Sunday, April 30, 2006
Nats to Pujols: We Surrender
Where do the Nats get a guy like Albert Pujols? Seriously. The man has created his own verb and is doing the best impression of...well, there's really no precedent for what he is doing from the right side of the plate. Joe Dimaggio, maybe, with more power. Jimmie Foxx, maybe, with fewer strikeouts. If it weren't for Barry Bonds, he'd be the best hitter I'd ever seen, and I've seen the Big Hurt at his absurd zenith. He's the National League assassin. Like Gilbert Arenas, only he's actually doing the assassinations (Gilbert is not).
But a better question is: Where do the Cardinals get off getting a guy like Albert Pujols? Seriously. This is a franchise that has already had its Man. It already had Rogers Hornsby. Its cup overflows. Historically speaking, the Baseball Gods have smiled on the St. Louis Cardinals. (While at the same time, they frowned on the Browns, only to smile and wink at them in Baltimore, and the curse them again with Peter Angelos. But I digress).
So here's my new rule for the Major Leagues. It will enhance parity and revenues for every ball club, and leave all children happy:
Albert Pujols is to be cloned. And every team gets an Albert Pujols.
Friday, April 28, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 28, at St. Louis
Thursday, April 27, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 27, at St. Louis
Pitching, Pitching, Pitching.
I lied. Everything I wanted to say was said by Capitol Punishment.
SNV here. I actually disagree with Capitol Punishment. Not about Bowden being a fool with an ego too big to admit he's wrong - no one can reasonably argue with that. But about pitching.
The problem with the Nats' pitching is that it is much too fragile. Way too fragile. Patterson is flaky at best, Armas is beyond injury prone, and the rest of the guys are simply below replacement level, and are predictably blown out when asked to actually give the team major league innings.
Oddly, the Nats have essentially the baseline of what you want from a pitcher for RFK and the NL East in Livan. He's extraordinarily durable and lets the opposition put the ball in play. For the most part, that is going to keep runs down in a low-ERA environment like the NL East. Patterson, to me, would be the best of all worlds if healthy - a high strikeout AND absurdly fly-ball oriented. So they do have a solid pitching foundation.
The Nats only need to scour the league for dependable, league-average arms. They usually can be had cheaply - they picked up Loaiza at a reasonable price last year, and there is no reason that they couldn't do it again. How about picking up a knuckleballer like Chuck Haeger from the White Sox organization? Flyballs are outs in RFK, so there isn't much risk in putting him out there, and his arm isn't going to get hurt. Eric Milton would work. Seriously (once he is back from knee surgery). And Cincy would undoubtedly pick up some of his salary. Casey Fossum would have to be another candidate, if you can get him away from Tampa Bay.
What they need is good defense (to create a high defensive effeciency) and on base percentage skills. So far, only two players meet that goal - Nick Johnson and Ryan Church, when he's not in centerfield. Everyone else needs to improve (I'm talking to you, Dutch) or be replaced (I'm talking to you, ClaytonGuzman).
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Salt for the Wounds
I probably shouldn't do this when the Nats current pitching staff is so tender, but last night was ex-Nat starter night in MLB. How did they fare?
Hector Carrasco struggled in a 5-2 loss to the Tigers, going only 5.0 innings, but giving up 5 earned runs on 7 hits, with only 3 Ks.
Tomo Ohka outpitched Tim Hudson in a 4-2 win over the Braves, 7.0 innings, 2 earned runs, 3 Ks, no walks.
Claudio Vargas had the best night, 7.0 innings of shutout ball in a 7-0 win over the Padres, giving up only 4 hits, no walks, with 4 Ks.
I'll stop there. Conclusions and rants are left as an exercise for the reader.
SNV here. I'll pick up where DM left off. The history of trading off quality major leaguers didn't start with Jim Bowden, it started with Omar Minaya. Minaya made a concerted effort to run the Expo franchise into the ground.
Begin at the beginning:
Traded Lee Stevens, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore to the Cleveland Indians. Received Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.
Ouch. A half season of Colon (Colon was later traded for Rocky Biddle, El Duque - who never pitched, and Jeff Liefer) for a #2 starter, an All-Star centerfielder, and a useful second baseman. This one really hurts.
Another bad one:
Traded Michael Barrett to the Oakland Athletics. Received a player to be named later. The Oakland Athletics sent Bret Price (minors) (December 19, 2003) to the Montreal Expos to complete the trade.
Ouch. Michael Barrett is going to be an All-Star catcher this year.
Another bad one:
Traded Chris Young and Josh McKinley (minors) to the Texas Rangers. Received Einar Diaz and Justin Echols (minors).
On the other hand, Minaya did make several good trades. He got Livan Hernandez when San Francisco dumped his salary. He got Ryan Church from the Indians for nothing. He picked John Patterson up from Arizona for Randy Choate (part of the Vazquez/Johnson deal). It's hard to give him too hard a time, but his ledger is still negative:
|John Patterson||Cliff Lee|
|Livan Hernandez||Grady Sizemore|
|Ryan Church||Michael Barrett|
|Luis Ayala||Brandon Phillips|
All in all, I'd probably take the guys on the right - two #3 type starters, an All-Star centerfielder, an All-Star catcher, and an interesting second baseman vs. a #2 starter, a #3 starter, a platooning corner outfielder, and two setup/middle relief guys.
Who would be the All-ex-Expo team?
ERV Boxscore for April 25, vs. Reds
That was an exhausting game. I'm getting tired of looking for silver linings, although coming back again from a 4-0 deficit is a good thing, I guess. This game was the first where the official scorer annoyed me -- Soriano should have gotten an error on the second ball that hit his glove. But I'm going by the scorer this year, so no fielding debit for Alfonso.
ERV Win: Encarnacion
ERV Loss: Traber
3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) LeCroy's GIDP in the 6th (-1.76)
(2) Zimmerman's GIDP in the 7th (-1.73)
(3) Encarnacion's "Double" in the 5th (1.57)
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Soriano: Early Returns
A trio of good posts has been penned by Federal Baseball, Nats Triple Play, and OMG assessing the status of the Alfonso Soriano trade in light of his good start at the plate and avoidance of disaster in left field. The Feds and NTP are bullish, essentially ready to give Jim Bowden mad props for unloading the whiff machine Brad Wilkerson and change for a real major league hitter. OMG remains wary, figuring that Soriano will retreat somewhat and Wilkerson will advance as time moves on.
