Who Holds the (Just Invented) Title of CK One for July?

CK One is a unisex fragrance released originally by Calvin Klein in 1994 and worn around that same time by an awkward, teenaged version of the present author with a view towards attracting the attention of less awkward, but equally teenaged, young women.

Under different, but similarly embarrassing, circumstances is how that same author has decided to utilize CK One today — not the actual fragrance itself, but at least the brand name, as a succinct means by which to identify publicly which of two pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber, produced the better figures in July. Because their initials are C and K, is why. And then the one indicates which of them was the best pitcher with C and K for initials.

These painful explications aside, here are those same pitchers’ respective totals and rates from the past month:

Name Team G IP K% BB% BABIP GB% xFIP- FIP- ERA- WAR
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 5 42.0 29.3% 2.7% .216 45.8% 68 58 30 1.4
Corey Kluber Clevelands 5 41.0 29.3% 2.7% .227 55.6% 58 54 40 1.5

The exact same strikeout and walk rates, is what Kershaw and Kluber produced last month — plus a collection of other, very similar figures, as well. Even as Kershaw finds himself in the midst of a historically great season, the right-handed Kluber — commonly referred to as the People’s Champion — matched the Dodgers lefty in all the most relevant categories. Which, if I’m being honest, to write that last sentence is why I’ve bothered to write every other sentence in this post. That having been accomplished, then, this addition to InstaGraphs is complete.


FG On Fox: How the Rays Made the Most Rays Move They Could

The Rays traded David Price and people don’t like it. Everyone, for the most part, accepts the position the Rays were put in. But consensus seems to be the return is underwhelming. There is no Addison Russell. Perhaps there could’ve been an Addison Russell. An ace was turned into non-ace-level talents, but when you’re able to step back and separate yourself from the initial shock, you can see sense in the move that was made. You can see how it addresses the Rays’ goal to keep winning on a budget.

When you talk about moving a player like Price, you’re always looking for that key to the return. You figure he ought to be worth a top-level prospect and change, and there was talk the A’s made Russell available to the Rays shortly before they shipped him to the Cubs. Russell’s quite probably a top 10 prospect in the league, and you can’t say that for Drew Smyly, or Nick Franklin, or Willy Adames. The Rays didn’t end up trading for a potential young superstar. What they traded for instead was greater certainty, greater odds of lower ceilings. The value they got is the value of being young and major-league ready.

The most valuable asset in baseball is the young and cheap star. That’s the guy who delivers a great performance for something close to the league minimum. Then you’ve got the high-level prospects who are knocking right on the door. This is a player like Oscar Taveras, but based on reports, the Cardinals didn’t make Taveras available, and in fact they cleared the path for him to play more often by subtracting Allen Craig. After that you’ve got a choice to make. You can look for greater talent at a lower level, or you can take lesser and more polished talent high in the system. With the former, you’ve got higher ceilings and higher bust rates. With the latter, you’ve got safety and projectability.

Read the rest at Just A Bit Outside.


Where Chris Davis is Really Struggling

It’s not so bad in the bigger picture. Since the start of last season, Chris Davis has been worth more than seven wins, equal on our pages to the contribution from Jayson Werth. That’s not quite superstar-level, but that’s pretty damned good, and you’d think just based on that that the Orioles are pleased with their slugging first baseman. But since the start of this season, of course, Davis has looked like a different player. Or, Davis has looked like an identical player, but he’s performed like a different player. He’s basically tied in WAR with Garrett Jones, and Mike Petriello tells me he recently heard an Orioles fan complaining about Davis pinch-hitting for Delmon Young. Things are weird.

The Orioles, as a whole, are weird. They’re right where they want to be, in first place, but they’re in first having gotten very little out of Davis. They’re in first having gotten very little out of the injured Matt Wieters. They’re in first having only recently started to get production out of Manny Machado. They’re in first having gotten very little out of Ubaldo Jimenez. In order to hang on, the Orioles are probably going to need their most talented players to step up down the stretch. You can count Davis among them, but he’ll have to shake off a season-long slump, a slump we can isolate to one particular part of his game.

