Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Pythagorean, 8/26/2013

"Go west, young man!"
- Horace Greeley, responding to Ben Cherington's question as to how the Red Sox could best right their ship...

"When the only tool you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
- Me, wondering whether Greeley ever had anything else to say...

  • Quite a week for the Sox on the left coast, as they go 4-2 and still underperform their Pythagorean, scoring 33 runs while allowing only 9.

  • Ok, the Rays are actually still ahead in the loss column. How can Boston be in first? Well, they've still played four more games than Tampa. Which means that the Rays have four extra days with games out of the next 35, nearly an extra game per week. And they've got to win all four of them in order to maintain that loss column advantage.

  • The first of those comes today, as the Rays have a six-game homestand turned into two three game homestands with a makeup trip to Kansas City for an afternoon game today before hosting the Angels tomorrow night in Tampa. That's about a 2500-mile, 5 flight-hours 1-game 1-day road trip.

  • (Go Royals!)

  • Here's another way that the schedule advantage skews heavily towards Boston - of Tampa's remaining 34 games, 20 of them are on the road (31-30) and only 14 are at home (43-24). Of Boston's 30 remaining games, only 12 are on the road (37-32) and 18 are at home (40-23). Tampa has been only one game better than .500 on the road, and 59% of their remaining games are road games. 60% of Boston's remaining games are at Fenway.

  • Ok, I'll admit it - I was not upset when Middlebrooks grounded into a double-play to end the first inning of Sunday night's game. I would have preferred a grand slam, of course, but I'm glad that he didn't hit a sacrifice fly, or score a run on a ground ball out. Pedroia was out by a mile at first base, but called safe in one of the most clearly blown umpiring calls in recent memory, and I wanted to Boston to beat LA without having to listen to whining from Dodger (or Rays) fans about it. The double-play essentially removed the umpiring mistake from the game - they still would have scored exactly one run without it and Middlebrooks still would have been the third out, so there was no advantage derived. The 8-1 butt-kicking was entirely earned.

  • National League parks, National League lineups? The Red Sox have had 10 starts this year in which a pitcher went 8+ innings. Four of them were this week. And there might have been a fifth, as pulling Lester with one out in the 8th of a dominant performance on Saturday was one of the questionable managerial moves of the week.

  • Not only did they score 5 1/2 runs per game in those big NL ball parks to go 4-2, they did it with no offensive contributrion from David Ortiz, as Big Papi was 0-11 (four strikeouts, no walks) on the week.

  • The re-emergence of Mike Napoli (.455/.500/.818/1.318, 3.34 runs created, 11.93 RC/25 outs) helped make up for the Papi-less-ness...

  • Dustin Pedroia (.435/.440/.696/1.136, 5.62 runs created, 8.79 RC/25 outs) is hitting again. That's always a good thing.

  • I questioned the pulling of Lester on Saturday. I also questioned the double-switch in the sixth inning in SF on Tuesday night. I would have tried to get another inning out of Peavey, rather than pulling him with two outs in the sixth.

  • NL people love it when that happens. I hate it, and it's a big part of the reason that I prefer the DH. Pitching and hitting are disparate enough skills that there's no reason to expect one who's good at one to be good at the other, and pitching is important enough that a pitcher's offensive skills are irrelevant. I don't want to see them in the lineup, and I don't want to see them pulled because they're going to be hitting in the next inning.

  • Middlebrooks watch: Don't tell me about the 4-for-19 this week - tell me about the three walks, and the 100 point gap between his OBP and his batting average. The hits will come, the power will come. But will he do enough in his other plate appearances? It's all about the plate discipline, for Middlebrooks more than some others. He's not got a quick enough bat to be a good bad-ball hitter. He's got to hit strikes, and lay off balls. Some guys can get away with swinging at pitches and still be productive; we've seen enough now to know that he's not one of them. So this (.211/.304/.368/.673, 1.56 runs created, 2.16 RC/25 outs) is a decent week as far as I'm concerned. Not that it was good - it wasn't. But no one's good every week. Baseball is, by it's very nature, hit-or-miss. No one succeeds in every plate appearance, or exactly one-of-three or anything else. Everyone's hot and cold, and, at the end, we add up the hots and the colds and see who contributed the most. If he's drawing walks during the cold streak, I'm optimistic.