I think the cautionary approach from OMG is the right one, but I will say that I've been surprised by how much I enjoy watching Soriano hit, and I think that is the source of the optimism in Nate's and Basil's posts. He is unlike any hitter we've seen on the Nats -- quick hands, unexpected strength from a wiry frame, casual but potent speed on the bases. It seems like he hits the ball harder than any other Nat, even the singles.
This image of him is in direct contrast to the surly malcontent we heard about all winter -- there is an enthusiasm in the way he plays the game that was not evident in the offseason. In left field, a different story, of course. He makes bad judgments on balls and will loaf at times. But I spent a childhood watching Greg Luzinski "play" left field, so I'm not losing sleep over that.
Now that he's ours for this year, let's hope he continues this good work and truly does make us forget Brad Wilkerson.
Monday, April 24, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 25, vs. Reds
Licked by the Lizard. It's hard to say anything more about this game, than you just never know in baseball. We had the pitching matchup here, but Elizardo Ramirez dominated.
But the hit and runs are getting tedious now. I'm fine with Soriano trying to steal in the 8th, and it looked like he got a good jump, so why should Vidro have to worry about protecting him?
ERV Win: Ramirez
ERV Loss: Zimmerman
Three Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Guillen's Single in the 6th (1.35)
(2) Guillen's groundout in the 8th (-1.10)
(3) Church's popout in the 6th (-1.06)
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Sunday Night Stats
Here's the latest ERV totals, sorted by Total WV, complete through Sunday night's game. The Wins and Losses columns record ERV Wins and Losses, which are explained here.
Things of Note:
-- We've squandered nearly 10 runs on the bases, and no one has a positive Running RV or WV.
-- Armas, Cordero, Patterson, Rauch and Rodriguez are our best pitchers so far, but the rest of the staff is really dragging us down.
-- It's nice to see Church on top of the list, and with only a fraction of the plate appearances as the other starters.
-- Royce Clayton is filling Cristian Guzman's shoes quite well. Unfortunately, those shoes are made of cement.
ERV Boxscore for April 23, vs. Atlanta
Should have won that one. Our paper-thin bullpen is easily torn these days. Armas still looks good, if not very overpowering. After Majewski gives up the triple and gets one out, it seemed to me that he could not get the strikeout that was needed. I would have brought in Cordero, since he's our best pitcher and that was the whole game right there.
BTW, ESPN's coverage is awful. The information provided in the graphics is so thin they might as well not even use them. Plus Miller and Morgan just chat during the game like they are fans watching it. It lulls you into not paying attention to what's going on. They could do a LOT better.
ERV Win: Betemit
ERV Loss: Majewski
Three most valuable plays:
(1) Betemit's HR in the 8th (4.05)
(2) Prado's Triple in the 8th (2.40)
(3) Schneider's GIDP in the 4th (-1.57)
To the Mailbag!
On the right side of this page, you will find a link to e-mail Nats Blog. Now, I set up that gmail account for access by Dexy's, DM and I, but DM really checks it the most. He's carried on important correspondence with big, BIG figures in the baseball world, and has generally raised the profile of Nats Blog and the WV scoring system (which I still do not understand).
But we do get questions from time to time, and I thought I would dip into the e-mail bag for a quick post. Here we go:
How are you doing with the entire member of your family?
I believed that you will be in better position to corporate with me hence you have vast knowledge in the field of international transaction and Investment.I have been seeking a trust worthy person who understand investment ethics to enter into joint venture partnership on a good lucrative sectors in your country.
The money is ($25,000.000) Millions U.S. dollars and I want to invest this money in any good investment. I need your help urgently for both SAFE KEEPING and INVESTING this money in your country.
And also help me to invest this money in good and profitable sectors in your country because I do not have experience of investment.
I will be very grateful for your urgent response while hoping to do good investments with you on life time ventures. I am CharlesTaylor boy former
president of liberia you can contact me 00971 50 2443308 Kevin need partnership
to invest help.
My best regards.
Hello, Mr. Kevin! We are doing well with the entire members of our family! Thanks for reading.
I see that you are an astute reader of Nats Blog, recognizing our expertise in international transaction and investments. And thank you for the compliment, we at Nats Blog are trustworthy. I mean, after all, I trust my sanity each and every day with Dexy's. And DM is the last of the famous, international
Good and profitable sectors of the economy? Hmm. I see you have $25 million, which is just short of the amount necessary to buy the Washington Nationals. Ok. Have you thought of buying the Florida Marlins? You would have about $10 million left over. With the remainder, I'd recommend Halliburton. They are into two industries: oil and military contracts. Those are big in this town right now.
Hope that helps,
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Bill James in a Box
What is it about Bill James? The man who coined the term "sabermetrics", his name is the icon of the movement towards a more rigorous analysis of baseball through statistics. And he provokes a binary reaction: you either love him (Rob Neyer) or hate him (Joe Morgan). Why? The book, The Mind of Bill James, by Scott Gray, purportedly seeks to answer this question.
I was drawn to this book by the preview from The Baseball Crank, who noted that the book might be a disappointment to those who had grown up with Bill James and already read all of his stuff, given than it is largely a collection of excerpts from his 30 years of writings on baseball. That description appealed to me because I had not already devoured Bill James' work, which is, upon reflection, weird. It is a puzzle befitting James's analytical style because, by all the objective evidence, I should have been a James fanatic. I first tried to create a dice-based simulation in 1976, when I was 8, using the stats in the 1976 World Almanac. I played every conceivable baseball board game. I was a Baseball Digest and Sporting News subscriber from 1978 through 1983. My second-hand copies of the 1978 MacMillan's Baseball Encyclopedia and Neft & Cohen's Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball were worn in like my baseball mitt. I was even aware of the Baseball Abstracts when they arrived in the early 1980s, but for reasons lost in the fog I never bought one. So I come to this new work on James neither as a devoted follower nor an irritated skeptic. But it is very hard not to find James' writing, and the mind that produces it, irresistible.
