Juan Pierre on the South Side

The Chicago White Sox have pulled off another of their trademark surprising trades by acquiring Juan Pierre from the Dodgers for two players to be named later [as of this writing, I’m reading that they are John Ely and John Link]. The Dodgers will also pick up $10.5 million of the remaining $18.5 million on the horrible contract given to Pierre seemingly centuries ago. The White Sox get Pierre for eight million dollars over two seasons, roughly the market rate for a 1 WAR player.

Primarily relegated to a bench role the last two seasons, Pierre seemingly “reemerged” in 2009 while filling in for a suspended Manny Ramirez, putting up an above average seasonal wOBA (.338, 109 wRC+, .308/.365/.392) for the first time since 2004. That may seem promising, but it’s still only 425 plate appearances against several previous years of less-than-scintillating offensive performance. For 2010, CHONE sees a return to pre-2009 form, .282/.327/.363, 11 runs created below average per 150 games. My own projection is also pessimistic: .280/.328/.360, .309 wOBA, -10 runs/150. Pierre has been a good baserunner in the past, although that has also dropped off the last couple of seasons. Let’s add one run to the CHONE projection and call him a -10/150 offensive player.

Evaluating Pierre’s defense is trickier. While he sports a good UZR for 2009, that was primarily in left field. Apparently he will be playing center field in Chicago. His last few seasons in center have been below average. While his numbers in left are good, they don’t suggest average center field defense. CHONE has him at +6 in left, suggesting he would be below average in center. The 2009 Fans Scouting Report points in the same direction: good in left, below average in center. For defense, then, let’s call him “neutral” — +7/150 in left, -2/150 in center — good enough to overcome the left field positional adjustment, but not good enough to gain the advantage of the center field adjustment.

The arithmetic is easy enough: neutral defense, -10/150 offense, 1 WAR player. So the White Sox are getting what they paid for. Straightforwardly, yes. But:

  • There is still the matter of the Ely and Link. If they add value down the road in the majors, that counts against the Chicago’s side of the trade ledger.
  • A 1 WAR player may be worth what Chicago is paying him, but is still far worse than an average (2 WAR) player that you’d want starting. That isn’t to say Pierre doesn’t have value, but it’s worth noting in light of the next point.
  • When Chicago initially obtained Alex Rios off of waivers from Toronto, he was reportedly intended to man center field. Whether or not he’d be good there (one set of UZR projections say he’s better in center than Pierre), he’s certainly a much better overall player than Pierre. Rather than trading for a glorified bench player and putting him in center, the better strategy might be to stick with Rios in center and sign one of the available outfielders championed around these parts for right field. Such a player who would likely require less money, not require giving up talent, and as a bonus would be more productive that Pierre.
  • White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams follows his own muse, and has had enough success that I’m leery of doubting him, even when I don’t understand a move he makes. Still, I don’t understand this move.

    [Author’s update, Wednesday, December 16, 11:00 P.M. EST: As noted by numerous commentators below and in my own comment, it turns out that I misunderstood/misread the Sox’ plan for Pierre — he’s apparently slated to play left field rather than center. I apologize for my confusion; not sure how that happened, as I was surprised when I (mis)read that he was going to play center. I’ll leave the original as a testament to my late-night silliness, with this note as an correction/addendum. Having said that, the analysis isn’t really affected. The point about “neutral” defense is that being as much above average in left field and as much below average in center) around 10 runs/162 games is the standard adjustment between LF/CF) as Pierre is amounts to the same thing — a “0” for positional adjustment + projected defense. As a whole, the projected outfield consists of the same players as in my original analysis — Pierre, Rios, and Quentin. I still see Pierre as a 1 WAR player — decent for the bench, not so much as a starter. The same players that mentioned as better alternatives for RF could also play LF (and one could possibly add Kelly Johnson to that mix for LF over Pierre). Thanks for reading, understanding, and (hopefully) forgiving.]