  • What a difference a year makes.  This is from last August 27:
  • The collapse that began in September of 2011 has continued. And it's shocking to contemplate. At the end of play on August 31, 2011, the Boston Red Sox had an 83-52 record, the best record in the American league by 1 1/2 games over the New York Yankees and 7 games over the Texas Rangers. Since then, under two different managers, they've gone 68-87. Despite outscoring their opposition, they've been 19 games under .500 over a period encompassing nearly a full season. They've underperformed their Pythagorean winning percentage by almost 10 full games, playing .439 ball against a .501 projected record. They've scored 5.02 runs/game while allowing 5.00 runs/game. If it sounds, from that, as if the offense has been better than the pitching, well, that's true. But it's also misleading. In over 25% of their games (40), they've failed to score 3 runs. The result of all of this is that they were 15-23 in games decided by one run, 13-21 in games decided by 2 runs, and 15-10 in games decided by 7 runs or more.
    Of course, the big story that week was The Trade.

    On the whole, I'm happier with this year's report.

  • Congratulations to Xander Bogaerts, who made his Major League debut, collected his first Major League hit and collected his first Major League RBI this week.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Was it familiarity with the ball parks and opposition? The best performance of the week came from the player with the most time in the NL, Shane Victorino (.391/.462/.783/1.244, 7.33 runs created, 12.21 RC/25 outs), as the top of the lineup produced much of the offense.

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Sometimes, this is tough. Not this week. Though Peavey tried to make it tough last night. Despite excellent starts from Lackey, Peavey and Doubront, and excellent "penmanship" from Uehara, this is a no-brainer, as Jon Lester allowed one run in 15 2/3 outstanding innings pitched against the Giants and Dodgers, giving up only one run on nine hits and six walks while striking out nine en route to two big wins.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/26/2013
Tampa Bay4.48(7)3.99(5)0.552(4)715774543
Kansas City4.04(11)3.92(2)0.514(8)66636564-1
NY Yankees3.98(13)4.02(6)0.496(9)656569614
LA Angels4.56(5)4.81(13)0.475(10)61685871-3
Chicago Sox3.75(15)4.28(9)0.44(12)57725475-3

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9468

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay9369

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay4.33(6)3(4)0.662(5)42420
LA Angels3(14)2.33(3)0.613(6)4233-1
Chicago Sox4(7)3.33(6)0.583(8)33512
NY Yankees3.86(8)3.43(7)0.554(9)43521
Kansas City3.83(9)5.5(12)0.341(11)2415-1

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Pythagorean, 8/19/2013

If winning 2-of-3 is a recipe for success in Major League baseball, logic would suggest that losing 2-of-3 is a recipe for failure.

  • With three straight series losses, the Sox are in their second real down-stretch of the season. And, after playing their last four series in four difference cities, they're following a late night dispiriting loss with a trip out to the West coast for the next two series.

  • With the exception of Monday, when both teams had the night off, the size of the Sox' lead over the Rays in the AL East changed every day this week. The teams had the opposite result every night - when Boston lost, Tampa won; when Boston won, Tampa lost. Unfortunately, there were four of the former and only two of the latter.

  • They lost games this week with decent pitching but poor offense (4-3, 2-1). They lost a game this week with good offense and poor pitching (9-6).

  • 10th in the AL in runs scored. 10th in runs allowed. Makes it seem like the offense and pitching were equally culpable. But poor offensive performances are easier to hide in an average than poor pitching performances. On a game-by-game basis, they had two poor pitching performances, allowing 10 and nine, and three poor offensive performances, scoring three twice and one. They allowed more than four twice, and scored fewer than five four times. On the whole, the pitching staff was better than the offense.

  • Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia, the 1-2-3 hitters, combined to hit .230/.264/.264/.528, with 6.37 runs created (2.34 RC/25 outs). That's like trying to pull on to the highway with the emergency brake on.

  • They certanly weren't the only culprits. Throw in Gomes, Napoli, Carp, Lavarnway and Drew, and you've got 2/3 of your at-bats going to a group that hits .213/.259/.273/.533 with 11.19 runs created (2.29 RC/25 outs).

  • I hated Dempster throwing at ARod last night. If the home plate umpire is doing his job, the result of that is Boston being forced to go to the bullpen with none out in the 2nd inning. As it was, it gave the Yankees a free lead-off baserunner en route to tying the game. Just dumb. There is no possible benefit derived from hitting ARod there that comes close to justifying the cost. Idiocy.

    And Girardi was 100% correct - Dempster clearly threw at him, with intent to hit, and clearly should have been ejected. He will be fined, and a suspension wouldn't surprise me, either.


    And how did that work out for them? The HBP set up the first two Yankee runs; Rodriguez' 6th inning HR started the four-run rally that gave New York the lead for good.


  • Red Sox Player of the Week - It's far, far too early to proclaim the Middlebrooks return from the minors a triumphant success. But he's sure been more effective since returning than he was before going down, and the Player of the Week this week is William Middlebrooks (.474/.565/.789/1.355, 7.25 runs created, 18.13 RC/25 outs).

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - After struggling in his last few outings, John Lackey was outstanding on Saturday, allowing only one run in 6 2/3 innings and setting the Red Sox up to win the series against NY and come out of the week at .500. (They didn't, of course, but...)

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/19/2013
Tampa Bay4.48(7)4.04(5)0.547(5)675570523
Kansas City4.05(12)3.84(1)0.524(8)645964590
NY Yankees3.99(13)4.05(6)0.494(9)616264593
LA Angels4.64(4)4.93(14)0.472(10)58655568-3
Chicago Sox3.74(15)4.33(8)0.434(13)53704974-4

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9369

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay9270

Standings for the week
NY Yankees7.29(1)4.86(12)0.677(1)52520
Chicago Sox5(4)3.43(4)0.666(2)52520
Tampa Bay4.17(7)3.5(5)0.579(5)33421
Kansas City2.75(15)3.13(2)0.442(11)4435-1
LA Angels4.57(5)7.29(15)0.299(14)25250

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday pythagorean - 8/12/2013

So, last week, 5-2 upped their lead in the AL East by half a game. This week's 3-4 upped it by 2...
  • I noted last week that the Rays had cooled down, but were winning anyway, going 4-2 when they're performance suggested 2-4 was more appropriate. Well, their poor performance continued this week, and the results matched, as they went 0-5. So week that, objectively, wasn't very good for the Red Sox, losing four-of-seven, ends up being a good week relatively, as their lead expands by two games back to three. And because Boston played seven while Tampa played five, it expanded in both the win and loss columns.

  • Mr. Middlebrooks' return to the lineup has been a success, albeit in far too few plate appearances to mean anything. I'm happier about the walk than the three hits, but eight plate appearances just doesn't mean anything.

  • There are two ways to look at it. If you're a "the Lester is half empty" person, you see that he came out and dug a hole in his Thursday start that was too deep for the team to dig its way out. If you're a "the Lester is half full" kind of guy, you note that of the three runs he gave up in the first, two were unearned because Gomes missed an easy fly ball, and he finished his outing with six scoreless against a very hot Royals team. In fact, it was actually the best start by a Red Sox starter this week.

  • The Peavy acquisition looked a lot better last week than this week. The trade of Iglesias doesn't look any worse, though.

  • A month ago, we were all in love with John Lackey, who was having a spectacular season. In his last five starts, he's 0-4 (some of that's due to run support, or lack thereof) with an ERA approaching 5 (4.96). Hopefully, this is just a brief slump and not a reversion to a lower actual level of performance than we want to see from him.