James presents a rare combination of three important intellectual skills: (1) a deep, analytical mind capable of assimilating a vast array of facts on multiple levels of judgment and interpretation; (2) the ability to communicate complex ideas not only with clarity, but with a fierce brightness that is often unforgettable; and (3) the courage (perhaps it's just callousness) to express conclusions that often cast a cold, harsh light on the subject. There are several people who possess one or even two of these traits -- having all three puts James on the far right of the talent curve.
His appeal (or irritation) begins with the fact that he is a true wise-ass. His humor runs right along, and often sneaks under, the border of tastefulness. Consider this remark:
[I]f there is anyone in the Western Hemisphere who knows less about the Kansas City Royals than Sparky Anderson does, I don't know who it would be -- Karen Ann Quinlan, perhaps.If you, like me, laughed out loud at that one, you will probably enjoy Bill James. It also helps explains his near-universal reverence in the caustic, sarcastic, ironic baseball blogosphere.
Next comes his use of analogies -- absolutely proper and effective, in that he employs them to illuminate, not prove. Take how he explains the effort to measure fielding:
Hitting is solid, pitching is liquid, defense is gaseous.Also appealing his is his ability to make fresh observations about old issues, even one like racism, which probably has the highest noise to signal, heat to light ratio of any topic:
Hitting is firm, well-defined, easy to measure.
Pitching is liquid ... it assumes the shape of whatever form it is poured into. A 15-10 pitcher with a 3.80 ERA on one team is 10-15 with a 5.00 ERA on another team.
Defense is gaseous. It is damned hard to capture, formless, hard to see.
If there is anything in the world that can safely be said about racists, it is that they are mediocre. Nothing characterizes a racist like his mediocrity. Racists are people who can find no rational or apparent basis for believing in their own superiority, and so seek to identify themselves with a superior thing, with a badge that won't come off. The baseball world is not an exception to that. ... If you are looking for racism in baseball, start in the middle of the standings and read down.The Phillies, my former team, had one of the worst records in the 50s and 60s of recruiting and hiring black players, and to call them mediocre back then is essentially a compliment.
But to me, what is most impressive about James is his tireless quest to illuminate the objective reality about baseball, even though he knows that it is not possible to complete such a quest:
Baseball is an infinite puzzle. You can never really understand why teams win and why they lose. You can understand a little bit more, and a little bit more, but you can never exhaust the subject.And he understands that essential to this quest is the clear-eyed understanding of the paradox that "We shouldn't be too confident about the things we think we know." With this approach, James continues the tradition of Socrates, about whom the Oracle at Delphi said "No man is wiser than Socrates", which Socrates explained by noting that he knows that he doesn't know anything.
James's irreverent, sarcastic, and refreshingly shocking quest for the truth also reminds me of my favorite author, Flannery O'Connor (James was a literature major in college, which helps explain his writing talent). O'Connor would not compromise her goal to explain things as they are, rather than how her readers wanted them to be, and to do so with bracing wit. Her story A Good Man is Hard to Find ends with a escaped psychopath murdering a kindly grandmother in a ditch at the side of a road. One of O'Connor's readers complained about this ending, to which she replied, "Did you want me to keep writing until the police arrived?" I think that answer would make James smile.
Then there is just the simple pleasure of reading Bill James make a point. It resembles the joy of watching Ozzie Smith field a tough grounder -- he does it with such ease and grace you think it is uncomplicated. But when you actually try to do the same thing, you realize quickly how many unanticipated decisions you must make in a suddenly miniscule amount of time and space, and even if you manage to accomplish the same goal, your effort will be clumsy, wasteful and unremarkable.
Reading Scott Gray's exposition of Bill James's mind, unfortunately, is not as pleasing. As the Baseball Crank notes, the book is a bit of a mess, with very little organization or structure (e.g., he does not cite the source for many excerpts, which is frustrating, at least to an uptight lawyer like myself). It feels like you've just done a Google search for "Bill James", and somewhat randomly clicked through to page after page of excerpts -- enjoyable, to be sure, but not presented in a fashion conducive to getting a picture of the man. Some important things are given short shrift, like James's clashes with Seymour Siwoff of Elias Sports Bureau, MLB's official statisticians. Gray foreshadows his meandering style in the Preface, quoting New Yorker author Malcolm Gladwell's praise that Bill James has "mastered the tangent" -- the ability to depart from the expected path yet ultimately remain on point and not confuse or annoy the reader. One gets the sense that Gray has tried his hand at this feat, but he is more Royce Clayton than Ozzie Smith.
Also, some of the the best words in the book (other than James's) are not even from Gray, but from James's wife Susan McCarthy. A large part of the appeal of Bill James is his example of how Americans put the Enlightenment into practice. Without any baseball pedigree whatsoever, no link to McGraw or Mack or Rickey or Ruth or any of the nobility of the game, a lanky, bearded security guard from Kansas, by sheer dint of his intellect and powers of rational observation, managed to affect baseball in profound ways, and ultimately become part of the game with the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. McCarthy describes how she had to drag James onto the field at Busch Stadium to celebrate with the Red Sox. It is one of the rare moments in the book where we glimpse how James feels about his career and accomplishments. James is notoriously difficult to work with, so Gray's roundabout approach may be the only one any author could take in such a book.
In the end, it's hard not to recommend this book, especially if you have not read much Bill James; it is an introduction to his work, and right now the only one I know of. If you've already read a lot of his work, this collection will probably frustrate you, and you might be better revisiting some of those old books directly. In either case, if you're a fan of baseball, reading more Bill James will make you laugh, ponder and enjoy this great game.
The Importance of a Walk
On Friday I took a sold-out Acela Express train from New York to D.C., and sat next to an older man with cream-white hair who did not say a word for two hours, until we approached Union Station. He noticed that I was reading "The Mind of Bill James" and asked about the book. I told him a bit about it, and asked if had read any of James' work. He said no, but that he knows a little bit about baseball, given that he was just out in Arizona pitching in the over-65 baseball championships. He also said he went to high school with Dick McAuliffe, and had a chance to play pro ball, but went to college instead. Among the players he has coached is Dayton Moore, current assistant GM with the Braves.
We talked some more about James, and I described the basics of his thinking, such as the importance of On-Base Percentage and looking at walks in evaluating the talent of hitters. The man smiled and proceeded to tell me a story about the importance of evaluating your players, and of a walk.