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FanGraphs Audio: The Inconvenience of Being Dayn Perry

Episode 467
Dayn Perry is a contributor to CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball and the author of three books — one of them not very miserable. He’s also the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio — which episode has been characterized by certain parties as “an orgy of remorse and disgust.”

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 2 min play time.)

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Play

Interest in the Trade Deadline, Visualized by Sam Fuld

Yesterday, FanGraphs set some traffic records that we might not break for a very long time. It turns out that having like 15 trades go down in the span of six hours is good business for a site that specializes in transaction analysis. Who knew, right?

But maybe the most fun thing wasn’t that David Price and Jon Lester generated a lot of interest, because that was always going to happen, but that the activity allowed a guy like Sam Fuld to take the spotlight for a little while. How much did people care about Sam Fuld yesterday compared to prior days? Well, here’s a graph of the page views for his player page this year.

sam_fuld_pageviews

Sam Fuld, this is what it looks like to be internet famous for a day.


Library Update: RE24

For readers who prefer context-dependent statistics, there aren’t many better options than RE24. Despite the statistic’s popularity, our explanation of the statistic was previously housed in a few separate blog posts rather than one entry in the FanGraphs Library. Today, that changes with the newly minted entry for RE24.

RE24 is based on run expectancy and the 24 base-outs states and tells you how many runs above or below average a player has been relative to the situations in which they have been placed. You can head over to the Library for a full breakdown, but feel free to post questions in the comment section of this post or contact me on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44 for any related or unrelated questions about RE24, FanGraphs, or advanced statistics. Also, be sure to check the Library for updates and blog posts about the site and our data.


The Dark Side Of Booming Local TV Deals

Bud Selig has been giddy watching baseball teams attract bigger and bigger local television deals. More local TV revenue to a team means more money for the league to spread via revenue sharing and greater competitive balance. And Bug Selig sure loves competitive balance. On a recent visit to PNC Park, Major League Baseball’s commissioner told Pittsburgh Pirates broadcasters that he got “goosebumps” watching the Reds and Pirates square off in last year’s postseason.

But big local TV contracts aren’t all Skittles and puppies. Certainly not for fans who are forced to pay higher and higher cable and satellite TV bills to watch their home team. Nor for cable and satellite TV customers who don’t care about baseball but have to pay the higher prices as part of their bundled programming.

It turns out that big local TV contracts aren’t always good news for teams either. That has turned Selig’s mood quite sour.

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Nicholas Minnix Baseball Chat – 8/1/14

11:42

Nicholas Minnix: Hello, everyone! Happy August. Looking forward to answering some questions. Be with you at the top of the hour!

11:54

Nicholas Minnix: Apologize for the delay because of the erroneous code post, folks! Be with you shortly!

12:00
Comment From Elias
Thoughts on Kennys Vargas and Anthony Ranaudo?

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The Changes In Postseason Odds From Yesterday

Note: This morning, I noticed that Baseball Prospectus did a piece with the same basic premise. We aren’t trying to copy their content; both of us just had the same idea. Go read their piece too.

Yesterday, a bunch of teams made trades, and a bunch of conclusions were drawn about what these trades mean. The Angels did nothing and are now screwed! The Cardinals will now run away with the NL Central! Good luck competing with the Orioles now, Blue Jays!

As we’ve written countless times over the years, though, one individual baseball player doesn’t matter very much in the grand scheme of things, and two months of one individual baseball player really doesn’t matter all that much. As you might expect, the postseason odds from today look an awful lot like the postseason odds from yesterday, even after all the trades were processed and the depth charts updated. Good teams got a little more good and bad teams occasionally got a little worse, but there were no seismic shifts in our future expectations.

However, there were some changes, and it’s worth looking at what changed the most. To note; we ware not isolating the effects of solely the trade a team made, but the entire effects of all of the moves on the league yesterday, as well as the games played last night. So, it’s not quite correct to say that the complete difference in odds from yesterday to today was due to Player X’s acquisition, since we’re also incorporating some changes in the standings from yesterday morning as well.

