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The Resilient Replacements

Posted by Corey Seidman, Wed, August 04, 2010 02:33 AM | Comments: 80
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In everyday language, the term “replacement player” refers to one who supplants another, taking his place.

In the world of 21st century baseball, however, the definition of “replacement-level player” goes a step further – it refers to the adequate fielding, poor hitting player who oftentimes serves as a stop-gap to a starter.

The only value a replacement player has is his physical ability to play the same position as the starter. He is organizational depth. He is Brian Bockock-ian.

In 2010, the Phillies have given 617 plate appearances to replacement players.

Know how many plate appearances they gave to replacement players last season? 618.

The Phillies have given almost an entire season’s worth of plate appearances to the adequate fielding, below average hitting, stop-gap 4-A replacement player…at multiple positions and in multiple slots in the batting order. And we still have 56 games to go.

The breakdown is as follows:

And the team is 58-48, two games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East.

How many plate appearances have the Braves given to replacement players?

Well, it would be irresponsible of me to preclude Melky Cabrera from that category – he’s been worth 0.2 wins BELOW replacement this year in 355 plate appearances and 102 games of shaky outfield defense.

Aside from Cabrera, the Bravos haven’t given out too many at-bats to “that” level of player. Matt Diaz had a slow start, but he doesn’t come close to that category, nor does Yunel Escobar (bad fit), David Ross (105 OPS+ for a backup catcher), Gregor Blanco (defense, discipline), Omar Infante (positional value added to inflated batting average), or even Nate the Great McLouth.

(Take a second to click on McLouth.)

The Braves have been healthy, the Phillies haven’t. The Braves bench was and still is assembled to better make up for injuries than the Phillies’ second unit. And their bullpen is better. But that’s it. Through 106 games, that’s been it.

The Phillies have handed out 280 DL days to the ensemble cast of…

  • (April) – Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Jimmy Rollins, J.A. Happ
  • (May) – Ryan Madson, Brian Schneider, Jimmy Rollins
  • (June) – Antonio Bastardo, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco
  • (July) – Jamie Moyer, Shane Victorino
  • (August) – Ryan Howard

…and they’re two games out of first place.

And so here lie the Phillies – no Ryan Howard, no Chase Utley, no Shane Victorino, no Jamie Moyer. Poised to make a run at a developingly-human Braves team. Whether or not they take the NL East lead in time for the big guns to make it back, it’s remarkable that this band of stars, underachievers, and replacements has gotten this far.

How have they done it?

Cole Hamels’ filthy 2010 season is a close runner-up to these two, but the main reasons have been:

1) Roy Halladay

It took Roy Halladay 23 starts to make this HIS team. In 17 of those 23 starts, he allowed two runs or less. He is an otherworldly talent. He is one-third man, one-third lion, one-third pitching machine.

He has a 7.52-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a ridiculous number overshadowed by only the dominance of Lee Who Shall Not Be Named, and a WHIP of damn-near 1.00.

This is Roy Halladay’s team right now. As he goes, so goes the team. Think about what an injury to Halladay would feel like. Did your earth just shatter? Do you want to get it out of your mind as soon as humanly possible right now?

THAT’S why it’s his team.

2) Ryan Howard

I debate with my colleagues and esteemed associates on Twitter on a weekly basis about Ryan Howard. One week it’s contract backlash. The next it’s ridicule of original contract backlash. The next it’s about strikeouts. The next it’s about singles. Then it’s about walk rates. Then isolated power. Then this. Then that. Then Angel Pagan (don’t ask…)

Bottom line, this right here…

For years we’ve asked for Ryan Howard to make more contact. We’ve asked him to strike out less and recognize situations that call for different approaches. And this year he has. Howard’s last three seasons:

  • 2010: .292/.356/.528 – (.884 OPS)
  • 2009: .279/.360/.571 – (.931 OPS)
  • 2008: .251/.339/.543 – (.881 OPS)

Some claim he is “declining.” That his power skills are eroding. That his eye is getting worse. They fail to of course recognize the 4% drop in his strikeouts, because that is my side’s evidence.