"I was coaching little league in 1971," he began, "and we were in the championship game. We were down by 1 run in the last inning with 2 outs, but we had the bases loaded. As luck would have it, though, our batter was a kid who had struck out every time at bat that season. He simply swung at every single pitch he saw.
"So I decided to send him up to the plate without a bat. Well, first the umpire came over and asked me what I was doing. I told him there was no rule against sending the batter up there without a bat, and he couldn't disagree. Then the opposing manager, who's kid was pitching, comes out and wants to know what's going on.
"Then the batter's father comes running down the bleachers and starts yelling at me through the chain link backstop, saying I was embarrassing his kid. I said, 'Just give me two minutes, and I'll explain everything.' Then the kid says, 'Coach, what am I supposed to do?' I told him, 'Just go stand in the batter's box and smile at the pitcher.'
"Sure enough, the kid walks to to tie the game, and we win on the next at bat with a base hit. But the father is still mad at me, and comes up to me after the game to yell at me some more. But his kid pulls him by the belt loop and says 'Dad, get out of here. I have to go to school tomorrow, and if I struck out to lose the game, I wouldn't hear the end of the razzing from the other kids.' Then he beamed, 'But now, I can say I drove in the tying run!' The dad stopped short, and walked away without saying another word."
As we got off the train, we exchanged business cards, and he told me he had seven children, and had taken care of over seventy foster kids. It was the least suprising thing he could have said.
ERV Boxscore for April 21 vs. Atlanta
An exciting win, and good result, but we need to treat the Stanton-Eischen syndrome were are currently suffering. Patterson totally rocked, and it was a shame to see him not get the win.
ERV Win: Soriano
ERV Loss: Cormier
Three Most Valuable Plays
(1) Betemit's Single in the 8th (2.48)
(2) Church's Triple in the 8th (2.41)
(3) Soriano's HR in the 8th (1.47)
Friday, April 21, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 19 at Philadelphia
A frustrating loss, probably of the kind we can't afford to lose many of this year. The bullpen seriously let's us down -- good teams simply don't blow three run leads in the 8th.
ERV Win: Howard
ERV Loss: Stanton
Three most valuable plays:
(1) Howard's GW single in the 10th (3.44)
(2) Abreu's HR in the 8th (2.39)
(3) Howard's HR in the 2nd (1.76)
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 18 at Philadelphia
I didn't see much of this game, but I saw Church's grand slam, which was nice for him but largely irrelevant to this game -- it gets a 0.39 WV, because the chance of winning a 6-3 in the ninth is not much less than a 10-3 game.
ERV Win: Zimmerman
ERV Loss: Rhodes
3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Burrell's HR in the 4th (2.03)
(2) Zimmerman's Double in the 8th (1.56)
(3) Rollins getting thrown out in the first (-1.33)
Bowden arrested for DUI
No cheap shots this time.
Jim Bowden was arrested Sunday night and charged with driving under the influence. While I have taken a lot of shots at Bowden's judgment over the past year and a half, I never expected this. Bowden says he will plead non-guilty, but all of the other words in the article lead one to the conclusion that it was a legitimate arrest. If it is, and if in addition to the charge, it comes out that Bowden has some sort of drinking problem, here's hoping he gets help for it.
If he doesn't have a problem and this was just an irresponsible lapse in judgment, one can also hope that he gets punished accordingly, be happy that no one got hurt, and maybe the Nats can move on with a fresh slate and a sad non-baseball ending to the Nats Bowden era.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
The Post and WPA
I just noticed this today, and thought I would point out that the Post has added a real-time scoring page for Nats games that includes win-probability scoring! Not just any win probability scoring, but the Tangotiger/Studeman/Walk off Balk WPA scoring.
This is probably the most forward-looking move by a major newspaper and it embraces some of the leading-edge thought in baseball. I have my own hesitation on WPA scoring (I worry about sample size for some situations), but I do acknowledge its promise in understanding games and the contributions of players. Kudos to the Post for getting on board the train. If it was the vowel-less one behind this, thank you. We like you despite your Duke education.
The post I didn't have to write
It's no secret that we here at Nats Blog, and myself in particular, have been big proponents of having Ryan Church on the Nats MLB roster and starting the vast majority of games. However, I have to say that around 1:30 this afternoon, I really did start to think to myself "Have I been backing a bad horse all this time"?
In the top of the first, with a man on second and two outs, Ryan Church struck out. And badly. On (I believe) 3 pitches. Against a guy with a career ERA of 5.90. Which made him 0 for 6 since his call-up with 4 Ks. And over the span of a minute or two, I thought: What if they were right that he should have played through pain last year? And why when faced in competition in Spring Training did he perform so badly? And what was up with that excuse for performing badly that infuriated the front office and Frank so much ("I'm worn down"--you're in your mid 20's and it's Spring Training)? And why since he was sent to the minors was he doing his best Cristian Guzman impersonation? And finally, why when actually given his job back has he looked so dreadful? I started doubting, Ryan. I really did.
Anyway...thank you for hitting two home runs over the next two hours, winning the game for the Nats, and making it so that I didn't have to write that post with such doubts still intact. I hope you make Frank cringe again and again by hitting the crap out of the ball and shoving his insults back in his face.
The cooling of Dutch
Is it too late to ask for a second honeymoon? After a great September call-up and a hot first two games to start the season including a clutch game-tying homerun against the Mets in game 2, Ryan Zimmerman has cooled off considerably. Now, admittedly Ryan has a lot of pressure being the only young gun and a supposed savior to a really bad team. But every now and then, I think too much and start wondering that Bowden and team have overhyped him in Bowden's constant attempts to save his job. The main reason I have for this over-thinking is that Zim kept being touted as the next Scott Rolen before he committed error after error in the spring--and while he hasn't been error-prone in the first couple of regular season weeks, I have definitely seen him miss a couple of balls that most 3rd basemen would have gotten to or read earlier.
But obviously, right now, his bat is most troubling--especially for a guy that we have been batting in the meat of the order. Since game 2, the at-bat where he took Billy Wagner long, Zimmerman has been far from a dutch treat. 3 of his 10 hits (and both his extra base hits) were in the first 2 games and 3 of his 6 walks were in those games too. So in the last 10 games, he has had a .175 Avg, a .204 OBP and a .175 SLG (since all his hits have been singles) for a .379 OPS. You put a .379 OPS in the middle of your lineup for a 10 game span and you aren't going to win many games (especially with some of our other guys). Even when you include the first two games, Ryan's OPS with men on and 2 outs is only .321 with 7! K's in 16 plate appearances.