Caveats aside, let’s get to some data.

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, August 1, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.astro

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Los Angeles AL at Tampa Bay | 19:10 ET
Matt Shoemaker (76.1 IP, 81 xFIP-, 0.9 WAR) faces Jeremy Hellickson (9.0 IP, 121 xFIP-, 0.2 WAR). In all of July, the former walked only three batters over 22.1 innings — this, while striking out 24. Nor was that performance particularly out of character for Shoemaker: among the 205 pitchers to have recorded 20-plus innings as a starter this year, Shoemaker has produced the 11th-best park-adjusted xFIP — just behind the recently traded David Price and just ahead of the also recently traded Jon Lester.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Tampa Bay Radio.

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Prospect Watch: The Burlington Royals, From Impact to Curiosity

For players in 28 of MLB’s 30 organizations, the lowest level of U.S.-based affiliated professional baseball is the complex leagues, the Arizona League and the Gulf Coast League. These leagues feature the rawest of the raw when it comes to professional baseball players, largely including players fresh out of high school or Latin America, with some low-rung college players mixed in.

Two organizations, however, do not have complex league teams. The Rockies haven’t had one since 2000, instead maintaining a Rookie-Advanced team in the Pioneer league and a short-season-A team in the Northwest League. From 2003 to 2013, the White Sox were the other team, but this year, the Pale Hose picked up an Arizona League team and their division rivals in Kansas City became the second club with a complex league vacuum.

The Royals thus lost an entire team’s worth of roster spots in their system in the offseason, and that created something of a backlog in their organization. All the high school draftees and Latin American kids who would normally (or at least often) be assigned to their old AZL team now jumped straight up to the club’s Rookie-Advanced affiliate in Burlington. The squad opened the year with a whopping 38 players on its roster as a result, including four 17-year-olds and six players picked in the top six rounds of the 2014 draft. As you’d expect, the raw Burlington squad resides in last place in the Appalachian League East Division, but also as you’d expect, they are largely considered the most talented team in the circuit. I sat in on seven of their contests this year, and in this piece, I’m going to touch on several intriguing players on this oversized roster.

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Yankees Gain Flexibility in Landing Prado, Drew

For much of today, it seemed like the Red Sox were going to be the only active American League East team, but then the Orioles and Yankees got in on the act (you can read all of our trade deadline analysis here). For the Yankees part, they acquired Stephen Drew and Martin Prado. Both could be important to the team, but Prado’s acquisition may affect the 2015 Yankees as well, which makes it a little more interesting.

Of course, the most interesting part of this deal is which Martin Prado are the Yankees getting? There’s a big difference between the .345 wOBA version of Prado and the current .305 wOBA incarnation. Either way, they are unlikely to miss prospect Peter O’Brien, who despite hitting some impressive home runs, was unlikely to find much time behind the plate for the Yankees — if he can even remain behind the plate. O’Brien has played some first base and right field this year, and it’s unclear exactly where he will fit with the Dbacks, if and when he reaches the majors.

Getting back to Prado, both ZiPS and Steamer think that he’ll do better, and it’s possible that Prado’s performance was dragged down by the sinkhole that has been the Diamondbacks’ season. Assuming just for a moment that the change of scenery reinvigorates Prado, he should be able to help in a number of ways. For starters, he is going to right field, which will mercifully push Ichiro Suzuki and his sub-replacement-ness back to the bench. But Prado is probably going to play all over. He’s going to help out in left field on occasion, and at third base as well. Maybe even a little at first base.

The key question, however, is how much time he sees at second base. Carlos Beltran may be ready to resume some work in right field soon, and when he is, there will be an opportunity created to move Derek Jeter to designated hitter — Beltran in right, Prado at second, Drew at short, and the Captain at DH. At this stage, Jeter is never going to play another defensive position, but he has started at DH four times this year, and adding Prado and Drew will give them the flexibility to rest Jeter’s legs more frequently down the stretch without sacrificing offense the way they would have been by starting Brendan Ryan at short.

