Friday game notes, im-perfect focus

Miller and Lester, fine — but I’ve got an SP line that hadn’t occurred in 90 years, and it’s not Alex Cobb, either. You’ll have to read through to find it.


@Cardinals 3, Rockies 0: What the heck was he throwing? If Shelby Miller still needed a coming-out party, this was it. He allowed a leadoff single by Eric Young, then set down 27 straight. Out of 13 strikeouts, 8 went down looking, 3 by Troy Tulowitzki and 2 for Carlos Gonzalez; they each watched 3 straight strikes to end the 1st with a man on 2nd. Eight called strikes in that inning for Miller, and 30 for the game. The 2 Ks that finished the show featured 5 called strikes. It goes without saying that the Rockies were not happy with home-plate ump Mike Everitt.

  • Miller’s 98 Game Score is a Cardinals record for less than 11 IP. (Someone mentioned the DeLeon game recently…)
  • 3rd time in 8 career starts that Miller allowed 1 hit in 6+ IP.
  • Wish I’d seen it. MLB-TV showed the dishwater-dull Angels at White Sox; I think it’s the quietest ballgame I’ve ever seen, and that’s in spite of Hawk Harrelson.
  • Cards have 3 individual shutouts (Wainwright, Westbrook); 9 other clubs have 1 each.
  • They’re not the Twins, for sure, but the Cardinals’ role in the rising K trend has been smaller than most. Their last 14-K effort came from Bob Gibson in ’72. Since then, 101 different pitchers have logged 275 starts with 14 Ks or more.


@Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 0: Jon Lester retired the first 17 and the last 11, split by a Maicer Izturis double, but lost the spotlight to Miller’s masterpiece. Lester pitched most of the way under pressure; Boston got 11 men on base through 6 innings, but had just 1 run, on an error in the 2nd. They broke it open with 4 in the “Caroline” frame.

  • Ramon Ortiz walked 5 in 5 innings, and one of those hung the L on him with the only run he allowed. He hasn’t won a start since April 2007 (0-8 in 12 tries). He’d gone almost 10 years since his last start against Boston, starting 36 games against other AL teams since then.
  • Lester’s 2 prior shutouts were back in 2008, including his no-no.
  • The near-perfection was reminiscent of this 2001 game by Hideo Nomo, also in Fenway against Toronto in May, with the double coming in the 4th. (And if you can figure out why the box score shows Cookie Rojas as the Blue Jay manager for that game, and the one before and after, please let us know. Those games don’t show up on his manager register; all 162 games that year are credited to Buck Martinez.)
  • With Lester’s and Miller’s gems, we’ve had four outings this year of 9+ IP and 1 hit, three of them with 1 baserunner — but zero no-hitters. By this date last year, we had only 3 CGs with 1 hit or less, but they included a no-hitter and a perfect game.


@Rays 6, Padres 3: San Diego got 2 HRs in the 1st, but didn’t drive in another run all game, and Tampa scrounged up a nickel-and-dime 4-spot the instant Edinson Volquez departed after 6 IP. Alex Cobb went 4.2 IP with an all-over-the-map line of 13 Ks, 5 hits, 2 walks, 2 HRs and 117 pitches. He fanned all 4 batters in the 3rd, but Will Venable reached on a wild strike three leading off, swiped 2nd and 3rd during the next 2 Ks, and scored on a balk.

  • Of the 5 pitcher games with 13+ Ks and 23 batters or less, Cobb’s was the worst all-around effort. And check out what Randy Johnson did in back-to-back games against the Padres, July 18 and 24, 2001.
  • 2 SD homers in the 1st inning (Venable and Carlos Quentin), first time since August 2011. Pads are 8-2 in games when Venable had both HR and SB, 25-15 with just a HR, 44-29 with just steals. (I’m surprised those last two are so similar, but it’s a small sample.)


@D-backs 3, Phillies 2: The Snakes were batting .132 in 2-out RBI spots when Martin Prado stepped in against Antonio Bastardo, down by a run in the home 7th, and Prado was 1 for 31 with RISP. He fouled off 2-and-2 offerings once, twice, thrice, and for the next one, Carlos Ruiz set up well outside. But the pitch came down the middle, and he stroked it into RF to tie the game.

That set up a curious ploy by Charlie Manuel in the 8th. With power lefty Miguel Montero set to lead off, followed by the pitcher’s spot, you’d expect Bastardo to start the inning; he’d thrown only 16 pitches in the 7th. That would keep the platoon edge and the maneuvering edge, since Arizona’s best PH is lefty Eric Hinske. But Charlie went to the righty Mike Adams, against whom Montero was 3 for 7 career. The first pitch from Adams leaked over the inner half, and Montero gonged it off the fair pole for the lead, his biggest hit in a difficult year so far. The Phils got the go-ahead runs into scoring position with 1 out in the 9th, but then couldn’t get the ball past the infield, and went down to their 3rd straight one-run defeat.