So, anyway, here is hoping that Ryan gets his act together. It's early in the season and I certainly think that he'll pull it together. I'd just like to see him do it sooner rather than later.
Friday, April 14, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 13, 2006 vs. New York Mets
I was all set. We had just got on the road, with about 3 hours of driving ahead of us. The kids were occupied, and my XM radio was hooked up and I was ready to listen to the entire Nats game in peace. About 8 minutes later, that dream was shattered. I tuned out after the second or third inning, only tuning back in just in time to hear Frank walk the 8th hitter to have Oliver stroke an RBI single. I was secretly pleased with that one, because it was a bonehead move by Frank.
What a miserable game.
ERV Win: Wright
ERV Loss: Hernandez
Three most valuable plays:
(1) Wright's HR in the first (1.98)
(2) Zimmerman's GIDP in the 2nd (-1.22)
(3) Delgado's HR in the 3rd (0.91)
Ten Games In
The vowel-less one wrote the story of the Nats' inevitable re-tooling of the roster today, as the Nats sent Brandon Watson and Wiki Gonzalez to the minors and totally recalled Ryan Church and Brendan Harris. ("Brandon." "Brendan.")
You knew they would eventually recall Church, but I didn't think it would be by Easter. So while Church definitely belongs on the roster vs. Brandon Watson, I'm still going to criticize this move.
Why? Because I'm pissed off that Bowden, et al. do not even have the courage of their convictions to let Brandon Watson play. If you want a speedy centerfielder on your team to serve as a leadoff man, Watson fits that mold. You aren't going to be able to judge his performance in that role in 10 games. There are any number of hitters starting poorly this year: Scott Podsednik, Rondell White, Mike Sweeney. No one thinks that the first ten games defines their ability to perform this year.
If Bowden and Robinson believed that Watson was ready for the major leagues, and that he was who they wanted in centerfield and the leadoff spot, they are making the wrong decision by assuming he can't fill that role based on 10 games. Another rookie centerfielder, Brian Anderson, is performing even worse, yet there isn't even a whiff that the White Sox are considering a change (but a 5-4 record makes it a bit easier for them to relax).
The bright side is that this desperation move indicates that, for some reason, the Nats' front office considers these April games especially meaningful and necessary to their futures. I think they think that new ownership will fire them absent a 2005-like team that stays in contention. Given that this team is not going to stay in contention, I hope they are right.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 12 vs. New York Mets
With bases loaded and no outs, the average team scores eventually scores 2 runs. Sure, it's RFK and Pedro is pitching, but we had the meat of our lineup at the plate, and we get nothing. That problem is as depressing as it is serious.
Note: I've decided to make assignment of ERV Win and Loss very simple: highest WV for winning team, lowest for losing team gets the Win or Loss. One player, no more. I'll keep tabs on that as the season goes on.
ERV Win: Pedro Martinez
ERV Loss: Jose Guillen
Three most valuable plays:
(1)Jose Guillen's GIDP in the 6th (-2.26)
(2)David Wright's Triple (0.96)
(3) Jose Vidro's HR (0.93)
Meet the New Boss
We earlier noted our amusement that our humble blog had been acquired by a gentleman named Michael Briggs. Dexy's, of course, speculated that Briggs was in fact, Jim Bowden under a nom de plume, and that we would have to alter our content accordingly.
Well, I just checked our ownership records, and, lo and behold, we have a new owner. According to this press release, a woman named Ann Wuyts has "pressured out" public shareholders to acquire an 80% ownership interest in Nats Blog.
We have this message to our new owner: we salute your hardball tactics! We look forward to the guile you will bring to running this blog, and pledge our fealty to the new order! After all, "What good is money if you can't inspire terror in your fellow man?"
From a brief Google search, it appears that Ms. Wuyts is Dutch. Which makes a lot of sense, given that our third baseman is named Dutch. Ms. Wuyts: with your next visit, please bring us a pancake and a smoke.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Losses at RFK
DM, Dexy's and I were at Opening Day today. Not quite as exciting as last year, but a beautiful day, and a day at the ballpark beats a day pretty much everywhere else. Here are my notes:
1. RFK Logistics. Surprisingly, I left the latest - 11:37 a.m. from my home in N.E. Alexandria, but arrived first at the game - about 12:05 or so. Folks, it's simple how to get to RFK. Take 395 to 6th Street S.E., go north on 6th St. to North Carolina, then take that to East Capitol. Left turn at RFK and boom, you are in Lot 3. Easy in, Easy out. OK, now if you would kindly take this information and forget it, so that I can continue to get to the game in 28 minutes or less.
2. Food / Beverage Changes. Since I got to the game earlier than DM and Dexy's, I did a quick tour of the lower and middle levels of the stadium for changes in the food and beverage at RFK. The first place I went was behind home plate, looking for the microbrew stand. It's now a Miller Lite stand, a massive bummer - I really liked the Foggybottom they served last year. DM reminded me there is a reason for this - Foggybottom is no more. So I looked around for new alternative beers. Guinness is back, paired with Harp, and I noticed Dos Equis and Heineken were being sold. I don't recall Heineken last year, but I had pretty much focused on Foggybottom by year end.
Food-wise, I was nearly irate during my walk-around because I couldn't find any chorizo. And you know how I like chorizo. But no, it's not gone. Chorizo has its own stands around the stadium, they just aren't marked. And the chorizo is just as good as ever. Salvation.
Also new is the fact that kettle corn is more evenly distributed around RFK stadium. It's really good, as DM, Dexy's and I enjoyed a $6.00 plastic bowl of it. Here's a tip - if you ask for fresh kettle corn, they will give it to you. Don't take one off the counter.
I also noticed on the 200 level, in front of the Beerpen, that Red Hot & Blue barbeque is being sold. There was a fairly significant line, so I held off buying some, but it did look delicious. You can be sure to look forward to a future report on it.
I didn't see regular ice cream being sold, but the Ice Cream of the Future - Deepin Dots - is still being sold.