They also fail to notice that his slugging percentage – the most indicative number here – is only ONE point lower today than it was on this day last year, and 26 points HIGHER today than it was on this day two years ago.

In 2010, Howard has traded strikeouts, walks, and a few homers for a bunch of singles. And that approach, which led to a typical late-season Howard Power Surge, has helped a completely depleted, wounded, and bed-ridden team to 58 wins in 106 games.

And, finally, I don’t care who in the SABR community kills me for saying their dirty word, “RBI”, I’m mentioning that he has an NL-leading 81 RBI when ALL three hitters in front of him have missed significant time, both alone and simultaneously.

That’s value. That’s production. That’s performance. Talk to me about the higher wOBAs of Angel Pagan and Andres Torres. I’ll listen for 15 seconds and move on.

Any logical, rational, intuitive baseball mind recognizes and applauds Howard for compiling those 81 RBI. They don’t discount it because an eclectic, stiff-speaking assortment of their contemporaries want to prove a point.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Halladay’s healthy. He’s fine. He struck out nine Marlins over seven stellar innings without his best stuff on a humid night in South Florida. He sweat, he labored, he ran uncharacteristic deep counts, but he made every single pitch when he needed to en route to a 13th win.

Howard is not healthy. He went on the 15-day DL Tuesday and might not even be ready when that stint is up.

There is no prediction to make here, because nothing this season has gone as scripted. Cody Ransom and Wilson Valdez made up the right side of the infield last night. At one point a few months ago, Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro made up the left side.

Where do we go from here? You know as well as I do. This team will either make one final push before the stars return to guide them, or they’ll fall just a bit short, disappointing us but gaining our admiration all the while.

Crazy game, that baseball.

(Completely off-topic SeidNoteā„¢: if you can, watch highlights of the Mets dugout’s greeting to Jeff Francoeur after his dramatic 9th inning game-winning homer off Billy Wagner. Whether or not you hate the team and its players…there’s nothin’ better than that reaction.)

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About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

 
 
  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by iPhillySports, Corey Seidman. Corey Seidman said: Two games out, with 280 DL days & 617 replacement level plate appearances. Crazy. "The Resilient Replacements" – http://tinyurl.com/25doljm [...]

     
  • Posts: 0 Danny

    Okay. I gotta address the RBI thing. You knew it was coming.

    I’ll simply present one statistic which may or may not change your opinion.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/sortable/index.php?cid=142938

    Ryan Howard is currently second in the majors leagues in runners on base during plate appearances (and fourth in plate appearances with runners on base). This dispels the notion that players haven’t been on base for him because of injuries, etc. The runners have been there. He has driven them in.

    It’s good. He drives them in. Among players with 300 PAs or more, his rate of driving runners is 31st. It’s not bad, it’s not spectacular. Just saying that we can’t assume the 81 RBI are really good because of all the injuries. The baserunners have been there for him just as they have been for the past few years.

    Other than that, I really like this article. I’d be interested to see if you went even further with it, calculating exactly how many wins the injuries have cost the Phillies (based on whatever, WAR?) as compared to the Braves, etc. Or the 2009 Mets. Those Mets were pretty injury-riddled like these Phillies, but they didn’t survive the gauntlet season.

     
  • Posts: 0 Rich

    Nice article – don’t forget the replacement at bats for Gload and Francisco as well.

    All we can do now is hope and speculate, I suppose that’s what we do from the very beginning. But along with the importance of Halladay, Howard and Hamels, don’t forget the addition Poly. His bat and glove have been inspirational. And that is probably how I would rank his presence in importance to this teams success too.

     
  • Posts: 0 Rich

    We cannot discount the replacement atbats for Gload and Francisco.

