Time to Worry About Peavy

This isn’t going to come as stunning news to anyone who has watched him pitch, but Jake Peavy just isn’t right. After last night’s implosion, he has allowed 19 runs in 22 innings, and it’s not bad luck. He’s just pitching terribly.

He’s walked as many batters (15) as he’s struck out. His groundball rate is just 33.3%, down from his career average of 41.6 percent, but he’s not giving up more flyballs – instead, those grounders have turned into screaming line drives. Batters are making contact with 84.4 percent of the pitches he throws, and his swinging strike rate is half of what it was in his prime.

Add it all up, and you get a 5.94 xFIP, which is below replacement level. Through four trips to the mound, Peavy has pitched worse than you’d expect from waiver bait.

Unless he’s hurt (a distinct possibility, given his history), he’ll improve. Even with the transition to the American League and having to pitch in a park that favors hitters for the first time in his career, the changes in context aren’t enough to take him from good pitcher to complete bum. But how optimistic can White Sox fans be about their pseudo-ace?

His pre-season ZIPS had him posting a 3.86 FIP, and the updated rest-of-season ZIPS (which takes into account his first four games of 2010) has him projected for a 3.87 FIP. Clearly, the projection systems aren’t going to panic over a 22 inning sample. However, ZIPS doesn’t know that Peavy’s lost a couple of MPH off his fastball over the last few years or that he’s battled elbow problems the last few years.

It’s not time to panic, but there is certainly cause for concern. Command has been the hallmark of Peavy’s success in the big leagues, and a sudden inability to throw strikes can often be a sign of a more serious problem.

Given all the extra things we know, I’d take the over on that 3.87 rest of season FIP. Chicago fans should be concerned.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

57 Responses to “Time to Worry About Peavy”

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  1. Matty Brown says:

    I expected around a 4.5ish Fip from Peavy this season. I really didn’t understand the optimism from a lot of the projection systems. Do all or just some projection systems ignore the decline in fastball velocity and injury history like you mentioned in your post? And why?

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  2. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    yes, yes, 100 times yes.

    the wheels are finally once and for all coming off the kenny williams train.

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  3. Mike Fast says:

    The guys who had the ten worst ERAs in April 2009:
    8.41 Joe Blanton
    7.89 Matt Harrison
    7.43 Vicente Padilla
    7.22 Josh Beckett
    7.11 Aaron Cook
    7.06 Kenshin Kawakami
    7.01 David Purcey
    6.92 Ricky Nolasco
    6.75 Livan Hernandez
    6.75 Justin Verlander

    I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

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    • Bradley says:

      An excellent point.

      Injury and velocity concerns always seem more real to me when I guy is fresh off an injury, but since Peavy still conquered hitters late last year, I tend to think things will be alright.

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    • Joser says:

      Why are we looking at ERA? Especially here at FanGraphs, where better numbers are available? And in April you don’t even have to do any fancy splits. xFIP gives you a much better sense of the pitcher than a team stat like ERA, which is why Cameron used it in the post.

      Pitchers with xFIP higher than Peavey so far:
      Ryan Rowland-Smith

      That’s it.

      Ten worst:

      xFIP   Name
      6.42 Ryan Rowland-Smith
      5.94 Jake Peavy
      5.59 Fausto Carmona
      5.53 Tim Wakefield
      5.51 Kyle Lohse
      5.47 David Huff
      5.42 Jake Westbrook
      5.30 John Lannan
      5.23 Ben Sheets
      5.21 Kyle Davies

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      • BadEnoughDude says:

        Why even make this post when the stat he used, which you argue isn’t relevant in this context, came to the same conclusion as the stat you chose to look at? I don’t understand how bashing a stat that yields the same result as the one you champion advances any causes.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        ERA is no less predictive than FIP over a 22 inning sample.

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  4. Bobby Boden says:

    I scouted Peavy in his first start this year against the Indians. He was consistently hitting his spots, I was very impressed with his command. His stuff looked good as well (and 5 K’s in 5 IP seems to support that). I don’t remember seeing him make a lot of mistakes. On the flip side, Carmona looked terrible, missing his spots consistantly, and making a lot of mistakes, but the white sox were just not punishing him for them.