3. The Game. As Dexy's hopefully will attest, I called Soriano's home run early in the game. I said that he would hit a home run in his first game at RFK to justify swinging for the fences the rest of the year. I also called Beltran's homer in the ninth, which was an absolute rocket. Dexy's may also confirm that, although he was picking up a voicemail at the time.
As anyone at the game will note, Soriano lollygagged Reyes' double in the 7th into a triple. That single play made me question his attitude towards left field. If he's going to play left field, he should play it right. There was discussion amongst our section whether Frank should bench him based on that. He homered in his next at bat, of course.
Ramon Ortiz (that's the Ortiz we have, right?) looked OK through 3 innings as the game really zipped along. But it doesn't take much to beat the Nationals these days, and the game was pretty much over when David Wright beat Zimmerman down the line with a double in the 4th. Worse, the game slowed considerably after that point.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 9 at Houston
A strange game. I didn't see much of it, only catching bits on the radio. Note that Win Values for individual players are pretty close to zero, meaning no ERV Win or Loss to hand out in this one.
ERV Win: Team
ERV Loss: Team
Three Most Valuable Plays
(1) Ensberg's double in the 3rd (1.53)
(2) Vidro's line out DP in the 7th (-1.31)
(3) Soriano's HR in the 6th (0.98)
Saturday, April 08, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 8 at Houston
I listened to the first inning on the way to pick up dinner, and arrive home glum, convinced that there was no way, just no way, we give Oswalt 5 runs and win the game. But by the time the kids are in bed and I come back to the game, we're up 9-7, thanks to Chad Qualls doing his best Jason Bergmann impersonation. Un-be-liev-able. I'm starting to get the same feelings about this team as last year's -- just when they look truly awful, they manage to do something remarkable. Let's hope this ride continues.
ERV Win: Byrd (50%), Soriano (50%)
ERV Loss: Qualls
Three Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Soriano's double in the 7th (3.21)
(2) Byrd's double in the 7th (2.58)
(3) Berkman's HR in the 1st (2.14)
ERV Boxscore Guide
New reader Bote Man requested a guide to the ERV Boxscores, so, within the limits of my meager graphic skills, I put together the image at right to help explain what the various headings on the box score mean. (Note: I didn't put it on the graphic, but PA is Plate Appearances and BFP is Batters Faced by the pitcher.)
Also, I'll explain here the new scoring rules I'm using. Last year I tried to judge great plays and screw-ups, not just official scoring errors, but that proved to be too much work. This year I am following the official scorer, and not trying to judge great plays. But I have implemented a new baserunning and fielding system.
Using the baserunning data compiled by Dan Fox, I've come up with rules as to who gets the credit when a runner takes an extra base. Where the data shows a runner advances more than 50% of the time, the batter gets the credit for that extra base. For times where it's less than 50%, the runner gets the credit (or the debit if they fail to advance when 50% of runners would have.) The outfielder who fields the ball gets a corresponding debit/credit for the runner's.
Here are the rules:
Single, 1st to 3rd -- Runner Credit every time
Single, 2nd to Home -- Batter Credit every time, except Single to Left or Right with no outs.
Double, 1st to Home -- Runner Credit on doubles to left and right, batter credit on doubles to center.
Sac Fly, runner scores-- Batter Credit every time
Sac Fly, runner to 3rd -- Runner Credit except on RF flies.
Sac Fly, runner to 2nd -- Runner Credit
I am also working on a system to give credit on routine plays like grounders and line drives, but I haven't implemented that yet.
The other change is the calculation of ERV Wins and Losses.
If no player has a WV above the margin, then you start with the highest WV and keep adding the next highest until you are above the margin. the apportion the Win accordingly. Again, if it takes 4 or more players to reach the margin, nobody gets the Win.
For the ERV Loss, you follow the same procedure but use those with the most negative WV instead of the highest. If a player has a positive WV, he cannot get the loss, and vice versa.
UPDATE: I've decided to make ERV Wins and Losses simple. For the winning team, the player with the highest WV gets the ERV Win. For the losing team, lowest WV gets the ERV Loss. We'll see how that works over the season.
Note also that I publish the "Three Most Valuable Plays" with each boxscore. These are simply the individual events that had the highest absolute Win Value (i.e. positive or negative). The almost always indicate the points in the game that were most critical to the win or loss. For comparison purposes, a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game would have a WV of around 6.0, meaning that run is worth 6 times the average run.
Friday, April 07, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 7 at Houston
On paper it looks like we had one bad inning, the Sixth, when the "human mercy rule" Jason Bergmann came in and handed the Astros a bunch of runs. But it feels a lot worse. I hope I'm wrong, but this team may be on the way to a dismal start to the season.
ERV Win: Berkman (60%), Backe (40%)
ERV Loss: Bergmann (70%), Soriano (30%)
Three Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Berkman's HR in the 6th (2.30)
(2) Biggio's Double in the 3rd (1.80)
(3) Vidro's HR in the 4th (1.24)
Thursday, April 06, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 6 at New York Mets
Bah! Look, we didn't really expect to beat Pedro, did we? Sure mid-game we had a chance, but the result is the same. On to Houston.
ERV Win: Team (i.e. more than 3 Mets are needed to cover the run differential)
ERV Loss: Ortiz
3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Nick Johnson's HR in the 5th (2.89)
(2) Carlos Beltran's HR in the 7th (2.14)
(3) Jose Reyes single in the 4th (2.11)
ERV Boxscore for April 5 at New York Mets
Chicks dig the long ball! What a terrific game. If that one doesn't give this group some spirit, I don't know what will. It's gonna be fun to watch Zimmerman all season.
ERV Win: Guillen (60%), Zimmerman (40%)
ERV Loss: Julio (70%), Wagner (30%)
Three Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Guillen's HR in the 10th (4.77)
(2) Dutch's HR in the 9th (4.01)
(3) LoDuca's FB in the 9th (-1.58)
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The Talent Gap
Criminy, there is a great article today in the Hardball Times about the "talent gap" between the National and American Leagues. We already knew last year that the American League teams were much better overall than their National League counterparts. The American League has dominated the All-Star Game for several years now, and two straight World Series sweeps indicates a bit of a talent imbalance.