    Agree with your assessment of how important certain players are or have been to this teams success this year. Add to this list (continuing with the order you placed – Halladay, Howard, Hamels) – I would also include the name Polanco. His bat and glove work have been exceptional.

    At the beginning of the year, we had a good deal of hope and speculation. The offense seemed better and the addition of Halladay the icing on the cake. With all that has gone on, the hope is dimmed, the speculation (or expectations) not as high. But, we cheer on and look forward to tonights game and hope that Kendrick does not throw one of his duds!

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    This exactly what I have been saying all season….that the Phillies, despite all the injuries, are right there.

    I would be willing to bet that come Sept 1….for the final push…..that Cholly will have his opening day line-up back.

    Just in time to play all those games that “matter” (as if the ones from April-August don’t-I never understood that).

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    yes he’s leading the league in RBI and with injuries in front of him.

    … but he still has the most runners on base when he comes to the plate, so the injury point (and RBI stat) is misleading.

    yes he has carried the team offensively at times.

    … but that is what 1B tend to do as they are often the best hitters on their teams. howard is having a good season, but nobody but a phillies homer would try to say he’s been a top 5 1B in the MLB this year.

    arod is 2nd in the AL in RBI. and he’s having a terrible season. its all about opportunity. at the very least, % of runners driven in should be the stat used. and even that favors guys who don’t draw walks as much as others.

    werth had a bad stretch, but he’s still a big part of this team’s success this year. been more productive than RH.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Cole Hamels HAS been filthy.

    Not surprising at all.

    As was noted many times before, he came out flat and tired on 2009….after ALL those innings in 2008….and the post-WS banquet circuit.

    After last year, many of you were ready to drive him to the airport.

    The Phillies…Ruben and Co…..absolutely knew what they had in Cole…and that he would rebound nicely. That’s another reason why they felt more comfortable in dealing Cliff Lee. They knew that along with Halladay as a mentor, Hamels could and would be a SOLID #2.

     
  • Posts: 0 Vento

    “developingly-human ”

    No cheese steak for you.

     
  • Posts: 0 Dave

    Can Dominic Brown hit leadoff and play shortstop?

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    A closer, a closer, my kingdom for a closer!

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 NickFromGermantown

    Is a 4% drop in strikeouts statistically significant?

    Aside form that though, the Phillies are very resilient this year for sure. Imagine if they were healthy or didn’t have that horrific slump. Imagine if they had Cliff Lee. And don’t give me that whole “well they aren’t hitting” thing or the “they’d still be hurt” thing. The season would have played out differently. You can’t assume the same events would happen when the roster is different.

     
  • Posts: 0 NickFromGermantown

    Is the comments section not working for anyone else who is using the mobile theme?

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Chuck – Respected poster and friend, I would posit to you that the Phillies thought they knew what they had and they could only hope they were right. Point being, nobody knows anything in life. As it turns out, Cole temperment has improved and somewhere he found 3 miles to put on the end of his fastball. Good for him. I have ragged on Cole and I have been very impressed with him the last month. For the record also, I have also been rooting for Raul. He’s playing better and he really showed some good character during his horrendous slump, which I hope is over.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I actually think that if the Phillies still had Cliff Lee that Hamels wouldn’t be pitching as well as he is. Hamels is ok with being a #2….and viewing Roy as a mentor and teacher.

    But I think that….mentally….he wouldn’t be up for being a #3.