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    Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

    54 Responses to “Juan Pierre on the South Side”

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    1. Realist says:

      Your final point has a flaw: KW *DID* sign one of those available outfielders, Andruw Jones. He also re-upped Kotsay. It’s well-known that the Chicago front office favors speed guys like Podsednik and Owens over defense-minded outfielders such as Brian Anderson, so this is not at all out of the realm of understanding.

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    2. Archivist says:

      As a Dodger fan, all I have to say is God bless Kenny Williams!!

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    3. sunn0))) says:

      Who said Pierre is playing CF over Rios? I haven’t read anything remotely conclusive on that decision…

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    4. Terry says:

      I don’t know why some folks keep saying Pierre is playing center. He’s not. KW flat out said on the conference he was brought here for LF. Rios is playing center and Quentin is in right/ DH for now.

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    5. wigfried says:

      1. The article you linked to suggests he will play left, not center.
      2. Given the rotation is the strongest it has been in years, and that Ely is the third best SP prospect in a very thin system, I doubt he would add value to the Sox down the road. He may well help the Dodgers, though, as he is durable and seems to get results with his minimal stuff. Link is basically the same as many others, decent stuff, lousy control.
      3. Pierre = fast. More likely than not the prospect of 40 SB in 2010 is why KW got him and not Gross or Church.

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    6. Xeifrank says:

      Yeah, I can’t imagine that Pierre would be signed to play CF. He does not have the arm strength to play CF every day. Also, Pierre may have had a better season with the bat last year, but it was really one month of lucky hitting. I’d also like to get the author’s opinion on how evaluating this trade from the Dodgers standpoint.
      vr, Xei

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    7. Joe R says:

      A quick analysis tells you exactly why this move was made.

      Juan Pierre
      Ozzie Guillen

      together at least.

      This is a dream scenario for the world of the internets. Llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllet’s get ready to hit and ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun.

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    8. Yinka Double Dare says:

      Pierre is definitely playing left. Quentin has been in left because Dye was in right and as a vet with a good arm they left him alone over there — it wasn’t like Quentin was so amazing that they just had to get him over there. However, Quentin does have a pretty strong arm and will probably be a better defensive player than Dye was in right because it’s nigh-impossible to be as bad as Dye was last year. This team is going to be much better in the outfield this year, with Pierre-Rios-Quentin as the regular outfield. Podsednik was bad and Dye was horrid last year.

      I think they’re going to try to win how they did in 2005. Deep and very good rotation, shore up the pen and hope they turn it around and get a random great year out of a couple of them, and now they appear to have made the outfield defense significantly better over what they typically had last year. The only thing that doesn’t fit the 2005 model is Teahen, who is a minus defender while Crede was a big plus.

      I still feel like they need another bat though. This just doesn’t feel like enough offense to me.

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      • MikeS says:

        The keys to the year are Rios rebounding and Quentin staying healthy. The rest are complimentary players – even Konerko (in decline) and Beckham and Ramirez (hopefully on the rise). After that, you have a bunch of spare parts – Teahan, Pierzynsky, Pierre and Jones at DH, Kotsay off the bench. What you get from the last 8 guys is pretty much gonna be league average or slightly worse. If Rios and Quentin tear the cover off the ball, you’ve got something. If Quentin is hurt and Rios has an OPS of .600, well, that rotation ebtter be pretty darn good.

        Defense is better, bullpen should be good enough, depth is better. But boy, you better hope somebody becomes an offensive star.

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    9. john says:

      “Juan Pierre
      Ozzie Guillen

      together at last.”

      ……since 2003

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    10. Jon says:

      I think this analysis needs to be re-done with Pierre as a left fielder. As has been noted a couple of times, the Sox will go with Pierre in LF, Rios in CF, and Quentin in RF.

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    11. Circlechange11 says:

      … and the consideretion of some not so great prospects is a stretch. I understand that Kenny ain’t too popular around here, but ..

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    12. lookatthosetwins says:

      It doesn’t matter whether he plays left or center. Either way he comes out exactly neutral and accrues 1 WAR. It also makes less sense in general because there were so many better options for the corner outfield spots.