  • The Red Sox have run into a couple of very hot teams since the All Star Break in the Rays and Royals. That won't be the case this week, as they travel to Toronto and then home to face the Yankees.

  • One schedule quirk to keep an eye on - as of this morning, the Red Sox have played four games more than the Rays. This means, obviously, that Boston has four more off-days down the stretch than Tampa does. The Sox have the night off, but so do the Rays, so that remains the case tomorrow. Tampa has 18 games in the remaining 19 games of August, while Boston has 17. Tampa has 28 games in the 29 days of September and Boston has 25. So, of the 38 days remaining in the season, starting tomorrow, the Rays have only two scheduled off-days, while the Red Sox have six. That may not end up meaning anything, but I'd rather have Boston's schedule than Tampa's.

  • Does three games at home between 10 game and six game road trips really count as a homestand? Or does it just end up being, in effect, a 19-game road trip? The Sox will play in Toronto on Thursday night, flying home late to arrive on Friday morning, and then leave for the west coast again on Sunday afternoon. That's not much of a "homestand" after 10 games on the road.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Ol' man Papi David Ortiz (.440/.500/.560/1.060, 6.59 runs created, 11.77 RC/25 outs) just keeps rolling along, and Jonny Gomes 13 at-bats were very productive (.385/.529/1.000/1.529, 5.81 runs created, 18.17 RC/25 outs). But the best offensive player of the week, while continuing to provide excellent defense at SS, was Stephen Drew (.370/.452/.593/1.044, 6.87 runs created, 10.11 RC/25 outs).

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - With no "special" performances from the starters, this week is a good time to look at the bullpen, where we see that Junichi Tazawa threw five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and no walks while striking out five over three stellar appearances.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/12/2013
Tampa Bay4.5(7)4.07(6)0.546(5)635366503
Kansas City4.14(10)3.89(1)0.528(7)615461540
LA Angels4.64(4)4.79(13)0.486(9)56605363-3
NY Yankees3.79(14)4(5)0.476(10)556159574
Chicago Sox3.66(15)4.38(8)0.419(14)49674472-5

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9270

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay9171

Standings for the week
Kansas City5.57(5)3.43(4)0.709(4)52520
Chicago Sox4.43(9)3.86(5)0.563(6)43430
LA Angels4.17(10)5.5(9)0.376(10)24240
NY Yankees3.33(13)5.5(9)0.286(12)24240
Tampa Bay3.4(12)7(14)0.211(15)1405-1

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Wow. Just wow...

UPDATE: Ok, this was clearly a story that was too good to be true. Oh well...

Screwed something up at work recently? Missed something that you should have caught? Costing yourself and/or your company a little bit of time and money?

Be glad you're not the architect or project manager on this...
In what will surely go down in history as one the greatest architectural blunders, the town of Benidorm in Alicante, Spain, had almost completed its 47-story skyscraper when it realized it excluded plans for elevator shafts.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds notes that it's "kind of an architectural metaphor for Obamacare. Unfortunately...

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Still at .600...

I observed, a couple of weeks ago, that the Red Sox had been pretty consistently winning 3 of 5 (.600) for the entire season:
One thing that the Red Sox have been thus far is consistent. They've played 100 and won 60%, three wins for every five games. Their winning percentage was 60% after 5 games, 10, 35, 45, 50, 55, 60, 70, 85, 90 and 100. They've basically played .600 ball consistently from the start of the season through the All Star break. Over 162 games, .600 ball equates to a 97 win season. That's a good year.
There have been three more 5-game intervals since then, and they have continued. After 105 games, they were 1 game under .600, but at 110 they were, and now at 115 they are, right at .600. Three-of-five, six-of-ten, twelve-of-twenty, consistently from the start of the season through August 6.

And now, they've matched 2012's 162-game win total in only 115 games.  They only need to go 1-46 down the stretch to finish with a better record than last year. 

Of course, if they do go 1-46 down the stretch, no one's going to be talking about it as being better than last year...


