Week 13 Fantasy Pitching Planner
With enough of a sample size to draw legitimate conclusions, the pitching landscape has a wildly different look. Al Melchior runs through all of the two-start options and helps set your rotations in his Pitching Planner.
As we approach the season's midway point, it's always surprising how quickly half a season passes. At the same time, though, enough time has elapsed so that some pretty drastic changes have occurred in the way we evaluate some pitchers in Fantasy.
Chris Carpenter and Ricky Nolasco were both considered solid contributors for just about all formats, but now they've become questionable starts in standard mixed leagues. Challenging them for active roster spots in many of those leagues are Ryan Vogelsong (a forgotten pitcher from the previous decade), Philip Humber (a one-time prospect who stalled in the minors) and Josh Collmenter (a 25-year-old fringe prospect).
It's enough to make you wonder which pitchers we'll be talking about in August and September, but first we have Fantasy Week 13 (June 27-July 3) to worry about. That's what this Pitching Planner is here for.
As always, it includes an interactive tool that includes information on every pitcher scheduled to make at least one start in the coming week. There is also plenty of analysis that follows to help you pick out the best one- and two-start pitchers for your format.
Advisable Two-Start Pitchers (Standard Mixed Leagues)
Brandon Beachy, Atlanta: If owners had any concerns about Beachy being rushed back from his oblique injury, those worries were assuaged on Wednesday, when he tore through the Blue Jays' lineup for 11 strikeouts and a victory. Beachy's rate stats actually compare favorably with those of some of the best pitchers in Fantasy, so it may not be long before we can consider the rookie to be a must start.
Josh Beckett, Boston: Beckett has been battling an illness, but he is expected to return to start on Tuesday at Philadelphia. He'll also get a second start at Houston. A flu bug is about the only thing that has slowed Beckett down, as he has rattled off eight straight quality starts, the latest of which was a complete-game one-hitter against the Rays.
Erik Bedard, Seattle: It's incredible that this is the same pitcher who posted a 7.71 ERA over his first four starts this year, not making it beyond five innings in any of those early outings. Since then, Bedard has compiled a 1.54 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. With home starts against the Braves and Padres, it should be a feast for Bedard and his owners next week.
Chad Billingsley, L.A. Dodgers: Billingsley managed to notch a win against the Tigers on Tuesday, but it marked the fourth straight game in which he failed to make it six full innings. Poor command has given the Dodger veteran fits in several of his recent starts, and it's enough of a concern that he is rarely an advisable one-start option these days. However, Billingsley continues to be just good enough to use as a two-start pitcher in standard mixed leagues, should you be lacking more reliable alternatives.
Nick Blackburn, Minnesota: Even in two-start weeks, Blackburn has often looked like a risky proposition. While he has been sporting a low ERA and a winning record (6-5), there's the matter of a low strikeout rate and a high WHIP and home run rate. However, it's hard to ignore that the finesse righty has been on a serious roll since early May, allowing two earned runs or fewer in nine out of 10 starts and averaging nearly seven innings per start. Blackburn has been helped along with favorable BABIP and strand rates over this stretch, but a high strike percentage and below-average walk rate have played a role, too. In other words, it's been part luck and part skill, and there's been a large enough skill component that Blackburn can be trusted in most two-start weeks at this point.
Zach Britton, Baltimore: Britton doesn't have the sharpest command or the most dominating stuff, but it's no accident that he has allowed more than three earned runs just three times all season. He has consistently induced ground ball outs and is tied for fourth in the majors with 14 ground ball double plays. It's not the most glamorous formula for success, but it's one that makes Britton a viable start more often than not.
Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado: One of the things that made Ubaldo Jimenez such an enticing breakout candidate last season was his emergence as both a good strikeout and ground ball pitcher. This season, while Jimenez has struggled to keep the ball down, Chacin has outdone his elder teammate. The 23-year-old boasts similar strikeout and walk rates to Jimenez, but he ranks third in the majors with a 61 percent ground ball rate. Frequent worm-burners combined with close to a strikeout per inning make Chacin one of the more trustworthy options in Fantasy week after week.
Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh: Correia has slumped of late, allowing four earned runs in three of his last four starts. Especially because of his low strikeout rate, Correia is not a recommended start in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues, but his aversion to walks still makes him useful in Head-to-Head leagues in a two-start week.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati: Cueto has been going strong all season, ever since he came off the disabled list in early May. He has actually been heating up even more over his last five starts, allowing no more than two runs in any of them and pitching at least seven innings each time out. The only thing that may put a damper on Cueto's week is if Mike Leake gets slotted into the rotation ahead of him, as Reds manager Dusty Baker resets the order after Wednesday's doubleheader. If that were the case, it would be Leake, and not Cueto, who would inherit a two-start week. Either way, Cueto needs to be active in standard mixed leagues.
R.A. Dickey, N.Y. Mets: Over the last 30 days, only the Twins' and Phillies' rotations have posted a lower ERA than the Mets, and Dickey has been pulling his weight during this recent pitching resurgence. Over his last seven starts, Dickey has a 2.23 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, as he has improved his strikeout, walk and home run rates across the board. He's not yet to the point where he can be trusted in most one-start weeks, but with his improved performance, Dickey is a no-brainer as a two-start option.
Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox: Floyd personifies the borderline standard mixed-league pitcher. He's just skilled enough (6.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9) to be worth a look, especially in two-start weeks, but just flawed enough (10 percent HR/fly-ball ratio, consistently low-strand rates) to put his owners on constant alert. However, this is one of those two-start weeks, and Floyd's Sunday start at the slumping Cubs is reason enough to keep him active next week.
Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs: Garza appeared to be a victim of bad luck early in the season (.402 BABIP through May 9), but lately he has been his own worst enemy. Over his last six starts, Garza has walked more than a batter every other inning, and his strikeouts are down, too. He's still good enough to use in a two-start week, but if he doesn't show some progress in his Week 13 outings against the Rockies and White Sox, he'll look like an even riskier play in a one-start Week 14.
Gio Gonzalez, Oakland: Gonzalez has bounced back from a seven-walk outing against the White Sox on June 11 to walk only three batters over his subsequent 13 innings. He also managed to strike out 18 batters along the way, while allowing just three earned runs. You never know when Gonzalez might completely lose his grip on the strike zone, but it hasn't hurt him much in Fantasy, as he is a solid No. 3 starter in both Rotisserie and Head-to-Head formats. Owners deep in two-start options should note, however, that Gonzalez could be robbed of a second start in Week 13 if Brandon McCarthy comes off the DL to take the hill next Sunday against Arizona.
Zack Greinke, Milwaukee: Greinke leads all major league starters with at least 60 innings with an 11.9 K/9 rate. If he can just manage to avoid hard contact a little more on those rare occasions when he doesn't miss bats, we not only have a must-start pitcher but also a possible second Cy Young award in the offing. While Greinke is allowing too many extra-base hits to be a weekly play in some shallow formats -- opposing batters have posted a .201 Isolated Power average against him -- he is still safe to use as a two-start pitcher in nearly all leagues.
|1.||Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves||20|
|2.||John Lannan, SP, Nationals||20|
|3.||Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians||14|
|4.||Nick Blackburn, SP, Twins||13|
|5.||Andrew Miller, SP, Red Sox||12|
|6.||Jason Marquis, SP, Nationals||10|
|7.||Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees||10|
|8.||Jason Vargas, SP, Mariners||9|
|9.||Freddy Garcia, SP, Yankees||8|
|10.||Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants||7|
Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay: Hellickson has disappointed owners looking to him for help with strikeouts, and the Ks have been coming even less often lately. Still, the rookie is getting by with a high 15 percent popup rate. He posted a 12 percent rate in his brief time with Tampa Bay last year, and as a flyball pitcher, he just may be able to keep this up. While he may not be the source of strikeouts that owners expected him to be, Hellickson is certainly good enough to trust with a pair of starts in Week 13.
Ian Kennedy, Arizona: Kennedy has made sizeable improvements in his walk and ground ball rates this season. The corresponding reduction in flyballs makes it unlikely that Kennedy will keep his BABIP below .270, but that's a tradeoff that owners can live with, as he has allowed only nine home runs in 108 2/3 innings this year. As long as these trends continue, Kennedy should be starting every week in standard mixed leagues.