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    13. Jon says:

      Either way he comes out neutral defensively? The author states his good UZR in left and then shifts to CF where he feels Pierre will be below average. Neutral appears to be the authors compromise since he did better than average in left and below average in CF. Regardless, the Sox could have done better, that much I agree on. But considering a large chunk of his salary is paid for and the prospects are nothing special, it could have been a lot worse.

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      • Yinka Double Dare says:

        I think he means he comes out netural as a 1 WAR player — the positional adjustment in left versus center probably nullifies the defensive advantage.

        If nothing else, Juan Pierre doesn’t have the reputation of being a total moron on the bases like Pods is. He gets caught stealing, but Pods’ propensity to inexplicably get picked off was beyond maddening.

        If they’re going with their 2005 model, they’re still short a power bat DH — that 2005 team hit 200 HRs, and as currently constructed that ain’t happening. Maybe Thome comes back again?

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        • BX says:

          Yeah, I could see Thome coming back. There’s too many DHs on the market for KW not to grab a DH on the cheap.

          Or I could see KW moving Konerko to DH (where he belongs) and targeting a 1B (Adrian Gonzalez…haha, I kid, someone like Nick Johnson is more likely).

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    14. Scotty Pods is a career .720 OPS hitter. Juan Pierre’s career OPS? .720.

      Scotty Pods is 33 years old. Juan Pierre? 32 years old.

      Scotty Pods had the 39th weakest arm (-2.1 runs) in the OF amongst all OFs given 400+ PAs. Juan Pierre’s ranking? 41st to last (-1.9 runs).

      Scotty Pods’ career speed score? 7.1. Juan Pierre? 7.3.

      On that same topic, Scotty Pods has a career stolen base success rate of 76.7% (286/373). Juan Pierre? 74.8% (459/614).

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      • Paulie L. says:

        Career numbers are nice, but Pierre is a superior LF, baserunner, hitter and the health concerns are not there. Sandwiched between his ’05 and ’09 season, Pods wasn’t even replacement level. In fact, he was out of baseball completely until KW called him up this year.

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    15. Fangraphs: Hypocritcal authors says:

      “White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams follows his own muse, and has had enough success that I’m leery of doubting him, even when I don’t understand a move he makes. Still, I don’t understand this move.”

      What is so hard to understand? The Sox get a leadoff hitter, they give up two average to below average arms with mediocre stuff to a team that is paying more than half of Pierre’s overpriced contract. Give the man some credit, good grief. Is it that hard? What was he supposed to do, sign Podsednik who is 2 years older, less durable and worse in the outfieldand on the basepaths to a 2-3 year contract at 4-6M/yr? That is close to what he was asking because he woudl not accept 1yr. You think the NYY were going to give up Gardner for Link and Ely? Maybe KW should have traded Beckham and Hudson for Sizemore, hows that? Even better, Jenks, Hudson and Morel for Rollins.

      BTW where did you see it mentioned on your source article that Pierre is going to be the CF? Where does that leave Rios? Another joke of an article by heavily biased saberauthors who are satisfying an agenda.

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    16. Jon says:

      Not sure he means neutral player neutral as a 1 WAR player. He did say, “The arithmetic is easy enough: neutral defense”. It seems to me his analysis is partly based on that rating, even though it seems to be a compromise between his LF and CF defense. I’m just curious to see how he comes out as an above average LF as he was last year.

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    17. James Morton says:

      Kenny Williams said in the conference call that Pierre is the Left Fielder.


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    18. Matt Klaassen says:

      Hey all, thanks for the comments. I wrote this late last night, and clear misread/misunderstood the LF/CF situation. Sorry about that, I’m embarrassed. I’ve been away from the computer all day, and still am (I’m on my mobile). I’ll expand in a more detail later tonight, hopefully, but imshort, despite the error, the analysis, since it uses “position neutral” defense, remains substantially the same — Pierre is a 1 WAR player (i.e., a bench guy) wherever he plays.

