Baseball Geek In Galveston

Sentimental Fool…

I was having a discussion with a colleague a few weeks back about (has it been that long?) my previous post. Specifically, we were talking about first base and Matt Carpenter.

I would say, Yadier Molina and Carp are my two favorite players on the team. Yadi isn’t going anywhere, but Carp…

Carp mainly plays three positions: 1B, 2B, and 3B.

We have Jose Martinez, who did a great job this season, to possibly man 1B for the future. Kolten Wong is our 2B.

That leaves 3B.

Jedd Gyorko had a solid year last year, hitting .272 with 20 homers and a solid .341 OBP. The 20 homers, however, were a drop from the previous year, when he hit 30 in a similar number of plate appearances. (438 in 2017, 481 in 2017, so more appearances, less homers.)

Carp, despite hitting .241, over 30 points less, dwarfs Gyorko’s OBP having a .384 OBP. He also hit 3 more homers than Gyorko, though admittedly in more plate appearances. Roughly 140 in fact. But power, as mentioned above, isn’t the key to Carp’s game.

Good OBP skills are perhaps my favorite offensive trait, not the ability to hit homers, or steal bases, or any other offensive skill. My favorite non-Cardinal is probably Joey Votto, due to his OBP skills. The man had an insane .454 OBP this year, which is only the 3rd best OBP of his career. (The best is a .474 OBP in 2012, a year which he finished a mind-bogglingly 14th in the MVP vote.)

Anyways, back to Carpenter and Gyorko. Gyorko’s OBP this year was easily a career high. His 2nd best was a. 306 OBP last season. By contrast, this was Carp’s second best, and third of .380 or higher.

Both men play the same positions, so having the pair of them is redundant, especially if Jose Martinez is for real. If it obvious yet, my vote would be to trade Gyorko. I like Carp’s skills better, and the intangibles point in his direction as well: He came up with the team, whereas Gyorko came to us via a trade with San Diego. Carp has also emerged as part of the leadership group of the team, along with Yadi and Adam Wainwright.

So if you really have to trade one, keep Carpenter and trade Gyorko.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

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2018 Infield

Compared to the rest of the team, the infield is actually the most stable unit, in my opinion, heading into next season.

Currently, Baseball Reference has it listed this way:

1B) Matt Carpenter
2B) Kolten Wong
SS) Paul DeJong
3B) Jedd Gyorko
C) Yadier Molina

The biggest question in my mind is shortstop.

Is Paul DeJong legit? Was Aledmys Diaz a flash in the pan?

Looking at his minor league stats, DeJong had shown some pop in the minors, hitting 23 homers last season in AA, then hitting 13 in 190 PA’s this season at AAA. Now, of course, he has 24 homers for the big league club. His overall slash line is .280/.320/.523. I’d like the plate discipline to better, but given his success this season, that’s nitpicking. Still, it is something to watch going forward.

DeJong, of course, is this year’s version of Aledmys Diaz. Diaz who was recalled recently, was a stud last year, declined this year, having a .263/.295/.399 slash line while not being the best defensive SS. That opened up SS for DeJong, who has a solid grip on it now. I wonder though if the Diaz of last year was just a flash in the pan? He’d never hit .300 in the minors, but his minor league career was relatively brief at just two seasons, so I’m not really sure. What I do know is, unless DeJong regresses next year, he has a lock on the position unless Diaz turns into Ted Williams on offense or Ozzie Smith on defense. Otherwise, Diaz is now a utility infielder for the club going forward.

The other question I have is first base.

Obviously, Matt Carpenter is the incumbent, and rightfully so, but Jose Martinez has had a very good season, with 13 homers in 289 PA’s and an overall slash line of .309/.378/.516, rightfully earning more playing time. Still, I feel bad for Carpenter. with 3 straight seasons of 3 WAR or better and a career .378 OBP, he’s earned a permanent position but seems to bounce around the infield at the Cardinals whim. He handles it well, and his versatility can be beneficial (see Ben Zobrist) but I can’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t mind having a permanent home. With Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong both doing well, either Carpenter or Martinez has to sit. At the very least it gives us depth and flexibility, and if either Wong or Gyorko struggles, Carpenter can jump right in.