Mat Latos, San Diego: Latos is avoiding line drives and getting plenty of strikeouts and easy flyouts, so it seems out of place for batters to be hitting .264 against him. He has not been performing much worse than he did last year, when he posted a 2.92 ERA, so owners should expect better things from Latos over the long haul. If his upswing doesn't begin with next Monday's start against the Royals, there's a good chance it could the following Sunday at Seattle.
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia: The only time that Lee has posted a lower ERA over a full season than his current 2.87 was in 2008, when he won the AL Cy Young. He has been especially hot over his last four starts, allowing just a single run over 33 innings. Owners who may have been concerned after a lackluster May can sit back, relax and enjoy in Lee's torrid June performance.
Kyle Lohse, St. Louis: Lohse has been in a slump for the last few weeks, but as he showed on Wednesday, when he held the Phillies to three runs over eight innings, he can often pitch deep into games. It was the sixth time this season that Lohse had stayed in a game for at least eight innings. That alone doesn't make Lohse a safe play in Rotisserie leagues, and it doesn't always guarantee that he will produce in Head-to-Head either. However, in the latter format, Lohse's penchant for racking up innings makes him a reasonable active roster option in two-start weeks.
Ervin Santana, L.A. Angels: As a flyball pitcher, Santana can't always be trusted, especially in hitter-friendly environs, but he generally fares well at homer-neutral Angel Stadium of Anaheim. His 3.79 ERA and 1.23 WHIP at home are encouraging indicators for a successful week, as Santana is set to make home starts against the Nationals and Dodgers in Week 13.
Max Scherzer, Detroit: Scherzer has been very hittable in recent weeks, but he is still enough of a strikeout pitcher that he can be trusted when the matchups give him a break. While his first Week 13 start, which falls on Monday against the Blue Jays, may be a struggle, Scherzer is rewarded with a date with the Giants, the majors' lowest-scoring team, in his second start.
Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco: If you're looking for a sign that Vogelsong's improbable comeback story is about to take a turn for the worse, you're not going to find it. In eight of his last nine starts, Vogelsong has walked no more than two batters, and in all nine of those starts, he has allowed no more than a pair of runs. In less than two months, Vogelsong has gone from a forgotten failed prospect to an All-Star candidate. And more relevant to those of us in the Fantasy world, he's also become a rotation fixture for all standard mixed leagues.
C.J. Wilson, Texas: Wilson is sort of the pitching equivalent of Hunter Pence in Fantasy; he doesn't stand out in any particular category, but he's good enough in every category that he finds himself among the top producers. Wilson currently ranks 21st among all starting pitchers in Fantasy points, yet he is benched in 14 percent of our leagues. Wilson should be starting most weeks in any event, but especially with upcoming tilts with the Astros and Marlins, there is no reason to let the lefty fritter away the week on your bench.
Other Add/Activate Targets
Josh Collmenter, Arizona: Collmenter received precious little prospect hype, but then again, few pitchers with a fastball that tops out in the upper 80s do. The righty with the tomahawk delivery is getting the last laugh, as he has put together a 3.10 ERA and 1.05 WHIP since joining Arizona's rotation. Even if xFIP is correct in estimating that Collmenter's ERA should be a full run higher that still makes him a pitcher standard mixed-league owners can use at times. With a Week 13 start against a weak Oakland lineup, this would be a good time to get Collmenter on your active roster.
Doug Fister, Seattle: The aforementioned Collmenter is a soft-tosser. Fister gets just a couple of extra miles per hour on his fastball. Collmenter ranks seventh in the majors in percentage of strikes thrown. Fister ranks eighth. They're not exactly twins, and Collmenter has more value thanks to a better supporting cast on offense, but Fister's ownership rate (31 percent) should still be closer to Collmenter's (54 percent) than it is. Especially with an upcoming start against the Padres, this would be a good time to give Fister a try in standard mixed leagues.