  • Arizona’s won 5 in a row, allowing 10 total runs, moving into a first-place tie behind 5 straight quality starts and 10.2 scoreless relief innings.
  • Bastardo has good stats for the year, but his hi-lev work has been shoddy. In 5 games with an aLI of 1.50+, he’s allowed 8 of 17 men to reach base (no IBBs).
  • Can’t fault Chase Utley for making the first out at 3rd base in the opening frame. It took a great throw by Gerardo Parra that seemed almost to pass through Utley as he slid. And he might have been safe anyway. But it sure was costly, as Philly got 3 more men on that inning but produced just one more run. Utley has been one of the most productive baserunners since detailed stats were kept, taking 59% of potential extra bases on his teammates’ hits while making few outs, but that number’s down to 25% this year.


@Tigers 10, Indians 4: In the first meeting of these Central contenders, Detroit cooled off the red-hot Indians with an efficient start by Max Scherzer and a relentless 15-hit attack that scored in 6 different innings. Every Tiger had a hit (six got one with RISP), and all but one touched the dish. Tribe pitchers had allowed 2.4 runs and 6.4 hits per game during their 10-of-11 stretch.

  • Scherzer’s line — 8 IP, 5 hits, no HRs or walks or HBP — feels like, what, 2 runs max, maybe 3 if they bunched the hits? I plugged that exact line into the Play Index, and guess what? It’s the first time in 90 years that such a line came with 4 runs. Out of 278 such games in the searchable era (1916-present), only Scherzer and Lefty Weinert managed to give up 4 runs with that line. Cleveland had 3 doubles and a triple, and got them early enough in the innings to plate 3 runs on outs. It’s the 3rd time the once short-leashed Scherzer has gone 8 this year, as he’s trimmed his pitches/PA by 5% to 3.87 from a career 4.08.
  • Alex Avila went 2 for 2 with RISP, driving in 3; he’d been 1 for 27 with no RBI in those chances. His 2-run double (reversing a deficit) came on a 3-0 pitch, just the 3rd time he’s ever put that pitch in play out of 94 chances (2 doubles and a sac fly).
  • Detroit can hit, but they sure can’t run. Their 2nd inning: Walk, lineout, double (runner to 3rd), double (2 score), double (runner stops at 3rd???), lineout, single (runner from 3rd scores, but batter thrown out rounding 1st so runner from 2nd doesn’t score). It wound up irrelevant, but it seemed a big deal at the time.

The impact of “lineup protection” is exaggerated. It’s not that there’s no effect; but the situations where it really matters — like 2 outs and RISP — are fewer than some would think. Consider Miguel Cabrera, with and without Prince Fielder. In 2010-11, with 2 outs and RISP, Miggy was walked (either way) 53 times in 190 chances, 28% of PAs. Both raw numbers were huge — 1st in walks, 2nd in PAs. In comes Prince, and sure enough, Miggy’s 2012 walk rate dropped to 12%; and with a .420 BA in those spots, his RBI rate rose 60%. But his RBI count actually fell from his 2010-11 average, because his 2-out RISP chances plunged 60%: 57 PAs, 7 walks, 21 hits. The impact of Fielder’s protection was less than expected, because Miggy’s chances for 2010-11 had been unusually high.

Why the big difference in those chances in 2012? For one thing, he moved up to the 3-hole last year after hitting cleanup in 2010-11. Fielder, hitting 4th, had the glut of 2-out RISP chances — 95 PAs, 6th in the majors — and now he was #1 with 25 walks. So who will guard the guardian? This year’s PA leader in such spots is Victor Martinez, who hits after Prince, and has gone 5 for 26 with 5 RBI.

  • Anyway, those “protected” spots do come up sometimes. Tonight in the 4th, 2 on and 2 out for Cabrera. Fielder’s 3rd-inning moonshot was a fresh memory for Corey Kluber as Miggy stepped in. He got a first-pitch strike, and he didn’t miss. And oh, by the way: In 18 ABs with 2 outs and RISP this year, Cabrera has 12 hits and 4 HRs.
  • Cabrera has 40 RBI through 33 games, the same as Josh Hamilton through 33 games last year — but with 10 fewer HRs, 17-7. In this century, only Evan Longoria had a hotter RBI start, with 44 RBI through 33 team games in 2009.


Yankees 11, @Royals 6: Joe Girardi’s 500th win as the Yankee helmsman followed the franchise formula, despite a cast full of understudies. New York rapped 8 extra-base hits for the 3rd time this year, giving them 11% of all such MLB games. They had just 1 such game last year, out of 79 total. Lyle Overbay had 3 of the long knocks and drove in 5.

