean. They come out on Thursdays; the last one was on Thursday, April 24, and this one is on Thursday, May 8.

Unfortunately, Tessa Granger was not able to be worked into the plot because of a contract dispute.
   13. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: May 09, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610821)
But if Anna Heim gets Dirk Championship, how are both Al Westcrown and Will Card still available for Oakland and Seattle?

Oh, sure, you notice that, but you don't point out that Anna Heim is described as both "mousy" and "angelic."

With Tejada still getting untracked and Hardin coming up, they appear to have reserve "energy" to call on. Their history is that of a "hot weather" horse.

Perhaps I can assuage your pessimism to some small degree. While it's true that Tejada has room to improve, Ramon Hernandez has room to fall off. That's not to say the A's won't start doing better offensively.

But... while the Big 3 are great, a combined 2.69 ERA probably won't last all season. Nor will the 3.32 overall ERA.

And finally, when I looked at the A's second-half improvement last year, I found that it came from these areas:
        Offense            Defense
2002    Strikeouts         Walks, BABIP
2001    HR, BB, BABIP      Home runs

So it's far from clear that their second half surges are at all related. In my opinion, it's more likely that they just randomly happened to have better second halves both years. For more info, read <A >this column</A>, particularly the final paragrahph.
   14. Dan Szymborski Posted: May 09, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610822)
Biweekly is one of those evil words with multiple conflicting definitions. It can mean twice a week or once ever two weeks.

I figured that after a couple of these, people would get that we're using the latter definition. Don't make me start the Fortnightly Review.
   15. Shredder Posted: May 09, 2003 at 02:04 AM (#610823)
It does? I thought Bi-weekly was every two weekd and semi-weekly was twice a week. Like something that's biannually happens every two years, and something semi-annually happens twice per year.
   16. John Posted: May 12, 2003 at 02:05 AM (#610848)
Bi-centennial, Bi-annual, Bi-monthly, Bi-weekly: every second century/year/month/week Semi-centennial, Semi-annual, semi-monthly, semi-weekly: twice every century/year/month/week

Wow. According to Mr. Webster (and believe me, Mitch knows his stuff), bienially means twice a year; </b>bianually</b> means every other year, as does semi-annually. Biyearly apparently means both twice a year and every other year (but not at the same time).

Along the same lines, as you noted, biweekly also means both "twice-a" and "every-other," although the primary definition is every-other.

I'd go with fortnightly (semi-monthly?). Sounds cool, too.

As for the play, Dan, please step away from Jung Bong.

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