      Thanks — and (a bit) more later

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    19. JR says:

      Isn’t Pierre essentially the same as Pods? Pierre is probably a little better in LF, but is $8 million over two years and two prospects worth that minimal improvement?

      How much could Pods have been? 1 year $1-$2 million? Maybe less?

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      • Paulie L. says:

        “Isn’t Pierre essentially the same as Pods?”

        Not really. Pods is a poor outfielder, poor baserunner and can’t stay healthy. Pierre is at least consistent.

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        • JR says:

          Pierre doesn’t seem like a better baserunner to me. They have similar SB success rate and Pierre often gets picked off going for the extra base too much.

          The two are pretty much the same at the plate. The only difference is in the field, but to me that difference is not worth what the Sox gave up. I think they’d be better off without either one, but it makes no sense to give up what they did when they probably could have had a similar player cheaper.

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      • MikeS says:

        Pierre is a better defender, better base runner, a little less power. And Pods is delusional – he wants more than 1 yr @ $1 – 2 million.

        After screaming at Pods several times “nice hit, don’t get picked off” both in person and on TV, then being disappointed, I’m not sorry to see him go.

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    20. James Morton says:

      Pods wanted 2+ years and around 10M guaranteed.

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      • BX says:

        Which he was in this market almost zero guarantee to get.

        And, it wasn’t like Juan Pierre was the hottest commodity on the FA market.

        Just because a player “wants” something doesn’t mean he’ll get it on the market.

        Bobby Abreu and the Angels last year proved that.

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    21. Muzz says:

      This was just a waste of a move by Williams. As a white sox fan, its disheartening to see the front office throw cash away when there were cheaper options available. The Sox are trying to build a team similar to 2005 when they won the world series, but the defense is no where near as good as 2005, the bullpen is not as good, and the lineup is just about as bad, plus the white sox had a ridiculous record in 1 run games that year, so unless Kenny Williams is banking on luck to help him out again, Chicago fans are in for a great deal of disappointment.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        “The Sox are trying to build a team similar to 2005 when they won the world series, but the defense is no where near as good as 2005, the bullpen is not as good, and the lineup is just about as bad, plus the white sox had a ridiculous record in 1 run games that year, so unless Kenny Williams is banking on luck to help him out again, Chicago fans are in for a great deal of disappointment.”

        It’s interesting that you say that because I just looked up the ’05 lineup and rotation (99 wins).

        I think if you look back at the ’05 lineup you won’t be all that impressed. With the exception of PK’s 40 bombs, I think the ’10 team can duplicate or improve on (overall) the production of the 05 team.

        Then, when you look at starting pitching, the edge (IMO) goes to the ’10 team, provided Peavy can pitch as “well” as Garcia or Garland did in 05. I’ll take that bet. Cotts and Politte were great in 05, but Thornton is dominant now. Jenks is also a stup up over Hermanson (much of 05).

        Looking at the ’09 team, I thought they were pretty terrible outside of Beckam’s emergence and the starting pitching, and YET the finished 7.5 GB out of 1st for the ALC crown.

        In short, don’t lose sight of the division. Neither DET nor MIN are juggernauts and neither CLE nor KCR are going to leap to the front any time soon.

        I think MIN is the favorite in the division (duh), but I don;t see the ’10 ChiSox as a “whole tier” below them. MIN basically had 4 guys go .280+-30-100, and one of those guys have a year of years. They also have a starting rotation including zero pitchers whose ERA started with a “3”. ChiSox had 2.

        Let’s not make it sound as if the ChiSox have to beat out NYY, BOS, and TBR, and have 3 or 4 guys have “career years”. They, likely, need small improvement across the board. The key is to “make the playoffs”, and to do that in the ALC you might only need to win 86-89 games. The ChiSox *could* win the ALC in ’10 with perhaps 11 fewer wins than they had in ’05.

        Again, look at the division. They likely do not HAVE to win 94 games to make the playoffs.