  • It’s nice to have powerful friends. Phil Hughes is the first this year to pick up a win in a “disaster start” (more runs than IP).
  • Out of 1,236 players in history with 1,000+ hits, Overbay has the highest ratio of doubles to hits, 26.7%. Just 2 others have topped 25%, the longtime Fen denizens David Ortiz and John Valentin. As a percentage of ABs, Overbay ranks 7th in the 1,000-hit club.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Ichiro Suzuki (who doubled, homered and stole) has the lowest two-bag rate of the 84 modern hitters with 2,500 hits, 11.8% of his hits. In that group, only Richie Ashburn and Nellie Fox had lower percentages of extra-base hits.
  • Bruce Chen had barely been touched in his first 6 games, with no ER and an 0.86 WHIP. But he’s always been Bomber fodder, now with a career 6.87 ERA and .984 OPS in 19 games; he allowed 2 inherited plus 3 of his own in the 6th, and that was the ballgame.
  • NYY reliever Shawn Kelley fanned his first 5 in this game, and 6 out of 7 total. But don’t tell him that Ks are the key to results. Kelley has the goldangest line you’ll see in a dog’s age: 14.2 IP, 24 Ks and 4 walks, a fantastic 39% K rate — but 4 HRs, 10 runs and an .825 OPS. Those who haven’t whiffed have hit .412 and slugged .912.


Orioles 9, @Twins 6 (10): If you get 5 scoreless innings from Mike Pelfrey (1 K) and lead 6-0, how long do you stay with him when the line drives start falling in? Pelf pitched the whole 6th and gave up 4 doubles (3 with 2 strikes), slicing the lead in half. If that script sounds familiar, it should. Like Ron Gardenhire, so many baseball insiders still disbelieve the role of luck in getting outs on balls in play. But if you think foes are batting .330 off Pelfrey due to a few missed spots, you are simply delusional. It’s not as though Pelf was tossing groundballs in those first 5 frames.

  • Maybe Gardenhire was doomed either way. His normally reliable bullpen gave up 6 runs and 11 baserunners in 4 innings.
  • Chris Davis, the MLB slugging leader, hit 3 doubles, including the tying drive in the 7th.


@Mariners 6, A’s 3: I’ve barely seen the guy, but yeah, I have a man-crush on Hisashi Iwakuma. His line of 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 9 Ks, no walks, did no harm to his AL-best WHIP, BA, OBP and OPS, while upping his SO/BB ratio to 6.4. The only thing missing is depth; despite great results, he’s averaged about 6-1/3 IP and 91 pitches, with just one effort of more than 95 tosses.

  • Tom Wilhelmsen now 10 for 10 in save tries. He allowed a run and 4 baserunners in his 2nd game this year; no runs and 6 runners in his other 14 outings. His current streak of 13 games with at least 1 IP and no more than 1 runner is 3rd since the start of 2012; Craig Kimbrel had streaks of 26 and 15 last year.

I’ve been getting over my aversion to Harold Reynolds. He seems more comfortable with the slower pace on MLB-TV compared to ESPN; he’s often sometimes engaging, and less prone to his old bugaboo of assertions that are demonstrably false. But he’s still a ballplayer first, analyst a distant second. Speaking over a clip of Iwakuma baffling Oakland with his hesitation delivery, Harold informed us that hitters will start to adjust to that motion in their second and third ABs, and that’s why they scored 2 runs in the 6th.

Well, Harold … Through 8 starts this year, Iwakuma’s BA/OPS splits for hitters’ 1st, 2nd and 3rd PAs in a game show this: 1st–.200/.590; 2nd–.147/.386; and 3rd–.146/.450. He’s allowed 6 runs in the first 3 innings, and 6 thereafter. So let’s try to make the explanations fit the facts, instead of relying on hoary insider wisdom that “everybody knows” but only the truly curious bother to check on.

Could Harold be onto a larger truth, though? Maybe repeat viewings over time will bring hitters better results against Iwakuma. With only 24 starts, it’s too soon to see convincing trends, but let’s see where he’s faced a foe more than once. Numbers listed are IP-R:

  • Angels (5 games): 7-3, 7-0, 6-2, 6-0, 6-0
  • Rangers (4 games): 5-4, 5.1-2, 7-3, 6.2-1
  • Blue Jays (3): 8-1, 7-1
  • Athletics (3): 3.2-5, 6-1, 7-2
  • Twins (2): 7-1, 6-1
  • Yankees (2): 5-1, 5-4

The first 4 against LAA came in the last 7 weeks of 2012. The 2 against MIN came 2 weeks apart. The middle 2 TEX games were a week apart, and the 2 with NYY were 10 days apart. So while it’s too soon to reach real conclusions, so far there’s no evidence that repeat viewings, in a game or in a career, have helped hitters against Iwakuma.