But I was surprised by the article's argument that the National League has gotten a lot worse compared to the American League this offseason:
I hadn't considered how much worse the National League was in figuring out how the Nats would do. We know that the Nats' pythagorean record was 77-85 last year, meaning they were +12 in the luck department. [Note - in the Hardball Times Baseball Annual (p. 138), the Nats are said to have a 69-93 Pythagorean record based on runs scored and runs allowed. This is just a flat out mistake - based on 639 runs scored and 673 runs allowed, you just can't get to 69 wins].
[Trades of players from the NL to the AL account for] a net transfer of 100 Win Shares (209 Win Shares to the AL, 109 going back to the NL). Add in the 103 gain through free agency, the AL has
sucked 203 Win Shares, about 68 wins, of talent out of the NL this offseason. That's about five wins per AL team, and that means that your typical AL team will need to be about five wins a year better (in terms of talent on hand) just to keep pace.
That's a lot. That's a major shift in the playing field; and it doesn't count the fact that a number of the new American Leaguers are coming off
of down seasons. I'm pretty confident that Jim Thome, Milton Bradley, LaTroy Hawkins and Corey Patterson aren't going to combine for 22 win shares again.
Conversely, if you're an NL team's fan despairing of the hemorrhage of good players your team
has suffered, keep the faith. The water level's a lot lower than it's been in the past. You'll probably contend yet.
So my estimate was that the Nats were probably 12 games off their pythagorean record last year of 77-85. I think that I'd have to adjust that upwards by 5 games, meaning that my new prediction for the Nats is 70-92. Still a poor team and a poor record, but not flirting with 100 losses territory.
Monday, April 03, 2006
ERV Boxscore for April 1 at New York Mets
Yes, ERV Boxscores are back! I've made two changes to how I score the games. First, I've decided to be as objective as possible this year -- no judgment of great plays in the field, and I'm following the official scorer this year. I'm hopeful that this will make it easier for me to sustain this throughout the year.
Second, I'm using a new scoring system for baserunning (and related fielding). Using data from Dan Agonistes and the Hardball Times, I've come up with rules for when the average runner advances or not. For example, where a runner is on first and the batter hits a single, the data show that runners advance to third less than 50% of the time. So, if the runner gets to third, he (not the batter) gets the credit for the difference between 1st & 2nd and 1st & 3rd, and the outfielder who fielded the ball gets the fielding debit for the advance. I have these rules for runner on first and batter doubles, runner on 2nd and batter singles, and for the sacrifice fly situations. I'll explain this in more detail in another post.
So you'll see more running and fielding values, especially among outfielders. I would have liked to include fielding credits on routine plays, but just haven't gotten the time to implement that. I might be able to do that later in the season.
Also, I will be using a more rigorous method to assign ERV Wins and Losses, and keep track of those throughout the year. In some cases a win or loss may be assigned to the team if no one really qualifies. I'll explain that in a separate post, too.
ERV Win: Cliff Floyd (40%), Tom Glavine (40%) Paul LoDuca (20%)
ERV Loss: Livan Hernandez (40%), Brian Schneider (40%), Alfonso Soriano (20%)
Three Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Soriano getting thrown at home (-2.67 WV)
(2) Zimmerman double in the 8th (2.28 WV)
(3) Guillen Double in the 5th (1.78 WV)
Vidro's (Potentially) Rational Play
Wow, there is a LOT to blog about today's 3-2 loss to the Mets. Here are some thoughts from Dexy's and me (we went to Chili's to take in the game and get some free wings):
1. Notice something about this line from the play-by-play?
Washington - Top of 2nd
Tom Glavine pitching for New York
Alfonso Soriano - Ball, Ball, Ball, Ball, A Soriano walked
Washington - Top of 4th
Tom Glavine pitching for New York
Alfonso Soriano - Strike (looking), Ball, Ball, A Soriano singled to right
Soriano took seven consecutive pitches to begin his Nats career. My guess is that Soriano, with 157 total walks in 3,490 plate appearances coming into 2006, does not take seven consecutive pitches the rest of the year.2. Dexy's thinks that Brian Schneider had one of the worst days ever at the plate. That's a little bit harsh, but his ERV today in four plate appearances was: -.443, -.307, -.549, -.372. That's a total ERV of -1.67. Of course, Jose Guillen went: -.108, -.237, +.866, -1.098. That's a total of -.577 ERV.
3. Dexy's set an interesting over/under for Livan's pitch count. He said 118. Any other pitcher, any other team, and I take that bet on Opening Day. But with Livan and Frank, it's just too hard to take. 113 pitches for Livan. Had he not been up in the 7th, I think he would have hit the number.
4. Couldn't tell - does Soriano play a wee bit deep in left field? Or does he just have a lot of friends in the left field bleachers at Shea?
5. Of course, Soriano was safe. But that's a difficult call for the ump to make - he was in the right position - and there's no way in HELL that Soriano should be sent home with nobody out. But since Jim Bowden is running this team, and it is little like hell, with Clayton and Schneider coming up, there may be an argument....nah, there's no argument.
6. Did Nick Johnson gain some weight? Did Marlon Byrd gain some weight? Seriously, aren't all the Nats about 10 pounds heavier this year?
7. My read on the team is that they are already going through the motions. This is Opening Day, kids. That is the most tragic statement I've ever made. Even Matt LeCroy looks depressed.
There's no little boy playing baseball in this team.
8. Ok, so that brings me to the subject of this post - Vidro's play to end the game. Dexy's was outraged, and I mean OUTRAGED, by Vidro getting thrown out at second. I laughed it off a bit, because it was just another poor play by a bad team. Then I thought - could Vidro have acted rationally by getting thrown out at second?
The theory would be this: Vidro would need two hits to score from first base, even with two outs. By getting to scoring position, the odds of him scoring and sending the game to extra innings increases dramatically (one fewer hit is necessary). So, if he were to be successful a reasonable number of times, it would be a good play.
I looked up the Win Probability of a visiting team with a man on 2nd and two outs in the top of the 9th down one run against the win probability with a man on 1st and two outs. Visiting teams win 8.8% of the time in the former situation, whereas the win 5.4% of the time in the latter. So getting to second base increases your odds of winning by 63%. Correspondingly, Vidro would have to be successful 61% of the time (roughly 3/5ths) to make it worthwhile.