    Maybe I’m wrong. But I just think that Cole is enough of a “head case” (and that’s not meant as a bad thing—look at Carlton) that it would bother him and his pitching would be affected.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Dipsy, I hear ya….the Phillies “rolled the dice” for sure in the offseason. But I don’t think they did it blindly. They know just how talented Cole is and they had to at least FEEL that he was poised to improve.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    And Chuck, if “any” pitcher is worried about where he “slots” in the rotation when he is on a stellar staff (this staff is three good Blanton starts from being just that) then he’s got a problem. Remember the Orioles with four 20 game winners? Who was considered #4 on that staff? I think that Cole is benefitting and will benefit from seeing how so called #1′s (The Roys) prepare and work and act. No one has ever called Cole a “horse” and he’s not one now. Perhaps a year with these guys and he can get there. A 96 mph fastball???? Thats heat, baby.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    Great post Corey. I agree that this is now Halladay’s team, whether it be by the way he’s pitched, or by default due to injuries. Either way, that was a performance!

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I think NOW….. with the two Roys…Cole will be ok. His season is HIS.. He’s earned our respect with his pitching. He has confidence and it has buitl thoughout the year.

    But I think out of the chute…..Cole MAY have let it bother him if he was penciled in as the #3. Maybe. Or maybe not. It’s just a theory.

    I remember the four 20-game winners clearly. Could you really say that Mike Cuellar or Pat Dobson were 4′s?? (I’s take either of those guys today in a Phillies uniform!!)

     
  • Posts: 0 SJHaack

    NickfromGermantown,

    Yes the k% drop is statistically significant. Ryan Howard gets a hit more than a third of the time he puts the ball in play. He has 407 at bats this season – k% is rated on AB and not PA. Striking out 107 times vs what his career average would be, 129 times, is worth about 20 points of batting average.

    I think what gets lost sometimes in making these black and white SABR arguments is that Ryan Howard is overvalued, not unvalued. Angel Pagan and Andres Torres posting higher rate stats than Howard makes them more valuable in a vacuum because they also play harder defensive positions (and play them better) than he does. On the Phillies, there are 4 or 5 outfielders who are capable of starting (depending on who you ask) so the drop in production if you lost them wouldn’t be as great. I’d easily pick Pujols over Howard, but I don’t have Pujols to pick from and Howard is still a very good baseball player whose production the Phillies will not be able to replace or match until he returns fully healthy.

     
  • Posts: 0 Bacardipr05

    Do the pitchers really care if they are #2 or #3? Or is it us fans and media that make it larger than it really is…I agree with Dipsy I would trade his left *** for a closer….

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I don’t know. I think MOST pitchers don’t care. But certain guys that are maybe a little more “in their own head”…like a Hamels or a Carlton…MIGHT have an issue with it.

    Cole going from the ace in 2008…and the first part of last year….to being a #3 at the beginning of this year (if Lee was here) might have been enough of a “demotion” to mess him up.

    I don’t know….maybe I’m wrong about this.

     
  • Posts: 0 Bacardipr05

    I understand Chuck know if we would of had Lee Oswalt Halladay he would of been fourth…Pretty boy Cole does seem like the type you mentioned then again we could be totally wrong…lol

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    I think Cole is going to look down the dugout, see the two Roys and think I can win more games over my career having these guys around me and that’s all that’ll matter.

    I have to again tip my hat to the front office for their minor-league moves. There’s a lot of head shaking when the moves are announced but the Phils are continually finding guys who can fit into the big picture and Valdez especially has been nothing short of spectacular considering his original role in the organisation.

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Well then Cole better keep dominating because I assume the other Roy –who’s been an ace for all of his career– will also want to be the No.2 on this team.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    I think the only people that talk of 1′s, 2′s and 5′s are us fans not the guys actually in the rotation…

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Wait a second, I wouldn’t want Lee Halladay Oswalt on this team because he killed one of out most beloved presidents! Who would suggest such a thing?

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    I agree, NJ.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I know he’s had like ZERO run support…but the fact that Roy Oswalt IS 6-13 and IS the new guy here….I think Cole should have the #2 role. The record really doesn’t tell the story of Oswalt, though. Pitching for a crappy Astros team and he does have a nice ERA. On a contender for the whole year, he could be 13-6.