Catcher is Yadier Molina’s until he retires.

 

All in all, I think the infield is in pretty good shape for next season.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

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2018 Outfield.

Hey all, hope everything is going well, and that anyone affected by Hurricane Harvey is safe and well, and I also pray in advance for the people that will be affected by Hurricane Irma.

With the excitement of being in the playoff hunt, many people would focus on what’s going on now and worry about next year in the off-season, but I’m a long term kind of guy, and the success of call-ups, as well as a mid-career renaissance or two, have left us with a variety of options for next year. Today we’ll look at the outfield.

Going into the season, we had penciled in a starting outfield of Randall Grichuk, Dexter Fowler, and Stephen Piscotty.

Now things look a little different.

We’ve had not one but two guys with a mid-career re-birth in Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez.

Pham, 29,  has a .311/.408/.517 slash line with 19 homers in 440 Plate Appearances (PA’s) while Martinez, 28, has a .310/.374/.567 slash line with 13 homers in 228 PA’s.

Grichuk struggled early and only has a .238 BA, but he has flashed his power and has 19 homers so far. Piscotty also struggled and hasn’t shown the power he had last year when he hit 22 homers (he has 8), but he currently has a solid .351 OBP. Fowler started slowly, but currently, has a solid .262/.361/.483 slash line with 19 homers in 424 PA’s.

So that’s 5 guys for 3 spots.

Oh, I almost forgot, there’s that Bader kid.

Rookie Harrison Bader, our top AAA hitting prospect, is doing better in his second trip to the bigs, hitting 3 homers in 5 games since being called up.

6 guys, 3 spots.

Obviously, we’ll have utility OF’s, likely 2 of them. Unless the 6th guy embraces his inner Ben Zobrist, that leaves one man out. Who would that be?

I think Pham has earned his shot, and I’d start him in left over Grichuk, Fowler and his contract aren’t going anywhere, and even without the power, I like Piscotty in right.

Grichuk, Martinez, Bader. Who stays and who goes?

I think Bader would benefit from the big league experience and have been impressed with Martinez. That leaves Grichuk.

While he’s always had power, Grichuk has had the bad combo of a lot of strikeouts and a low OBP. I would shop him in the off-season and see if we can’t get a decent prospect or two for him.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

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Kolten Wong: New And Improved?

Man, I’m getting dizzy.

The Cardinals have been on a roller coaster all season long, struggling with inconsistency. Just when it looked like we had found some momentum (thank you Rally Cat!) we follow up our winning streak with a three game losing streak. Fun. (Not really.)

Focusing on the positives, one thing I, and others I’m sure, have noticed is the turnaround of Kolten Wong.

In 252 AB’s, (which admittedly is a bit of a small sample size) Wong has hit .310 this season with a pair of homers. He still has a solid .448 Slugging Percentage, or SLG,  though, thanks to having smacked 23 doubles (and 3 triples).

My favorite stat, though, is his .398 OBP. The man is getting on base and a nice clip, creating opportunities for people behind him.

His plate discipline is actually similar to what it was last year. He hit .240 then, with a .327 OBP, an 87 point difference, only one less than this years 88 point difference.

The key then has been getting more hits. Indeed, the .310 average is easily a career high. He hasn’t come close to .300 before in fact, as his best average before this was .262. The question is whether that is sustainable or not.

Looking at his Batting Average on Balls in Play, or BABIP, I begin to wonder.

Before this year, his career high BABIP was .296 in 2014, the best year of his career so far, until this season. Currently, he has a .360 BABIP for 2017.

Given his past performance, that BABIP seems unsustainable, or at least it would if Wong were older. He is still just 26, after all, just entering his prime. He could, in fact, be making “the leap” that players sometimes make after they’ve gotten some big league experience under their belt. That, of course, is an optimistic viewpoint, but when has a little optimism hurt anybody?