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Monday, August 05, 2013

Monday pythagorean, 8/5/2013

A 5-2 week and the Red Sox stretch their lead from 1/2 game all the way up to ... a full game...
  • For the second straight week, Boston drops out of first place, albeit very briefly.
  • Monday's loss to Tampa was one of the more frustrating losses of the season. First, they faced David Price for the second time in a week, rather than the expected night off, because they lost a game to weather with one of Tampa's weaker starters scheduled. Then, down by one in the 8th, pinch-runner Daniel Nava failed to score from 2nd on a long double, moving over to third. Then, on the next play, he scored anyway to tie the game, only to have the umpire blow the call. Instead of batting with a runner in scoring position in a tied game in the 8th, the inning ended with the Sox still down. They lost, and dropped out of first again.
  • The rest of the week went much better. After the Monday frustration, the Sox won five of their remaining six games on the week. Once of these was a scintillating ninth inning-come from behind against Seattle about which I wrote elsewhere. Getting a little help (once from Arizona and once from San Francisco), they moved back into first place, a game ahead of the Rays. They still have the best record in the AL. They have still won 60+% of their games.
  • Boston not only won games, they won the trading deadline. The Red Sox improved their pitching staff with the addition of Jake Peavy, and all they gave up was some cannon fodder from the low minors, and Jose Iglesias. Peavy made 13 starts with the White Sox before the trade, with an ERA of 5.275 and WHIP of 1.15, and is not the same pitcher he was when he won the 2007 Cy Young award. But those numbers are a little bit misleading, too. Suffering from a broken rib, he allowed 6 runs in 2 1/3 runs against Seattle on June 4, following which performance he went on the DL. In his other 12 starts, his ERA is an impressive 3.71 and his WHIP is 1.09. In other words, he's been a very good pitcher. Better than Lester and Dempster, and the collection of talent that have taken up the non-Lester,Buchholz,Doubront,Lackey,Dempster starts. He makes the team better. The loss of Iglesias doesn't make them worse. So, win-win.
  • Some leather fetishists were appalled by the loss of Iglesias. A couple more outings from Peavy like the first one (7 innings, 2 runs) and that will quiet down substantially.
  • Speaking of moves, Cherington made a move early in the "transaction season," picking up Matt Thornton from the White Sox when Andrew Miller went down for the season three weeks ago. And Thornton's been very effective. We don't know yet what the injury was that took him out of the game yesterday, but we can hope that it's neither serious nor long-term. UPDATE: Farrell just said "a little bit of a right oblique issue." So, it's in the ribcage, not the elbow, not the shoulder. Those can linger, but as I write this, I'd expect him back for the stretch run and the playoffs.
  • Even when the Rays don't play well (outscored on the week 18-14, scoring only 2.3 runs/game), they keep winning, going 4-2 when 2-4 would have more accurately reflected their runs scored/allowed. Three of their four wins were one-run games.
  • There is no perfectly equitable method of choosing playoff teams and setting up playoff series. But the addition of a 2nd Wild Card team, with the two Wild Cards playing each other in a one-game playoff has introduced new issues. The two best teams in the AL are Boston and Tampa. If the season ended today, Tampa would face Cleveland in a one-game playoff while both Detroit and Oakland, with inferior records, get full series. Maybe that won't be the case at the end of the year, but would anyone be surprised?
  • What is it with Daniel Nava, late innings of close games, and umpires? The Red Sox' June 23rd loss at Detroit was set up by an "error" on Nava, when he dropped the ball while flipping ("transferring") the ball from his glove to his hand to start the Tigers' eventual 3-run, game-winning eighth-inning. Most of us think that he caught the ball and had control long enough. Of course, not even the umpire thinks that the right call was made in the 8th inning of Monday's game against Tampa, when Nava was called out despite clearly scoring the game-tying run in a game that the Red Sox went on to lose, 2-1.
  • Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Napoli - .221/.297/.372/.669, 12.83 runs created, 3.45 RC/25 outs. And they went 5-2 anyway, on the strength of performances from Victorino, Drew and Saltalamacchia, plus contributions from Ryan Lavarnway (.429/.429/.571/1.000, 1.53 runs created, 9.56 RC/25 outs) and Brandon Snyder (.429/.429/1.000/1.429, 2.49 runs created, 15.57 RC/25 outs). And good-to-excellent pitching (other than Lester and Dempster).
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - An excellent week from Stephen Drew (.400/.484/.560/1.044, 6.47 runs created, 9.51 RC/25 outs falls just a little short of the performance of Shane Victorino (.400/.441/.700/1.141, 8.60 runs created, 11.31 RC/25 outs).
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - With twelve good innings (2 ER, 1.50 ERA) over two good starts (one win, one loss to David Price and the umpires), this week's award goes to Felix Doubront.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/5/2013
Tampa Bay4.55(7)3.94(4)0.566(3)634866453
Kansas City4.05(12)3.92(3)0.514(8)565256520
LA Angels4.67(5)4.75(13)0.492(9)54565159-3
NY Yankees3.82(13)3.92(2)0.488(10)545657533
Chicago Sox3.61(15)4.41(9)0.41(14)45644069-5