    Right now, it probably doesn’t matter, though. The goal right now is to go out and pitch well and help the team get a W. I think Cole realizes that, we know Doc does. And I would assume Oswalt does, too.

    —–

    And, yeah….how about that Wilson Valdez??!! Easily my favorite bench player this year and, aside from Stairs, probably in the past 5 years.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Very nice Dipsy… Very nice

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Lee Halladay Oswalt.

    What if Adam Kennedy was on the team, too??

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    The play-off rotation will be entirely on match-ups and I really don’t think those guys are going to be fussed about whether they get game two or three as long as their trusted to go out there and do their job…

    If you think about it those guys should be pretty happy theirs 3 of them since it means they don’t ‘have’ to go on short-rest for the 3 or 4 weeks leading up to AND during the play-offs.

    If a pitcher is really thinking his legacy will be affected more by where he started in the rotation he’s probably named Brett Myers and is thinking about it while rubbing vaseline on his knuckles…

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    BTW if Kendrick starts behind Halladay isn’t Cole more worried he’s the 2…?

     
  • Posts: 0 Jim

    NJ, the positioning gets messed up as the year goes on. Kendrick is pitching after halladay due to schedule differences, rain outs and days off that allowed kendricks start to be missed in the past and allowed halladay to pitch instead.

    just another reason why the numbering system doesnt matter, accept for an agent trying to get his pitcher more money.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Nice post Corey… you and I butted heads early on but I think that you’ve come a long way as a writer and story-teller. Statistics and SABR metrics only tell part of the story. Comparing Angel Pagan to Ryan Howard is nuts… I don’t care what some obscure statistic says. How do I know that Ryan Howard is better? I watch the game… I know that “RBI” is not the stat of choice for most stat guys but in my mind, producing runs and scoring runs is everything. There is NO ONE in baseball that I would rather have at the dish in an RBI situation than Ryan Howard… that might not always be the right decision but given what he has accomplished as a run producer, it’s hard to argue against the big man.

    When you mentioned a potential Halladay injury, I had heart palpitations. Right now, it is his team because it has to be… and truth be told, there is no one that I would rather have on my roster to rely on than Roy Halladay.

    Repeat mentioned something yesterday that I believe will fuel this team to another NLE title… if there is one thing that this team is fueled by, it is the pursuit of greatness. It’s not just about winning… it’s about leaving their mark on the game forever. If they win this year given all of the injuries and circumstances, they would do a lot to solidfy themselves as one of the greatest teams in the history of baseball. That has to resonate in the lockerroom… these injuries aren’t season threatening, they’re an opportunity to prove something. You want to make your mark on your game, go out and do it… Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, Rollins, Werth, Ibanez, Ruiz… forget survival, in the spirit of shark week, there’s blood in the water and it’s time to eat.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    By far our most pressing need, by light years, is a closer. If you look back at the last forty years of WS winners back to 1970, every team had either a dominant closer OR two guys that split the duties equally (ex: Eastwick/McEnaney for the Reds in the 70′s). The latter has been rare. Exceptions being Jeff Reardon in 1987 for the Twins and a weird situation with the Dodgers in ’81 where Steve Howe was brought up and was great late in the season and in the post season before he discovered cocaine. While Reardon did convert saves he did have a 4.48 ERA.

    No team has won the WS without at least a reliable and dependable closer. That said, it would be a historical anomaly if the Phils can win it this year with Lidge as the closer. 60% doesn’t cut it. One batter saves doesn’t cut it. Bullpens by committee don’t work.

    RAJ needs to get a closer in here. I know that there are very few. I know he would have to clear waivers. I know he might be expensive. But when our lineup is back intact in September for a stretch run, when our offense and starting pitching are bright and gleamy, gassed up and ready to fire, I just can’t see Ruben sitting back and watching Lidge blow saves and take this team out of the playoffs because the race is that close.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Dipsy I think we all feel the pressure of the question-mark that is Brad Lidge but who can you replace him with in the off-season let alone now who’s that legitimate closer?