Time will tell, of course, but here’s hoping I’m right, and the new and improved Wong becomes the Wong we see for the rest of his career.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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Mirage Or Mainstay?

Hey there folks, it’s been a while. I’m working on trying to get back to be a regular, and this post is a step in that direction.

 

I remember last year when Aledmys Diaz had a slash line of .300/.369/.510 with 17 homers and 65 RBI. Many, including myself, thought he was our shortstop of the future.

Fast forward to this season. Diaz had a line of .260/.293/.396 before being re-assigned to the minors. He appears to have been a bit of a mirage, regressing all around. The problem with such a good rookie season is that it raises expectations for the future. However, even if our expectations had been a bit lower, his season before being re-assigned would’ve still been disappointing, specifically the .293 OBP. Admittedly I’m a bit of an OBP junkie, but an OBP below .300 isn’t acceptable. His slugging percentage, or SLG, had also dropped below .400 making him nothing special this year.

In his place, we have Paul DeJong, who has a line of .284/.308/.550 with 15 homers in 227 plate appearances, or PA’s

On the surface, those are impressive numbers. I don’t know the specific number off hand, but that projects to easily over 30 homers in a full season.

However, I become concerned when I look at that line and see only a 24 point difference between the BA and the OBP. Right now, DeJong is pure contact, so what happens when pitchers get used to him? Do we have, in a sense, another Diaz? His OBP is just above .300, so if that batting average drops 10 points, say to a seemingly respectable .274, his OBP drops below .300.

In a sense, DeJong is doing what Diaz did last year: he’s creating expectations. Next year everyone will expect the guy with the .280 average and 15 homers in less than half a season. The question is, will this season be a mirage, like Diaz’ seemingly was last year, or do we have a new mainstay at SS?

The key, I think, will be having reasonable expectations for both. Pitchers adjusted to Diaz, now he needs to adjust back. The same thing will happen to DeJong.

Personally, I think DeJong will slow down but still be productive. He’d better learn some plate discipline soon though (8 walks, 72 strikeouts in 232 plate appearances. ouch. That’ll be a big part of his adjusting.) I also think Diaz will earn another shot soon.

Time will tell.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

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I watched a recap of the All-Star Game as I had to work, and in that recap the announcer who called Robinson Cano‘s homer yelled “Sweet swingin’ Robbie Cano!” as Cano rounded the bases.

Well, earlier in the night, someone else sent a ball flying out of the park, our own Yadier Molina. And this wasn’t your typical ASG. Only 3 total runs crossed the plate. In that light, Yadi’s homer is impressive.

I know Yadi isn’t the same hitter he used to be. Sports analysts love to bring that up, calling his ASG appearance a “respect” appearance more than anything, and when you look at his stats for this season on the surface you can see why they think that.

He has a .270/.303/.411 slash line. the average is down from .307 last year but has been climbing lately. I think he’ll end up in the .280’s. The OBP is concerning, but he’s never been a high OBP guy. He’s more of a contact hitter. the .411 SLUG, while slightly down from last year, is solid, and he’s on pace to have his most homers since his 22 homer season in 2012.

So on the surface, solid, but not all star worthy.

But here’s an interesting stat for you: Yadi has hit safely in 56 out 75 games he’s played in this year. Let’s compare that to Jedd Gyorko, who is hitting .300 and leads our team with 3.4 WAR (and should’ve been at the ASG). Gyorko has a hit in 49 of the 78 games he’s appeared in.

Part of that is due to two hitting streaks of 15 games or more of Yadi. One is uncommon, but two have two in the same season is very rare.

So on a day by day basis, Yadi has contributed more consistently, and it’s not like Jedd’s blowing away Yadi in the homers department either, as he only has 4 more. Don’t get me wrong, Gyorko *has* been more valuable on offense, but if you dig deeper, you (and the analysts) might find, through his consistency, that Yadi contributed to the team on offense more than you think.

As always, thanks for reading.

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An Alternate Reality…

The Cardinals exist in two realities lately: when they play the Phillies, and when they play everyone else.