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9666

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay9567

Standings for the week
LA Angels6(1)5.14(11)0.57(5)4334-1
Tampa Bay2.33(14)3(2)0.387(11)24422
Kansas City6(1)3.2(3)0.76(2)41511
Chicago Sox2.14(15)4.29(9)0.22(15)2507-2
NY Yankees2.6(13)3.2(3)0.406(9)23230

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Friday, August 02, 2013

Deja vu all over again...

Game summary:
The Seattle Mariners were in town, and their ace, one of the dominant starting pitchers in baseball, was on the mound, and pitching well. The Sox starter was less effective, and they went to the bottom of the ninth at Fenway with Boston trailing 7-2. But the Seattle bullpen struggled, and a couple of hits and a walk later, the Red Sox were still alive. Eventually, having scored a couple of runs, they loaded the bases, and the left-handed hitting first baseman drove a pitch over the outfielders' heads, and the Red Sox, with the number 3 hitter in the lineup scoring the final run, walked off with a dramatic and unexpected come-from-behind victory, much to the delight of the fans remaining.
Everything in that summary is true of last night's game.  But that's not the game that I'm actually writing about.  The Red Sox and Mariners have done this before. 15 years ago.

The date was April 10, 1998.

The ace was Randy Johnson, not Felix Hernandez. The left-handed hitting 1st baseman was Mo Vaughn1, not Daniel Nava. Nava hit the ball to center, Vaughn to right. And Vaughn's ball left the park, for a 9-7 win, not 8-7. But still, I awoke this morning to the highlights and a sense of extreme deja vu.

April 10, 1998 was Good Friday (and the start of Passover), and the game was played in the middle of the afternoon (a rare 3:00 Fenway start, I think) so as not to conflict with noon and evening services. I was on my way to church to sing, but the traffic wasn't bad, so I was in early, before I could get evening rates in the garage, or at least before I needed to be there, so I was sitting on Bowdoin Street, just below the State House on the back side of Beacon Hill, in a non-parking space, just waiting, reading (Fermat's Last Theorum) and listening to the game. The Red Sox have played over 2500 games in the last 15 years, and, due to the totality of the circumstances of the day, there probably aren't a dozen that I remember better than that one. So, when I see that the Red Sox have beaten the Mariners at Fenway after trailing 7-2 headed to the bottom of the ninth, my first thoughts are of Randy Johnson and Mo Vaughn.

Boston 9, Seattle 7   (4/10/1998)

Last night's game will not be as memorable for me, because I wasn't awake when it happened. I was shocked by the "Red Sox Walk-off" on the NESN screen when my TV turned on at 4:30 this morning, and wondered for a minute whether they accidentally had yesterday's graphics up. But no, it was all new. And so, instead of dropping into a virtual first-place tie percentage points behind the Rays, the Red Sox move a full game up in the standings.

1 - I believe that it was after that game that Vaughn made his "price keeps going up" comments, but I'm not certain of it.

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