        Chicago will experience disappointment again in ’10, but probably not due to the South Siders. Actually, it would just be a continuation of the disappointment going on right now with the Bears and the (terri)bulls. Well, Da hawks are good again, but no on watches hockey anymore.

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      • Joey says:

        “The Sox are trying to build a team similar to 2005 when they won the world series”

        Actually, it seems as if the Sox are trying to build a team of Ozzie Guillen’s on offense. Horrible to poor OBP, zero to questionable power, fast but reckless on the basepaths.

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    22. divakar says:

      Offense isn’t everything – understood. Without delving into pitching (a strength) and defense (umm…), though, what do people think of this lineup?

      C: AJP (.755/.754 – .326/.323)
      1b: Konerko (.842/.843 – .362/.361 )
      2b: Beckham (.808 – .351)
      SS: Alexei Ramirez (.723/.755 – .319/.327)
      3b: Mark Teahen (.734/.749 – .323/.327)

      OF: Quentin (.779/.840 – .340/.363)
      OF: Rios (.691/.775 – .306/.337)
      OF: Pierre (.757/.720 – .338/.327)

      DH: Andruw Jones (.782/.797 – .338/.343)

      The “give KW credit” crowd must be happy with this alignment of players…

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      • divakar says:

        Sorry In parenthesis that’s 09 OPS/Career OPS – 09 wOBA/Career wOBA

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        How does that projected lineup compare to the projected lineups of DET and MIN?

        Seriously, DET lost Polanco and Granderson, and I don’t see MIN’s offense reproducing this year’s performance. So, how do the offenses match-up? Let’s lay it all out there and see where the cards fall.

        Then, we’ll factor in pitching/defense.

        I think once you lay it out all, you’ll see a “3-team race” in the ALC. I don’t think MIN is as far ahead of CWS as ‘Mauer Pauer’ might cause us to think.

        Let’s put it all out there and see where the information leads. Let’s not START with the conclusion and then mine for supporting evidence. I think that happens more at this site than anyone would care to admit. I say that humbly, knowing that I do it at times also.

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        • twinsfan says:

          and I don’t see MIN’s offense reproducing this year’s performance

          Based upon?

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        • CircleChange11 says:

          At the time of my comment, just based on my gut after looking up MIN batting stats in the thread where I compared the strength of MIN lineup v. DET (and the rest of the “MVP Contenders”). Namely, MIN had 4 guys go (approximatly, at least) .280-30-100, and I didn’t see that happening again.

          So, I just looked up the 5 main guys in MIN lineup: Spahn, Mauer, Cuddyer, Kubel, and Morneau.

          My main feeling was that Cuddyer and Kubel would NOT have .275-.285 – 30 – 100 seasons again, and that Mauer would perform slightly less than he did in 09.

          I looked up each guy here, and the fans projections seem to agree with them projecting that only Spahn and Morneau would increase their performance, with the other three experiencing a drop-off, Mauer slightly, and Cud and Kub to a significant degree.

          When I say “decline a bit”, in my mind I am talking about something in the 2-3 WAR less (as a team) than ’09, giving them a possible 7-8 WAR edge over CWS (instead of the 10 WAR edge in 09).

          What I was thinking is that CWS would close the gap a little from the 10 WAR difference in OFF btw MIN and CWS in 09, and the diff between pitching WAR of MIN v CWS, would put them rougly even, with MIN having a slight lead in “chances for division title” (chalk it up to intangibles or “other”, if you will). CWS were 6 WAR better than MIN and DET in pitching in ’09, and with Peavy returning, I figured that would equate to a 6-8 WAR edge to CWS.

          My overall point was that CWS, with an improved team, have a decent shot at the ALC title.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I only looked at one guy to see how your numbers compared to other systems …

        Alex Rios’s Projected OPS …

        You: 691
        ZIPS: 767
        CHONE: 762
        CBS: 751
        James: 777

        See what I’m gettin’ at?

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        • divakar says:

          i wasn’t projecting Rios’ OPS. That was his OPS from last year.