Finally, there is the consideration beyond this year. When the team traded for Chase Headley, general manager Brian Cashman hedged on whether or not he would be in their 2015 plans, but between Prado being under contract and Alex Rodriguez returning, it would seem that the Yankees now have little to no motivation to retain Headley.

Neither Prado nor Drew is going to make the Yankees a title contender, but they are better than the players they replaced, they help push Ichiro to the bench, and might be able to buy Jeter some easier nights. That’s not a bad bit of work considering all they sacrificed was one fringe prospect, and it should keep the Yankees viable in the AL East for the rest of the way.


2014 Trade Reaction Roundup

Well, that’s about the most active trade deadline I can remember, though it might not feel that way if you live in Philadelphia, Colorado, or Toronto. Still, some big deals happened, some small deals happened, and a bunch of players are changing uniforms. We’ve written about most of the deals, with multiple angles on all the big ones. To make them easy to find, here’s one big post to find all our reactions in one spot. As we add more write-ups, we’ll add them here as well.

Thanks for hanging out and breaking all kinds of FanGraphs traffic records, everyone.

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Don’t Write Off The Rays End Of The David Price Deal Just Yet

Today was quite the deadline spectacle, with two of the best pitchers in baseball, Jon Lester and David Price, changing uniforms. The Lester deal hit early, and it was an eye-opener, with the “buyer” A’s “selling” their #4 hitter, Yoenis Cespedes in the process. The movement of established players, such as Cespedes, Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, by buyers in pursuit of their needs came to be one of the themes of the day.

As they often do, however, the Tampa Bay Rays zigged while everyone else zagged, and “sold” ace lefty David Price to the Tigers in a three-team deal that sent Austin Jackson to the Mariners, and lefty starter Drew Smyly and infielders Nick Franklin and Willy Adames to the Rays. The reaction of many media outlets to the Rays’ take had a quizzical or even disappointed tone. It takes a little more analysis – and an understanding of the way the underfunded Rays need to do business – to see what they’re up to here. To put it simply, the Rays are trusting their solid organizational evaluation skills as they have many times in the past, and see an abundance of talent and team control in this three-player package. Read the rest of this entry »


Five Versions of Cleveland’s New Prospect, Zach Walters

Earlier today, the Cleveland Americans received infield prospect Zach Walters from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera. Less early today, my amusingly coiffed colleague Eno Sarris considered Walters’ possible future as a major-leaguer.

In Sarris’s piece, he cites work by Chris St. John which suggests that players who’ve recorded similar walk and strikeout rates as Walters at Triple-A — that those players have failed to make any sort of positive impact at the major-league level about 88% of the time. That’s a reasonable framework by which to evaluate Walters, and a not particularly optimistic conclusion. As Sarris concedes, however, St. John’s work is position agnostic. Moreover, one notes that it ignores the possible influence of power numbers. Indeed, it appears to be the case that Walters’ positional value and his home-run rate are likely to be his primary sources of value.

With a view towards attempting to better understand how Walters might perform at the major-league level, I’ve produced five different lines below, each of which represents a different version of Zach Walters prorated over a full season’s worth of plate appearances.

# PA BB% K% HR BABIP BsR wRC+ Off Def WAR
1 550 7.9% 19.8% 13 .301 0.0 100 0 0 2.0
2 550 4.7% 25.3% 20 .294 0.0 93 -4 -4 1.1
3 550 9.6% 38.0% 28 .286 -3.1 110 6 7 3.5
4 550 7.7% 23.8% 32 .348 -1.0 156 35 4 5.8
5 550 6.0% 30.0% 21 .300 0.0 94 -3 3 1.9

Line (1) is an average non-pitching major-league batter in the year 2014. This is what a Marcel-type projection system might produce for Walters. Line (2) is Walters’ current Steamer projection just prorated to 550 plate appearances. Steamer doesn’t care for Walters’ defense. Consider: for a shortstop to produce an overall defensive mark of -4 runs, he’d need to record a single-season UZR of something like -11 or -12 runs. Line (3) is Walters’ current major-league line — through just 52 plate appearances — prorated to a full season. Walters has managed to hit three home runs on the 31 occasions he hasn’t either walked or struck out — about three times the normal major-league rate. Line (4) is a verbatim rendering of Walters’ Triple-A line this year — with baserunning estimated from speed score and defense based entirely on positional adjustment. Line (5) is the least important of all the above insofar as it represents a sort of “scouting” projection by the author. Walters will strike out at a rate greater than average, is the suggestion, and will walk at a rate below average. But both his power and defensive skills are considerable enough in concert — is my own half-educated opinion — so as to produce an average major-leaguer.