    Papelborn? Fuentes? Rodney? Street? Jenks? Aardsma? Is mentioning a Bailey or a Soria even practical?

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    I don’t think anything is “practical”. I think any one of those guys that tries to clear waivers gets claimed and then pulled back. Maybe I’m wrong.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Nice article.

    Touch match up tonight with Kendrick going against Sanchez. If they won’t bring up Bastardo now I doubt they go out and pick up a closer.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Problem is Papelborn is going to make a ton of money past what he’s worth, Jenks is already massively overpaid seeking a long-term deal, Fuentes is a bad contract. Valverde’s probably not available so the only veteran name is Soriano in the off-season.

    In the mean time would you really replace Lidge with any of Mike Gonzalez, Alfredo Simon, Kevin Gregg, Lindstrom, Axford, Hoffman, Hanrahan? Michael Wuertz’s probably available for a peice…

    With Matt Capps costing a bluechip prospect would you like to see the team pay a package of prospects for Soria who’ll seriously dent the farm, Bailey who seems to be an injury risk, and then I guess there Chris Perez and Nunez and Marmol’s probably not available…

    So what could the Phils do either now or in the off-season?

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Give Contreras a try. He seems almost emotionless ourt there…..totally unflappable. And he has good stuff.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    I love Mike Gonzalez. Makes a lotta money, though. You can probably get some of these guys you mentioned if you will just pay the salary…which Ruben won’t…or will he?

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    But are any of those guys real an upgrade? Mike Gonzalez can’t even win back the closers job in Baltimore… He’s a guaranteed non-tender and right now probably doesn’t even beat out Romero for your primary lefty…

    There is no move the Phillies can make right now to sure up the back of the bull pen, middle relief options sure… In the off-season the sign/trade options are ugly short of picking up a terrible contact or trading the farm…

    Contreras probably is the only name right now who you could try but that means doing it now and what do you do with Lidge?

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    A thought and just a thought:

    Give Contreras a shot at closing. Keep Madson as the set-up, along with Romero as your late inning lefty. Use Lidge and Durbin as your 7th inning guys. Herndon and Baez as mop-ups.

    If Madson can’t come in for some reason in th 8th, then maybe Durbin or Lidge there.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Lidge is a train-wreck in non-save situations… He would make BJ Ryan look like a viable middle-reliever

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Getting rid of Figgy was STUPID. I really don’t understand Ruben’s thinking with that one. Did he really think that NO ONE would claim him??

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Ok. So you’ve got a train wreck in non-save and a plane crash in save opps. What’s worse??

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Figgy wouldn’t even be pitching right now! How could we have actually kept him?? A roster move had to be made and it was either him or send Herndon back to the Angels…

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    That’s my point, though. Is Herndon really worth keeping?? I understand the thinking, I guess. Figgy was consistent, though. And experienced.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    The reasoning on Herndon is you hold on to him and he could be a legit 70-80 innings reliever down the line AND you can send him to AAA coming out of camp next spring. Figgy’s a journeyman, he pitched nicely but he was just a stop-gap and the only reason he’s getting appearances in Houston is they have no bullpen.

    Lidge isn’t a good closing option but there’s no real alternative short of sending him back to the DL or cutting him.

    Madson/Romero/Contreras is one of the best set-up crews in the game. Durbin is a great multi-purpose middle to late guy and Baez is fine for the second last guy and the last guy isn’t going to feature unless the games pretty much decided or its extras…

    The bullpen as a whole is fine, the closer isn’t fine but I’ll say once again it wasn’t Brad Lidge who lost us last years World Series…

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Right, and I also think that Lidge IS better than last year. I think Charlie needs to be mindful of throwing him out there on back-to-back nights if he has high pitch counts the first night. (Of course, that wasn’t the problem on Saturday when he served up the HR to Zimmerman.)

     
 
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