Going into our first series against the Phightin’ Phils, we had lost 6 in a row, including losing a series to a team that had lost 5 of it’s previous 6 (Cincinnati). We proceeded to sweep the Phils, making it look like we had turned things around. Then we lost 5 of our next 7, losing a series to Milwaukee, the current NL Central division leader, and a series to Baltimore, a team currently tied for last in the AL East.

Of all the teams we played in that stretch, starting from that 6 game losing streak until now, Philly has the worst record and isn’t close. Philly is currently 22-48. The next worse team is Cincinnati at 30-41.

That leads to an ominous conclusion: Right now, we can only beat really bad teams.

Now, obviously, that is a simplified conclusion, and this stretch of games, going from the losing streak until now (18 games) is a small sample size compared to a 162 game season.

Still, there were some bad signs during that stretch.

First, Mike Leake looked like he was human after all. Until yesterday’s win against the Phils, Leake had lost three in a row. Leake, along with Carlos Martinez, had been one of the staff’s anchors. If he starts to struggle, then we could be in trouble. Those three losses were against teams with good offenses (Cincinnati, Chicago, and Milwaukee) So I put more weight in those games than I do in games against the Phils.

Second, other starters are struggling as well.

Michael Wacha has a 4.76 ERA, and had a bad June, only getting past the 5th inning in one start. Adam Wainwright, who had looked like he was getting better, has gotten hammered in two of his last three starts, ballooning his ERA to 5.75 on the season. Guess who the good start was against? The Phils.

Third, the bullpen is being overused.

I noticed a lot of starts by Wacha, Wainwright and Lynn where those guys didn’t get out of the 5th inning. That’s going to expose our bullpen, and we don’t have an Andrew Miller or Chris Devinski to lean on, or a pen like the Royals of a couple years ago.

Fourth, the offense continues to struggle.

The offense is having some good games, don’t get me wrong, but given how the majority of the rotation is struggling and the over-exposure of our bullpen, it needs to have more of them. We need to be able to lean on the offense more, or the struggles will likely continue. Carlos Martinez can’t pitch every game.

Lest I be considered Captain Gloom and Doom, I will point out that there some bright spots as well.

First, Tommy Pham has been Phamtastic! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) He’s hit .286 with 9 homers and a .521 slugging percentage. However, if you take a closer look at those homers…6 against the Phils and Braves, two teams not currently known for their pitching, and two at the homer haven that is Coors Field, there is a small reason to be skeptical. Still, I think the average is legit at least, as is the .374 OBP. I’ll gladly take those, even without the power. He has helped give the offense a boost, and been a steady presence in LF, something we sorely needed after Randal Grichuk‘s struggles.

Second, Carlos has been Carlos. Outside a rough stretch from Mid-April to Mid-May, he’s performed well, and been our ace, somebody we can rely on. We sorely need that.

Third, Jedd Gyorko has quietly been having a good season. .297/11 homers/.514 Slugging percentage? More please.

So there are bright spots, but until we return to have success outside of playing the Phils, I’ll remain a skeptic.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

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Riding The Cards Coaster…

The Cards lost seven games in a row (Including the infamous Scooter Gennett game…Dang you Scooter!) and now have won three in a row thanks to a sweep of the Phillies. Ride that roller coaster baby!

A few thoughts as I try to catch up on blogging.

First, we’re lucky to play in the NL Central.

The Cardinals are currently 29-32, 3 games under .500. In any other division, that would put us waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind the division leader. In the NL Central, though, that only puts us 2.5 games behind division-leading Milwaukee, who sit in first at 33-31, just 2 games over .500. The whole division is bunched together, with last place Pittsburgh just 4 games out of first themselves.

Second, the rotation started to show some cracks during that losing streak.

Mike Leake got hit, Adam Wainwright started the Gennett game, etc. I don’t really want to go over it all, but the point is, it wasn’t pretty. Even Carlos Martinez struggled, for him, giving up 4 runs in a game for the first time since April. The question now is: Was it a new trend, or was it a fluke? In the sweep of the Phillies, Michael Wacha, Martinez and Wainwright were solid. The caveat here is that is was the Phillies. The Phightin’ Phils are 21-41, 20 games under .500. A better test of whether the struggle was a fluke or not is coming up starting today, as we face division leading Milwaukee next.