    I can’t really comment on his other starts, but he looked good to me, in his first start.

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  5. mcb says:

    unless it’s a PitchFx oddity, it looks like Peavy is relying heavily on a two seam fastball, which moves a hell of a lot more than his normal fastball. He might be having a hard time locating the two seamer, which perhaps explains the walks? Could be going to the two seamer because his straight stuff is…well…too straight – and with the loss of velocity – too hittable.

    Agree with Fast above though, it’s awfully early to cut bait. If I recall correctly, Dave has never been a big fan of Peavy.

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    • Mike Fast says:

      It looks to me like he’s throwing the same two-seamer and four-seamer that he did last year, and with about the same mix. He’s using his changeup more often so far this year, though.

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  6. PG says:

    His velocity was actually the highest it’s been in a while. He was sitting at 94-95. I personally like him better at 91-92. He gets better run on his fastball, and by the looks of things, he locates much better.

    Here’s an interesting tidbit from the post-game article on the Sox website:

    “One small bright spot, according to Peavy, was a change made in his mechanics before this start had his velocity up and his stuff feeling as good as it has all season.”

    So that leaves a glimmer of hope for White Sox fans. It’s entirely plausible that this tweak in his mechanics affected his ability to command his pitches.

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  7. PG says:

    “yes, yes, 100 times yes.

    the wheels are finally once and for all coming off the kenny williams train.”

    Must suck being so bitter towards someone you’ve never met.

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  8. cobra9 says:

    If you check the pfx game logs you will see his velocity keeps going up to the point that he had such good stuff last night that he could not control it whatsoever. He hit 94/95 on numerous occassions with good movement and so if he can keep it around the strike zone he will be fine.

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    • mcb says:

      isn’t having such good stuff that you can’t control it really having “bad” stuff?

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      • Steve says:

        Not really. You can have great stuff and still be a bad pitcher. Just as you can be a good pitcher without good stuff.

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      • cobra9 says:

        From a scouting perspective last night was easily jake peavy’s best start. The Jake peavy from last night is going to get plenty of guys out and pitch like a number 1/2 starter. The jake peavy from the cle start last week 7 innings 2 runs would/will get destroyed on a regular basis.

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  9. Sal says:

    Peavy is an outright drop right now. If anyone will give you anything in return…take it and run.

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  10. Hypocritical authors says:

    “Chicago fans should be concerned.”

    What should Seattle fans be concerned about? How about New York fans? Is there anything Boston fans should be concerned about? Dare I ask, should St Petersburg fans be shaking in their sandels?

    What is the color level of concern? Green, red, orange….? Maybe a John Danks for Jose Lopez swap will alleviate Sox fans concerns.

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    • Steve says:

      I’m not sure you understand what “hypocritical” means. It’s doesn’t really apply to your argument. Like, at all.

      Why would an article about Jake Peavy discuss those other teams? There was an article just this morning that the Red Sox “need a bat” and should be concerned about their offense.

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      • Joser says:

        I think “hypocritical” here falls into the heap of those who have an axe to grind against this author in particular, and will go to any lengths, no matter how irrational or off-topic, in order to swing it. He should really change his username to “Non-Sequitur Commenter” but someone probably has that already.

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    I don’t think his 1st four starts in 2010 are an indication of his demise, any more than his 3-0 start at the end of 2009 was a celebration of his return to dominance.

    I think it’s nothing more than a four game stretch.

    Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game, then went into the dumpster for his next 13 starts.

    Go figure.

    I do, however, given the nature of this site and prior comments suspect this has more to do with wanting top peg a bad signing of the Sox GM.

    Jake Peavy “dead after 4 starts”. C’mon guys. Aren’t you the ones always preaching stuff about small sample size and the like.

    Chalk this up to wishful thinking.

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    • Steve says:

      It’s wierd that you’d put quotes around “dead after 4 starts” since that implies someone else actually said that.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Good point. I misuse “quotes” on the internet. To the rest of the world that means quoting someone as defined by grammer rules. To me it denotes sarcasm. I’m the idiot.