Those who remain curious about Walters might derive some pleasure from his appearance on FanGraphs Audio last August.


In Austin Jackson, Mariners Land Decent Player and Massive Upgrade

In one of the smaller moves of the day, the Mariners dealt Abraham Almonte and another minor leaguer to the Padres for Chris Denorfia. It wasn’t a trade that caught much attention, because neither of the younger guys is of any real consequence, and Denorfia is a rental having a down season. It was just something that flew by, completely under the radar, and now something you should consider is that Almonte began the season as the Mariners’ starter in center field.

So it could be said that, later on Thursday, the Mariners addressed a need that was ever so desperate. They didn’t end up with David Price, but they did get themselves involved in the deal, adding Austin Jackson and subtracting Nick Franklin. Jackson has only another eight months of team control, and it would appear he might’ve peaked in 2012. But while Jackson hasn’t been playing like a star-level player, for the Mariners he ought to be an upgrade of some very real significance.

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Tigers See the A’s Jon Lester, Raise Them David Price

The last two years, the Tigers have beaten the A’s in the American League Division Series. In both years, it went the full five games, with the A’s falling just short. The A’s have spent the last month trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again, loading up their rotation with Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and now Jon Lester.

Maybe the Tigers would have done this anyway. We’ll never know, of course, but what we do know is that the Tigers acquired David Price this afternoon, bolstering their own rotation to make a pitching staff that is unlike anything we’ve seen in a while.

This is what their current starting five has done over the last calendar year.

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Orioles Land Andrew Miller from busy Red Sox

Andrew Miller has been phenomenal for Boston this season. He has struck out over 40 percent of the batters he has faced, and has been death against both lefties (0.65 FIP, .194 wOBA allowed) and righties (2.41 FIP, .243 wOBA allowed). He has been one of the best relievers in baseball this year — his WAR is 11th-highest among qualified relievers, and his 43 FIP- is fifth-best — and he will surely help the Orioles bullpen down the stretch. But he is also a free agent at the end of the season, which could make the price paid for him — reportedly pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez — steep.

Let’s start with Baltimore. As a unit, their bullpen FIP- is 16th-best in baseball as we sit here right now. Over the past 30 days though, it has been considerably better — their 64 FIP- in this most recent period ranks second-best in baseball. Between Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day, the team has four relievers that they can trust in high-leverage situations. And Ryan Webb and Brad Brach have flashed potential at times as well, though neither gets the strikeouts requisite for being elite in a bullpen role.

In adding Miller to this group, but not adding a starting pitcher, it seems as though the Orioles didn’t like the options available to them in the starting pitching market, or the prices needed to acquire one of the options that they did desire. It would seem that their strategy then is to pray their starting pitching — which by FIP- has been the worst in the majors this season — can keep them in the game through five or six innings, and then turn the ball over to their bullpen. It’s not the prettiest of strategies, but it’s one that helped them get to the brink of the American League Championship Series in 2012.

This time though, they may have dealt away a bit more of their future than they would have preferred. Just last December, the Orioles were saying that they’d have to be blown away to deal Rodriguez, as the Venezuelan native reached Double-A last season at age 20. In 59.2 innings there, he struck out 23.4% of the batters he faced, and caught the attention of the prospect world. Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com all ranked him in the 60s in their top 100 prospect lists this year. At ESPN, Keith Law ranked him 43rd, and FanGraphs’ Marc Hulet ranked him 36th. Law had ranked him 100th the year before as well, so this didn’t just come out of nowhere.