Third, either way, the pitching needs help.

Some players in the lineup are producing, like Kolten Wong, Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham, but others we expected to rely on are struggling, like Dexter Fowler, Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz. I expected a regression from Diaz, but the other two were expected to be key pieces in the lineup. We need Piscotty to be the solid all-around producer he was last year. As for Fowler, well, when he was a Cub, Joe Maddon famously said of him “When he goes, we go” or something like that. Well right now, he ain’t going, and we ain’t going.

Then there’s Matt Carpenter. Carp is hitting .223, obviously a disappoint, but he also leads the team with 11 homers and 32 RBI’s, and has a .344 OBP, which is solid, even if it’s low for him.

 

Bottom line is the offense needs to pick it up, because if the pitching shows any more cracks, we’re screwed with the offense in its current state.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

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What Is Productivity?

Nice to see the Cards win last night. (In fact, I was waiting for them to win before making a post. I don’t like grumpy posting.)

Last night, Yadier Molina has a sacrifice fly and a homer. The homer extending his hitting streak to 13 games, tied for the longest on the team this season, tying him with Kolten Wong.

His current slash line is .259/.301/.395. which isn’t very impressive.

To extend his streak, he went 1/4, which is only .250. The one, of course, was the aforementioned homer.

So what is productivity?

Is it hitting for a high average, but having days where you go 0 for 4 and contribute nothing, not even a sacrifice fly? Or is it getting a hit daily, even when it doesn’t raise your batting average?

I would argue the latter. You want your players to contribute as consistently as possible.

Some people probably expected Yadi to hit .300 like he did last year, but given that he hadn’t done that in a couple of years, that may not have been realistic. If he’s contributing daily like he is now. (he had a sacrifice fly as well yesterday, which contributed as much as the homer, as the homer was a solo shot) I’ll happily take that. Plus there’s always his excellent contributions on defense and being a pitching coach on the field.

Quick Thoughts:

Matt Adams trade: Was that trade due to the fact we have a first base surplus, or to save Mike Matheny from himself? We all remember Adams playing in the outfield, and while some might argue that him doing that may add trade value, I remember the initial reactions on twitter. Many people seemed repulsed by the idea and wondered what Matheny would do next, Yadi playing center field? Matheny has a reputation in Cardinals Nation of playing “his guys” who I think Adams had become. He didn’t seem to have a spot for him, so he made one. I’m glad Mo removed him from the equation and got a promising prospect in return. We need as many of those as we can get.

Mike Leake Pitched a gem last night, going 8 innings and allowing one run, and is currently the league leader in ERA. I hope he keeps it up for the entire season. Starting to actually seem possible.

 

As always thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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I thought, as a way to get myself going, I’d take a look at how some players are doing, guys who either struggled last year or missed 2016 entirely.

Lance Lynn is one of the latter guys, having missed last season due to surgery.

Before the surgery, Lance had emerged as a reliable starter, averaging 175-200 innings and 30 starts a year for 4 straight years. He was an all-star in his first full season, 2012, but his best years were 2014 and 15, right when he entered his prime. Then injury struck and he lost 2016. Everyone was curious to see how he rebounded from that.

So far, so good.

He’s 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP. His K’s are slightly down at 8.2 K/9, compared to 8.6 K/9 in 2015, and his walks are up at 3.7 compared to 3.5, but some of that is due to his last start, where, while we won, it was mostly due to the offense picking Lynn up, as he struggled, going 4 innings, allowing 4 runs and walking four, unusual for a guy who usually has better control, but even Clayton Kershaw has bad starts, so it’ll be interesting to see how Lynn rebounds.

If his struggles continue, it could be a matter of batters simply re-acquainting themselves with him after his year off, or just a hot start. My hope, though is it really was one bad start, and he continues his upward progression.