My judgment was that any throw that was not cut-off and that was reasonably on-line with second base would have gotten Vidro out. I think that a reasonably on-line throw is going to happen about 70% of the time. Since Vidro needed at 61% success rate, he was off by quite a bit in trying to stretch.
Of course, Guillen would have choked in the clutch anyway, wouldn't he?
I don't have that much to add. Part of my outrage was the idea that with Guillen coming up, I am doubting you are going to see a single anyway. I figure Guillen for a) choke or b) a double drive to the gap or a homer, things that would score Vidro from first anyway (even if Vidro is Slow with a capital "Luzinski").
The thing that upset me the most about this game is that we lost it in exactly the same way we lost games the second half of last year. We made stupid plays in the field (Soriano's break back gets a pass for now, but the botched run-down and Zimmerman not playing remotely close to the line to give up a 2-out double were both bad) and on the bases and couldn't hit in the clutch, losing another one-run game (and while Livan pitched pretty well, he gave up a couple of pretty silly runs due to lack of concentration--2 out rallies, 0-2 homerun, not covering first on a rundown).
It really pained me to see us have:
2nd inning: 1st and 2nd, 1 out--no runs.
4th inning: a Sac to score 1 run with bases loaded no outs, so then 1st and 2nd, 1 out--no runs.
5th inning: 2nd and 3rd, 1 out--no runs
7th inning: 1st and 2nd, 0 out--no runs
and then run ourselves out of the 8th and 9th.
Anyway, we've got a lot of games to change course, so let's hope we do.
p.s. We're listening to the Phillies game now and Jimmy Rollins got a hit in the 8th with a 3-0 count (rightfully green-lighted down 13-5, although at 6-5, you'd have to make him take a pitch). I'm still not sold on DiMaggio's streak being the greatest sports accomplishment ever, but I'll tell you...if Rollins can have a 36-game streak, sit down for over 4 months, play over 20 games that don't count for Spring Training and then pick up and hit in 20 straight games from Opening Day? That would be absolutely freakin' incredible.
Sorry I couldn't make it today, guys. I only watched the last 3 innings or so. As I say in the comments, trying to get to second was the right play but by the wrong guy. Damian Jackson should have tried to steal after pinch-running for Vidro.
I thought Dutch played with enthusiasm, and there were some hard hit balls (Marlon Byrd's pinch-hit AB was very solid). I'm not ready to write these guys off on effort just yet. ;)
Sooth Saying, Part Deux
I think DM is crazy to think this team can win 74 games. Dexy's just told me that Frank Robinson should be manager of the year if this team wins 74 games. I think he would be manager of the century.
Let's begin with first principles. Pitching, to me, is the very first principle. And the Nationals' starting pitching is as horrible as I've ever seen in my 33 years. After a solid 1-2 combination of Patterson and Hernandez, the Nats have a bunch of guys who would be the fifth starters on a last place team. Since 5th starters on bad teams win about 33% of the time (based on my knowledge and experience), the Nats look to be about 32-64 in the 96 or so games that will be started by Armas, Ortiz, et al. If they win 55% of the time with Patterson and Livan, then they will go about 36-30, for a 68-94 season.
I think 68-94 is on the high side, and assumes that Patterson and Livan will be healthy enough to make 33 starts each. My guess is that this is a 65-97 team, last place in the NL East.
Bring on the new owners.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
I suck at predictions. I'm really bad at trying to pick how teams are going to finish. I spend a lot of time following the Nats, and have barely any left to follow the other clubs, so I have no clue about them. So I'm outsourcing my predictions to TradeSports. Here's what they have to say about the percentage chance each team has to win the divisions, the league pennants and the World Series:
New York 46.0%
My take: Meet the Mets, Greet the Mets, Sell the Mets! That'll be down to 25 by mid-June. I also think Florida will do better, so that's a cheap risk to take. For the Nats, see below.
St. Louis 64%
My take: The guys buying the Cubs might as well stand on their roofs and throw money into the wind. Better yet, take it from them. Milwaukee is a darling pick, but I'd stay away, since the division race isn't a giant weiner run.
Los Angeles 36.5%
San Francisco 33.9%
San Diego 20.1%
My take: Sell the Giants. Bonds won't play much due to injury, but even then it won't matter. I think Arizona is a nice risk that you could probably cash in by the end of May, as is Colorado.
New York 65.9%
Tampa Bay 0.1%
My take: Sell the Yankees. The Bosox are about right. Toronto is probably cheap. The guy who bought the Rays at 0.1 probably hit the wrong button and thought he was getting Toronto.
Kansas City 0.1%
My take: Chicago is a bit high, but I wouldn't sell them. Minnesota is the team to sell and then root against.
Los Angeles 38.0%
My take: Seattle is a nice buy, based on what I heard from the Seattle radio guys over the weekend. They're not biased, are they?
St. Louis 22.6%
New York 19.0%
My take: Why the Cubs are even near the top is idiocy. Selling them is like a license to print money.
New York 30.0%
My take: Why Boston is even near the top is lunacy. Selling them is like a license to print licenses to print money.
World Series Champion
New York Yankees 19.4%
Chicago White Sox 12.5%
St. Louis Cardinals 10.4%
New York Mets 9.1%
My take: None of these team will win it all. I have no idea who will.
As for our homeown nine, we will finish 74-88. I believe we were lucky last year to finish 81-81. Our lineup and bench are slightly better than last year, but our starters and bullpen are worse, and I think the bullpen will be much worse. And Frank and Eddy are still around to make dumb moves that ensure we won't get any cheap wins.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
And Then There's This
Pedro Astacio, we hardly knew ye.
Looks like DM, or perhaps even little DM, will be pitching for the Nats this year. If you did not know, DM has a sinker / slider and generally tries to run the ball in on lefties. He's not tricky. He doesn't light up the radar gun. But he's got guts, and sometimes that's all that counts.
In all seriousness, this leaves the rotation in utter shambles. It's likely that a guy like Jon Rauch slides into the fifth spot, but he needs to be stretched out to be able to even pitch five innings. Luckily, they won't need a fifth starter for a while, and one would think they could get someone up to 100 pitches in two weeks.
This is looking more and more like a 57-105 debacle.