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      • Steve says:

        Not really. It implies you are making a BS strawman argument.

        I would have accepted hyperbole, but “sarcasm” isn’t applicable.

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      • Eric Cioe says:

        Actually, using quotation marks to denote sarcasm is a convention that dates back at least to Johann von Herder, who used quotes for those and other reasons like for emphasis. And because so many of his linguistic tricks date back to antiquity, I’d be willing to bet that using quotes in that manner goes back a whole lot further than the 18th century.

        We always call them scare-quotes when used like this.

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      • Kris says:

        Holy! awesome! I love where this is going.

        While I’m on the subject, dumbing down your grammar, style and tone for the medium that is the internetz is mandatory.

        I’m be equally as happy with a meow-cat (or any variety of cute fuzzy animal) quoted in a picture saying, “PEAVY DEAD AFTER 4 STARTS,” as I would with scare-quotes.

        Quite frankly, I think there should be more pictures of cute fuzzy animals predicting and proclaiming the rise and fall of baseball players.

        Like this: http://bit.ly/93P6h4

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Steve,

        Jake Peavy has [1] inconsistent mechanics, and [2] great movement on his pitches.

        Those two things combined are going to lead to spurts of erraticness and outright dominance (given the quality of his stuff).

        In that rgard, he reminds me of Kevin Brown. when he’s wild or other things aren’t going his way, he’ll be subpar. But, when he’s on, he’s darn near unhittable.

        I could just as easily see Peavy go on a 6-game run where he’s ace quality.

        Now, if this trend continues through May, it’s time to worry.

        Tim Lincecum had a significant dropoff last year during September. I wasn’t worried about him having a dead arm, control issues, or an upcoming injury either.

        It happens. It’s 4 games. Whether it’s sarcasm, hyperbole, or whatever … I’m simply stating that there’s no reason to panic. There may be concerns or something to watch, or possibly even worry … depending on what your definition of worry is. My point was there’s no need to go all “Chicken Little”.

        It is an interesting situation to follow (and an interesting article), just no need to abandon ship or anything like that.

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  12. Reuben says:

    I don’t see where anyone said anything about Kenny Williams in the actual article. I don’t see anything where anyone said that Peavy was done or a terrible pitcher or absolutely couldn’t turn it around. The author says Peavy has looked bad so far (supported statistically). He has signifiers that this badness might be lingering (loss in velocity, injury history). He says you should be concerned if you are a Sox fan.

    What is the issue?

    P.S. I’d still really like to read that article about Adrian Gonzalez’ value if you ever write it, Dave Cameron.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Peavy looked great at the end of 2009. Does this subpar performance at the start of 2010 stem from a lingering injury that occurred in the offseason? I’m about as concerned about Peavy as I am about Jon Lester. It’s April.

      I guess we’d need to define what “concerned” means. Concerned as in “well, gee wally I sure hope Jake starts pitching better” or concerned like “we need to dump this bum right now”. The “Time to Worry” absent a question mark, caused me to think that the author thinks it’s “panic time”, and I’m wondering why. It’s been-four-games.

      As for the Ken Williams stuff … that just stems from the observation/experience that White Sox discussions around here generally turn to it being a bad signing/trade (and it actually might be).

      FWIW, I’m not a Sox fan or KW fan.

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      • Steve says:

        From the article:

        “It’s not time to panic,”

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      • Reuben says:

        Concerned means what the definition of concerned is. You don’t get concerned for someone in a horrific car accident or someone whose favorite pencil broke. You’re concerned for someone who’s a little depressed or angry. White Sox fans should be concerned hat Peavy is not an elite pitcher anymore. Though I think if pressed for a prediction, Mr. Cameron would probably still give Peavy something above league average. It’s a situation worth following and watching.

        When the commenters are upset about sample size, I wonder what the solution is here? For fangraphs simply not to write any articles until June? For them to preface every article with, it’s only been 4 games, or it’s only been ten games, or small sample size applies here?

        I think the fangraphs writers think Kenny Williams for exactly what he is. He’s made some questionable although ballsy moves, and like many high risk moves, some have worked out and some haven’t.