I like Lynn better than Mike Leake for non-statistical and personal reasons. I love it when homegrown talent succeeds. I’m a fan of the almost gone “a player plays for one team his entire career” era. Like everyone else, I was heartbroken when Albert Pujols left (which may have worked out better in the long run, but still.) and ecstatic when Yadi re-signed, since he deserves to retire a Cardinal, after all that he has given our team. (Admittedly the tightwad in me hopes that Lynn’s familiarity with the club might lead to a hometown discount if the Cards try to re-sign him when the time comes.)

As always, thanks for reading.

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I thought, as a way to get myself going, I’d take a look at how some players are doing, guys who either struggled last year or missed 2016 entirely.

Mike Leake, who we signed last year after we couldn’t get David Price, is off to a good start. Currently, Leake is 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA, a 0.990 WHIP and 1.9 WAR.

The problem is people are ecstatic over this, I’m not. we’re getting what we paid for. He signed for 6 years, roughly 93 million dollars, with the last year being a mutual option at 18 million dollars (gee 18 million dollars when he’s likely to have started his decline? I don’t see Leake being the one declining the option there…) I realize salaries in baseball are out of control and an averaged out salary of 15 million dollars a year isn’t quite what it used to be, but we definitely didn’t get what we paid for last year, even if you account for the fact that he made the lowest salary of his contract, 12 million.

If you’ve already forgotten last years ugliness, let me remind you: He went 9-12 with a 4.69 ERA, a 1.319 WHIP and 1.9 WAR.

In my mind, he’s starting to make up for what he did last year, and beginning to earn the salary.

If he were making, say 2 to 5 million, *then* I’d be ecstatic.

The next question is can he keep this up? Up until now, his career high in WAR was 2.8, so it doesn’t seem likely. While his BABIP of .277 isn’t outside of career norms, his 84.9 Left On Base percentage, or LOB%, is easily a career high. His best before this was in 2013, at 77.7 percent.

Also, before this year, he’d allowed 20 or more homers the last four years in a row. He’s allowed none so far. That seems flukey.

There’s also the fact that he’s on pace to earn more WAR in a half season than he had in any other *entire* season, as his career high of WAR for a season is 2.8.

I don’t think he’ll as bad as last year (I certainly hope not!) but I expect this to start normalizing out soon. If he ends up with an ERA between 3.50 to 3.80 with 3 to 4 WAR, he’ll have met my expectations.

As always, thanks for reading.

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To be honest, going into the Pirates series, the Cards had kind of sucked. If I were going to use weather phenomena to describe it, I’d use my local one and call it a hurricane. Missouri folks might call it a tornado. (Don’t worry about scale here people. The point is: disaster.)

Well, one bright spot so far has been Mike Leake.

It’s no secret that I haven’t been a fan of Leake, though more so for his contract than his baseball skills. When he’s on, he’s an above average pitcher. The problem is, we spent ace-like money to get him, not above average pitcher money.

I’ll stop my rant there as I’ve devoted plenty of time to it already in previous posts.

So far this season, we’re getting the above average pitcher.

In his most recent start against the Pirates, he allowed 7 hits and only struck out one, not exactly ace-like, but he only allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings. It’s not how you get the results, but the fact that you get them I guess. If he only struck out one per game the rest of the season and kept winning, I can happily live with that. Well so far he’s 2-1 with an 0.84 ERA for the season,with a 0.844 WHIP. Shiny.

Will he keep it up? I think that depends on the defense. As we all know, he’s not a flamethrower, but he does pound the zone and throw a ton of strikes. Well strikes are in the hitters zone, so he will give up his share on contact, particularly ground balls, so the defense needs to be on its toes when he pitches. This is also why Kolten Eong needs to start when he pitches, platoon be darned. Who’s ever the better 3B Jhonny, Jedd Gyorko, or heck even Greg Garcia, needs to be out there too. We need to back Leake up. We do that, and he might just have a chance of having a much better season than his own hurricane last season

As always, thanks for reading.

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