Rodriguez missed some time this year thanks to a knee injury, and he has been inconsistent since returning, but the potential was there not even six months ago, and likely hasn’t vanished.

The Sox turning one-third of a season from a relief pitcher who wasn’t going to help much on a last place team into a top-60 prospect is a pretty nice return, but Miller has been mighty impressive this season, and if the Orioles do reach the postseason, he will be an important weapon for them in October.


Nationals Take a Small Risk in Dealing Risky Prospect

At the beginning of the year, the Nationals’ infield might have seemed a strength. Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche, with Danny Espinosa in reserve? Especially if you told then’s version of yourself that LaRoche would resurge and Rendon would surge, you’d be happy with what you had.

Even with the injury to Zimmerman, you could argue that that a team with a 93% chance of making the playoffs might be fine with their current infield. Sure, Espinosa is hovering too close to replacement level for comfort, but they could win enough games with him in there to make the postseason, and Zimmerman might be healthy by then.

Then again, winning the division and making the postseason are two different things. This team needs to keep pace with the Braves. And so they traded Zach Walters for Asdrubal Cabrera.

And the upgrade over Danny Espinosa is undebatable. Though Espinosa has recovered some of his value from his nadir, and is showing some power and speed, there are two facets of his game that have not recovered. His league-average or better walk rate has not returned (5.6% BB%), and his glove is not rated well this year (-1.1 UZR). Cabrera should be able to match that defense with the shift from short, and his offense is just about league average these days.

They’re trading a potential shortstop for a couple months of a second baseman. You can’t debate that. Even as he’s moved on to other positions, Zach Walters played twice as many games at short than any other.

But even while you acknowledge the risk, you can point to the risk inherent in Walters. Not only as a prospect, but as a prospect with a low walk rate and a high strikeout rate. Prospects with that sort of a profile at 24 years old in Triple-A had an 88% bust rate according to Chris St. John’s work.

So, yeah, they took a chance. A chance that has about 12% likelihood of burning them.


Brewers Bet on a Different Sort of Regression

Though it wasn’t very flashy, the Brewers quietly made a deadline trade with the Diamondbacks, dealing a couple minor leaguers for a guy with a negative WAR. Going to Arizona: Mitchell Haniger and Anthony Banda. Haniger is the better prospect of the two, although he’s got a low ceiling and an unspectacular 2014 campaign under his belt. Going to Milwaukee: Gerardo Parra, who joins an outfield that already includes Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, and Khris Davis. Parra’s WAR stands at -0.3.

But, a year ago, it was 4.6, tied for 26th in all of baseball. With that kind of massive decline, you assume an offensive dropoff, and, sure enough, Parra’s wRC+ has dipped. But his modest skills are intact, and the biggest reason for the statistical dip is on the defensive side. The numbers think that, this year, Parra’s been a roughly average defensive outfielder. Last year he was fourth in baseball in overall Defense rating, right by the spectacular Gomez. Beyond that, Parra’s played all over, and here are his league rankings between 2009 – 2013 (1000-inning minimum):

Left field: 8th out of 60 in UZR/150
Center field: 20th out of 64
Right field: 1st out of 47

There’s a good bit of evidence that Parra is one of baseball’s better and more rangey outfielders. He hasn’t been hurt in 2014, and his own manager thinks he’s been fine. The Brewers are assuming that Parra is better than his 2014 statistics, and you can’t really blame them:

Parra1

Parra2

Assuming Parra’s still a good defensive outfielder, then he has value, and he improves a Brewers team that’s still fighting for its life. At the plate, he’s weakest against lefties, but as it works out, Parra’s left-handed and Davis is right-handed so we could have the makings here of something of a platoon. At least, Parra’s a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement, and few teams have a guy with such a great standout skill available on the bench. It’s a somewhat low-impact move for the Brewers, but Parra’s better than Logan Schafer, and this raises the team’s floor. Plus, if they’re extra daring, they can control Parra for 2015 as well. So far the Cardinals have made the NL Central splashes, but the Brewers paid relatively little for a guy who, several months ago, would’ve cost an upper-level prospect. It was a good time to strike.