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      • Reuben says:

        White Sox fans should be concerned about whether or not Peavy is an elite pitcher anymore.

        I don’t think there’s a definitive answer one way or the other there.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        The fact that Peavy has had 4 bad starts should matter very little towards our current evaluation of his talent.

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    • Joser says:

      If only all the fangraphs commenters were as sane and unburdened by agendas (or the need to search for them) as you, Reuben. These comment threads would be shorter, and much higher quality.

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  13. PG says:

    What’s annoying to me is when somebody makes a seemingly valid point, but instead of offering some form of rebuttal, those who disagree try to sidestep the issue by pointing out some form of grammatical error. This know-it-all attitude ruins the comment sections of these postings. It’s so childish.

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    • Steve says:

      Just to be clear, that is absolutely not what I was doing. My comment had nothing to do with the grammar or syntax of using quotes.

      My comment was in response to the idea that I thought the part in quotes was trying to attribute an argument to the author (i.e. that Peavey was finished) that he clearly did not make.

      This is all.

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  14. Ian says:

    “Command has been a hallmark of Peavy’s success?” Really? After four games you really think it’s time to declare Peavy’s command a thing of the past? How about some more fun with small sample sizes:

    In 2009 Peavy had a three game stretch where he walked 11 batters in 16 innings! Guy’s washed up.

    In 2008 there was an 18 inning stretch in which he walked 12 batters! Must have loss something on his fastball.

    In 2006 he once walked 13 batters in 24 innings! Must have been injured.

    2003 was the worst though: at one point he walked 12 batters in 15.1 innings and then managed to walk 11 batters in 14 innings later in the season! This guy’s never going to make it in the majors.

    This isn’t a “sudden inability to throw strikes.” This is a bad stretch of games that happens to everyone, including Peavy.

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    • JoeyO says:

      Agree. If something has happened in the past, nothing different can ever happen. Seems like good logic to me.

      By the way, have a question. What exactly should be discussed on this site if not the statistical data?

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      • Ian says:

        The reason I posted what I did was because I love this site and I come here to avoid stories like this one. After 4 starts there isn’t any meaningful statistical data to discuss yet; everything is conjecture at this point. We could just as easily point out that Carlos Silva has a 0.95 ERA and a 3.08 FIP and argue that he may have turned a corner in his career.

        So the point of my post was that with small sample sizes you can make any conclusion you want. The walk rates are just one example but all of the stats quoted bear this out. The batted ball rates listed are for 75 balls in play so going from 41.6% to 33% GB rate is 6 fewer groundballs over four games (1.5 fewer per game). The contact rate is for 422 pitches of which 189 have been swung at. So going from 84.4% to his 75.5% career contact average is a difference of 17 pitches that drew contact over 4 games (4.25 more per game). Do you really think there’s reason for concern over 1 or 2 groundballs per game that became line drives? Or 4 pitches in a game that drew contact (of which only one or two were actually put in play)? These kind of differences seem like they’re just statistical noise at this point.

        I’m not a Peavy fan and couldn’t care less about how he performs. But there’s no way I’m reading this story and worrying that Peavy’s might continue to perform how he has thus far. His being so far off his performance from the last three years screams to me that a correction is due, not a cause for concern. So the story here should have been: “Peavy’s been getting shelled the last four games but don’t let the results fool you, he’s likely to bounce back to numbers more in line with his career numbers.” If I wanted poor, reactionary, sensational stories I’d go to the newspapers for my baseball analysis.

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    • Kris says:

      So you’d prefer an article filled with footnotes and caveats? A good article about anything from baseball to politics gets people interested enough in the subject at hand, to research and learn more. Based on the numbers you just mentioned, I’m going to call this article successful.

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      • JoeyO says:

        Sorry, can’t really say it’s successful based on that guys post. The numbers he provided have very little to do with the topic at hand. He wasnt interested in looking into the subject, just finding a way for him to dismiss it. He merely looked quickly for a way for himself to be comfortable by focusing on just one of the many components of the article.