Matt Harrison, Texas: Harrison's season looked like it was going to spiral out of control in early May, as back-to-back disastrous starts ravaged his stats. Since then, Harrison has been extremely reliable, posting quality starts seven times in eight tries. He has been on the wild side, walking 20 batters in 50 2/3 innings, but allowing a puny .084 Isolated Power. That means he has turned the average batter into Cliff Pennington, as least as far as power-hitting goes. In facing the power-deprived Astros, this is a streak that Harrison can easily continue.
Brad Lincoln, Pittsburgh: Lincoln will be recalled from Triple-A to pitch one of the Pirates' doubleheader games against the Nationals on July 2. He was not exactly Fantasy-friendly in his first trip to the majors last season, but Lincoln has improved his command in the minors this season. He will face the Nats, who as a unit are some of the least selective hitters in the majors. It could be a very fruitful 2011 debut for the former first-round draft pick. He is worth a pickup in NL-only leagues.
Cory Luebke, San Diego: Luebke has been sensational in the Padres' bullpen, but he made the move to the starting rotation this Sunday against the Braves and tossed five scoreless innings. He won't be likely to continue his strikeout-per-inning pace as a starter, but he should have few problems with the Mariners in Week 13. At the very least, owners in deeper mixed leagues should look to add Luebke for the coming week.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox: Peavy lasted just 5 1/3 innings in his first start off the DL against the Cubs on Wednesday, but he was sharp in four innings in an unexpected relief appearance on Saturday against the Nationals. That's a sign to Fantasy owners that Peavy is ready to use again, so if you need a solid one-start option in Week 13, get Peavy off your bench.
Jason Vargas, Seattle: Vargas isn't often an advisable start in standard mixed league when he takes the mound just one time, but his one start in Week 13 is against the lowly Padres. This is as good a time as any to swipe Vargas off of waivers.
Inadvisable Two-Start Pitchers (Standard Mixed Leagues)
Doug Davis, Chicago Cubs: Davis has been victimized by a 68 percent strand rate, but the bottom line is that he is just too wild to trust outside of NL-only leagues. A higher strand rate might get his ERA into the mid-4.00s, but he will still continue to be a detriment to your team's WHIP.
Jeff Francis, Kansas City: Like Davis, Francis's ERA has been bloated by a low strand rate, but this has become a chronic problem for the ex-Rockie. He has not posted a rate of 70 percent or higher in any of his last three seasons. With all of the contact that Francis allows, he cannot afford to be anything less than an above-average pitcher at stranding runners.
Freddy Garcia, N.Y. Yankees: Garcia is on a nice mini-run in which he has posted three consecutive quality starts. What's notable is that the flyball-prone Garcia did not allow a homer over this stretch, even though he had pitched in Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and Great American Ball Park -- all good home run ballparks. Garcia travels to a less hostile environment in Week 13, facing the Rays at Tropicana Field. Despite the more hospitable venue, Garcia's luck is bound to run out at some point, as he just doesn't have the profile of a pitcher with a 3.30 ERA.
Jason Hammel, Colorado: Over the previous two seasons, Hammel had established himself as a borderline option for standard mixed league owners. While he had been bedeviled by high line drive rates, Hammel minimized the damage by limiting his walks and avoiding contact at a decent rate. This season, Hammel has been pitching in the strike zone much less frequently, and the foundation on which his Fantasy value was built has crumbled. Until he gets back to throwing more strikes, Hammel can stay off the radar of all standard mixed league owners.
John Lannan, Washington: Lannan continues to be one of the more puzzling pitchers to figure out. He allows gobs of contact, can be prone to wildness, and isn't especially gifted at avoiding line drives, yet here he is again with a sub-4.00 ERA. In his last six starts, Lannan has allowed a mere five earned runs over 39 innings, despite an unimpressive 18-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His "secret" is consistently low batting averages on ground balls. I'm not sure if that's a skill, but owners in standard mixed leagues probably shouldn't bank on it.
Jordan Lyles, Houston: Lyles has been surprisingly proficient at collecting Ks over his first five major league starts, but his minor league track record suggests that this won't be a long-term trend. His last start -- against the Rangers on Tuesday -- represented his toughest big-league test to date, but it won't get any easier for Lyles in Week 13. He gets another start against Texas plus a showdown versus Boston. This will not be the best of weeks to put your faith in the untested rookie.