          So, what ARE you getting at?

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        • CircleChange11 says:

          Sorry divakar. I thought you were using your projections. I don;t why I came away with that impression. I inferred something in the post that may not have been there.

          My apology to you.

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    23. Fangraphs: Hypocritcal authors says:

      The “give KW credit” crowd must be happy with this alignment of players…

      You forgot the starting pitchers and the bullpen. I guess it’s convenient for you to leave out the strength of the team so you could take a jab as well.

      In case you don’t know who they are



      Feel free to throw in any statistics that skew their numbers in favor of the “KW doesn’t qualify as a GM” side.

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      • Scottwood says:

        Well, the argument would be that their is more risk in building your team around pitching b/c of all the injury risks. That rotation looks good on paper, but an injury or two really changes things. And, bullpens are basically a crap shoot.

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        • CircleChange11 says:

          Still, there’s 4 pretty good pitchers in that starting rotation.

          I’d much rather have the ChiSox total rotation that MIN’s or DET’s.

          In ’09 DET and MIN were 10 WAR better than CWS with the bat. Is the difference still that large? It certainly isn’t with DET.

          On the Bump, CWS was 6 WAR better than MIN and DET.

          So, if MIN slips a bit in offense (I think they will), and DET likely will (lost 6.5 WAR in FA) … and even if Peavy only comes back as a 3 WAR pitcher … it’s pretty darn even among the 3 teams. That’s assuming Verlander puts up another 7-8 WAR season.

          I’m not seeing where the ChiSox are not comparable with MIN and DET in terms of winning a weakish division. It could be just as muddled as the ALW, NLC, and NLW.

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        • Scottwood says:

          The Twins have the better lineup and a pretty deep rotation too. They probably won’t be better than the White Sox rotation, but Baker, Blackburn, Slowey (if he stays healthy) and Pavano is decent. And, they also have Liriano and a couple other depth guys to choose from. I don’t think the difference between the Sox and Twins rotation is enough to make up for the fact that the Twins just have a better lineup.

          The Tigers rotation could be pretty good. Its fair to expect regression from Verlander, but he is probably the best starter among those 3 teams. Scherzer should replace Jackson’s production from last year and Porcello should improve a bit and I would expect him to perform closer to his 4.32 xFIP. Beyond that, the back of the rotation is a crap shoot, but it is that way for most teams. Their #4 and #5 starters (if we want to label pitchers in that way) pitched at a replacement level last year and its probably fair to expect 2 of Bonderman, Robertson, Galargga, Bonine, Coke and Miner to be good enough in those spots. Regardless, the Twins have the better lineup and are probably the favorite in the division. If the Indians can figure out their pitching staff and patch that together with a couple young, talented and unproven arms, then they might surprise some people next year. Kansas City has Grienke and another starter (Bannister) who is more qualified to be their GM than Dayton Moore is. I feel for Royals fans.

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      • divakar says:

        Hey tough guy – I don’t know how you got to the end of my post without reading the first line where I said:

        “Without delving into pitching (a strength) and defense (umm…)”

        So, I actually agree with you that pitching is a strength. I wasn’t SKEWING anything – just presenting something that seems less than praise-worthy.

        When did I say KW didn’t qualify as a GM? I just don’t think we should go around giving him handjobs for adding Juan Pierre to the team.

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    24. Jon says:

      Thanks for the correction and the explanation!

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      • Andres says:

        The prospects the sox gave up are bad. Ely is a soft tossing right hander that doesn’t miss bats. The Sox didn’t even protect him from the rule 5 draft.

        Link is Bullpen fodder at best and walks too many batters.

        So, the sox gave up to mediocre pitching prospects and got 10.5 million dollars and Juan Pierre. If the “badness” of this trade is giving at bats to Juan Pierre, its certainly better than rolling the dice with Pods and hoping he stays 1. healthy and 2. not terrible. Also, not having Pods picked off 2nd and 3rd all the time helps too.

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