        That is, the Article is about all of High Walks, Low Strikeouts, Low Swinging Strikes, Low Ground Ball Rate, High Line Drive Rate and Loss of Speed on Pitches. The above poster is trying to dismiss all that based on a few selected times in which Peavy solely walked more guys.

        He just choose not to take it seriously, chooses to try and attack it with sarcastic remarks and chooses to dismiss it by trying to focus on only one-sixth of the actual concerns. He might as well of said “he cant do bad because I like him”. Sure it would have been less research, but the strength of the argument would have been nearly the same.

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  15. vivaelpujols says:

    The point of a small sample size is that the stats accrued in such don’t actually mean anything (or very little). Whether Peavy had a 3.0 xFIP or a 6.0 xFIP should not sway our opinion of him much at all.

    If he was throwing just as well as he was in San Diego in 08 his xFIP might very well be around where it is now solely as a function of luck or a bad couple of starts.

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  16. Hank says:

    Let’s put his solid end to 2009 in perspective:
    KC Royals – 5IP, 3runs (3hits, 2BB, 1HR, 5K 1:1 GB/FB ratio)
    Detroit 2starts 15 shutout innings when Detroit was in a tailspin 8 total hits, 3 BB, 13K’s roughly 1:1 GB/FB ratio)
    …Was his 2009 end that good or a product of who he faced?

    This year he has gotten banged up by Tor and Tampa, and has pitched OK in his 2 starts against CLE. The concerning thing outside of the walks is he’s giving up a lot more FB’s vs GB’s – couple that with a lack of the pitcher hitting and his #’s are not going to be anywhere near what he pitched with 1/2 his games in Petco.

    Bottom line – he’s probably going to struggle, throw a ton of pitches and pitch ~5 innings against patient or good hitting teams and he’ll be OK/slightly above average against lesser hitting or more aggressive teams. With the unbalanced schedule, the AL central should help him out a bit (except maybe the Twins). I would also be very careful to say the 2009 data in the AL is as relevant as the 2010 data given the teams he faced.

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  17. vivaelpujols says:

    Given all the extra things we know, I’d take the over on that 3.87 rest of season FIP. Chicago fans should be concerned.

    What are the extra things we know? In the article you mentioned:

    -he’s striking out as many as he’s walking
    -he’s allowing more line drives at the expense of ground balls
    -he’s allowing more contact
    -his fastball velocity has dropped the past few years
    -he’s had injury problems the past few years

    The first three are all results (stats) and thus are meaningless in and of themselves. ZIPS already knows that he’s pitching terribly and it takes that into account in it’s projection. And since 22 innings of stats are neither very predictive or even very descriptive, they barely change the projection.

    The last two reasons you mentioned are not anything that has suddenly changed this season from the last two. Since the start of the 2008 season, his velocity has remained pretty much constant:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=1051&position=P&pitch=FA

    And his xFIP’s over those years were 3.70 and 3.31. His injury issues were present during the 2008 season and he pitched brilliantly in 2009 around those injuries.

    Unless there is something that you can point to that has changed physically about Peavy this year compared to the last two, you are simply making a judgement about a pitcher based off of a small sample size of stats – which is a big no-no.

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  18. Bill says:

    Has anyone mentioned that Peavy appears to be working with a different arsenal of pitches than in year’s past? He’s leaned heavily away from his slider and fastball (in past years at least 77% of pitches thrown, this year roughly 40%). I won’t go into detail about the pitches he’s added (most notably a two seam fastball) but 5 he’s throwing 5 pitches now with some regularity. Check out the PitchFX data.

    What’s my point? I have no idea! Please, someone clue me in as I don’t understand what this could mean besides the fact that he might have acknowledged some deterioration and realized he needed to become somewhat of a different pitcher. But that’s purely speculation on my part.

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  19. D-Rock says:

    I think it’s about time for a breakdown article on what’s going on with Javier Vazquez.

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  20. CedarA says:

    Maybe it’s not time to worry about Peavy

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  21. Mike Fast says:

    His FIP is at 3.91 since this article. So Dave’s bet on the over for 3.87 is correct so far…barely.

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