Jason Marquis, Washington: Marquis was brilliant in holding the Mariners scoreless over eight innings on Thursday, and he already has a complete-game shutout to his credit this season. However, Marquis has been more prone to awful starts than great ones, and most of the time, his results are merely pedestrian. The 12-year veteran will have to string together a few more good starts before we can feel safe using him as a two-start pitcher in standard mixed leagues. In fact, Marquis may not be a two-start pitcher next week at all, as the Nats could call up a pitcher to take one of the doubleheader starts on Saturday against the Pirates, pushing Marquis a day back in the rotation.
Rick Porcello, Detroit: Porcello was enjoying a good run earlier this season, but he has been more erratic over the last month. Now his stats paint a picture of a young hurler who may be taking a step backward. Both Porcello's walk and ground ball rates have been moving in the wrong direction, and he is becoming a member of the Chris Volstad/Mike Pelfrey/Brad Bergesen class of sinkerballers who struggle to keep the ball in the park. Despite the brief early success this year, Porcello is still best saved for deeper leagues.
Jo-Jo Reyes, Toronto: The quality start is not a measure of excellence so much as a sign of avoiding serious trouble. Reyes has had some good moments this season, but his quality start rate of 40 percent shows that he has had more than his share of ugly games. The southpaw is still too dangerous to trust in anything other than an AL-only league.
Zach Stewart, Toronto: Stewart's stat lines from his last two seasons in Double-A have not been especially impressive, so owners were probably not astounded when the recent callup got clocked in his second career start against the Braves. With Week 13 starts scheduled against the Tigers and Phillies, Stewart should be probably be left on the bench in all but the deepest of AL-only leagues.
Mitch Talbot, Cleveland: Talbot had posted some impressive ground ball and walk rates as a minor leaguer, but neither has carried over into the majors. Since Talbot is a contact pitcher, his poor control and homer-proneness are real liabilities, even for AL-only owners.
Javier Vazquez, Florida: Vazquez ranks dead last among qualifying major league starters in quality start percentage. Only three of Vazquez's 15 outings meet the undemanding standards of the quality start. With such infrequent production, it is hard to imagine the format in which Vazquez could be considered viable.
Other Drop/Stash Targets
Jake Arrieta, Baltimore: Arrieta will have 12 days between starts, so his inflamed elbow will get extra rest. The team thinks that he will be able to pitch through his condition, though there is some risk that Arrieta will have his start pushed even further back. He hasn't been all that effective lately anyway, so standard mixed-league owners can afford to take a pass on Arrieta and his scheduled Saturday start at Atlanta.
Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland: Because of a recent hot streak, Carrasco's popularity has been on the rise over the last few weeks. While Carrasco has been very good over his last six starts, his low walk and homer rates have the look of a short-term streak, as he is performing above and beyond the standards he set as a minor leaguer. With one start next week -- and that start coming against a good Arizona lineup -- it is probably asking too much of Carrasco to outproduce some of the more established standard mixed-league options.
Dillon Gee, N.Y. Mets: Gee may lead the Mets in wins, but teammates Jonathon Niese and R.A. Dickey own the superior skills set. Both Niese and Dickey are better ground-ball pitchers, and both have better control as well. That's why Niese and Dickey are advisable starts in their matchups against the Yankees (assuming Niese is healthy enough to start), while Gee should ride the pine for his, at least in standard mixed leagues.
Brandon Morrow, Toronto: In two of his last four starts, Morrow has held an opponent scoreless for six-plus innings. Both adversaries -- the Reds and Royals -- are potentially dangerous, so that was no minor feat. Then again, these two outings sandwiched a nine-run meltdown at the hands of the Red Sox. While the two good starts provide some indication that Morrow could be on the upswing, he has still been too hittable too often, despite an extraordinarily high strikeout rate. He needs to show consistency over a longer period to be worth the risk of an active roster spot, at least outside of deeper leagues.
Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati: With two strong starts upon returning from a minor-league demotion, it looked like Volquez was back to being a pitcher who could be trusted in most formats. In his last two starts, however, it's been deja vu for frustrated owners. Volquez has allowed eight earned runs over 9 1/3 innings in those starts, and even more discouraging, he has walked seven batters and allowed a pair of homers. He may still offer enough to be used in two-start weeks, but Volquez is still erratic enough that standard mixed-league owners can find better one-start alternatives to use.
Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs: Zambrano rebounded from poor back-to-back starts to hold the White Sox and Royals in check in Week 12. Still, Big Z is allowing more homers than usual and not getting consistently high strikeout totals. He has a good matchup against the Giants next week, but Zambrano has just been too inconsistent to trust as a one-start pitcher.
Might Not Start in Week 13
Danny Duffy, Kansas City: Duffy's stay with the Royals was supposed to end in Week 13, as Kyle Davies is ready to be activated from the disabled list. However, better performance of late has given manager Ned Yost second thoughts about removing the rookie from the rotation. There is still a good chance that Duffy will take his talents back to Triple-A Omaha this coming week, but owners in very deep leagues who lack other options might as well keep him active in case he manages to get another start.
Brad Hand, Florida: The Marlins will need a fifth starter again on July 2, and Hand is the most obvious candidate to fill in. He had been holding down the role prior to his minor league demotion on Monday, and it appears he was sent to Class A Jupiter just so he could continue pitching on schedule, as the Marlins have had some days off. However, there has been no announcement as to whether the team will recall Hand or go with another option.
Rodrigo Lopez, Chicago Cubs: The Cubs will need an extra starter to pitch one of their doubleheader games on Tuesday against San Francisco. Manager Mike Quade has indicated that Lopez is likely to get the call, though he is not the official starter as of yet.
Shane Loux, San Francisco: With the Giants playing a doubleheader on Tuesday, they will need a spot starter to step in for Thursday's series finale with the Cubs. No announcement has been made as to whom is being considered, but Loux could be recalled from Triple-A to make the start on regular rest.
Jonathon Niese, N.Y. Mets: Niese was pulled from Saturday's start against the Rangers with a rapid heartbeat. He will get an examination on Tuesday, but the team fully expects Niese to make his next scheduled start on Friday against the Yankees.
Roy Oswalt, Philadelphia: Oswalt left Thursday's start against St. Louis with a tight lower back. He is dealing with a bulging disk and is likely to miss at least a month. Kyle Kendrick has taken over Oswalt's rotation spot.
Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco: Sanchez was placed on the DL on Saturday with left biceps tendinitis. He is eligible to return on July 10, just before the All-Star break, though he could potentially be out longer. Barry Zito will assume Sanchez's place in the Giants' rotation in the mean time.
John Danks, Chicago White Sox: Danks exited Saturday's start against Washington early with a strained right oblique, and he was put on the DL on Sunday. The lefty has already reported improvement, and he may be activated after the minimum 15 days. The White Sox are likely to revert back to a five-man rotation, so no replacement for Danks will be needed.
Clay Buchholz, Boston: Buchholz is on the DL with a tight lower back. The move was made retroactive to June 17, but he will probably not be back by the end of Week 13. Buchholz is targeted to return on July 4 against the Blue Jays.
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland: McCarthy (shoulder) pitched four innings in a rehab start for Class A Stockton on Thursday. He will make another rehab start on Tuesday, and he could possibly return to the A's rotation next Sunday to face the Diamondbacks.
Rich Harden, Oakland: Harden (lat) had his second rehab outing with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. He still has to increase his pitch counts before he is ready to be activated, so he will not be available until Fantasy Week 14 (July 4-10) at the earliest.
Phil Hughes, N.Y. Yankees: Hughes (shoulder) made a Double-A rehab start on Friday and is scheduled to make another one on Wednesday. He had a good side session on Sunday and Hughes could potentially return to the Yankees' rotation for Fantasy Week 14, but New York said they won't rush the process. Hughes is still on a wait-and-see schedule.
Kyle Davies, Kansas City: Davies (shoulder) made what was thought to be his final Triple-A rehab start on Saturday. He will now accompany the team on its road trip, but no decision has been made yet as to what his next steps are. Davies could take over Danny Duffy's rotation spot, beginning with his next scheduled turn on July 1 at Colorado, but owners will need to monitor the situation before making Davies active in any Fantasy format.
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