@Reds 4, Brewers 3: In a regulation NL game, if a leadoff man reaches 5 times in 5 trips, how many runs will that team score? What are their odds of winning? Since 2001, the averages are 7.2 runs and 82%. Milwaukee took that equation, added home runs by the nos. 2 and 3 hitters, and came up with 3 runs (the last one meaningless) and a loss, their 7th in 8 games.

The HRs by Jean Segura and Ryan Braun both came in the 4th, after Norichiki Aoki had been caught stealing to end the 3rd. The rest of that inning went walk, single, GDP (first of the year by NL batting leader Carlos Gomez), walk, strikeout. Braun, who came in 8 for 16 with 2 aboard, hit into a DP in the 5th with his team down a run, after 1-out walks to Aoki and Segura. Cincy punched a trio of 2-out RBI hits off Yovani Gallardo, and southpaw Mike Gonzalez — summoned for the 2 power lefties set to bat in the 7th — was touched for a HR by the man in the middle, Brandon Phillips, which went down as the decisive run.

  • The Reds are 14-3 against teams under .500, 6-13 against the others. They’re 10-5 in one-run games.


Rangers 4, @Astros 2: No player batted in a teammate: runs were 3 solos for Texas, 1 for Houston; a bags-full walk, and a wild pitch. Since 2009, this “rivalry” has been a 22-6 stomping … and there are 15 more games this year.

I finally get my wish — Dallas Keuchel starting against the Rangers — and the game has to be in Houston? His one prior start against Texas started out the same as this — 5 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 Ks. A low pitch count let him go deeper this time, but uh-oh, there it goes, a tying HR by Nelson Cruz with 2 outs in the 6th that might have landed in Dallas. Last time, he brought a 1-0 lead to the 6th and left after a leadoff single; the Rangers scored 7 in the inning.


Pirates 7, @Mets 3: Cheese-save alert! Mets scored 2 in the 9th off the mop-up man — their first crooked number since Roman numerals went out of style — so with 2 outs, 2 on and a 4-run lead in obvious jeopardy, Clint Hurdle made the knee-jerk move to his closer. It’s crazy, right? Jason Grilli pitched the day before, and the Bucs’ next day off is May 20th. If not for the inane save definition, there’s no chance that Hurdle would bring in his best pitcher for that last out against Ruben Tejada. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh lost these recent games without using Grilli or Melancon: May 5, down 1 after 7, gave up 3 in the 8th; May 4, tied after 8, lost in the 9th; April 30, tied after 6, gave up a run in the 7th and 3 in the 8th.

  • One way to cut down on the number of possible HRs needing video review — besides having Shawn Marcum pitch B.P. before the game, rather than during — is to clean up some of the outfield wall situations. Before the wave of new parks in the ’90s, I don’t remember any outfield walls where a painted line separated HR from ball in play, and there were few with a secondary wall or other structure close enough to the main wall to cause carom confusion.
  • It meant nothing this time, but Jordany Valdespin came in on a double-switch, and in his only time up, took out two rows of seats in the soft-drink pavilion. He has 9 HRs in 91 career PAs off the bench, and 2 HRs in 185 PAs starting. (But Jordy, save the sashay for the ones that matter.)
  • Just noticed that 41-year-old Jose Contreras is up with the Pirates, now pitching his 2nd game of the year. I’m sure the Bucs know their farm talent better than I do, but based on his career stats and those of the last 3 years (totaling 84 IP), I wonder what upside he has, to deserve this chance over some player with a future.


@Giants 8, Braves 2: After 5 straight hits opened the home 4th, Tim Hudson was hoping for a DP grounder from Matt Cain to escape with a 3-run hiccup. He got his grounder, but it skittered through to RF, and soon the hiccup was a 6-run belch. It was the biggest inning of the year for the Giants and against the Braves; no foe had even scored 5 in a frame off Atlanta.

Since their 12-game win streak, the Braves have had 4 tries at a third straight win, but lost them all.


Marlins 5, @Dodgers 4: Proving once again why Miami won’t lose 120 this year: There’s more than one rotten fish in the barrel. LA has lost 8 in a row, matching their longest skid of the past 20 years. Adrian Gonzalez game them a quick 3-0 lead with a 1st-inning blast, but Derek Dietrich tied it the same way with 2 outs in the 4th, his first HR in his second game, cashing in a pair of walks in the inning (and running a mile a minute out of the box). Ronald Belisario gave up 2 quick runs in the 7th and became the first reliever with 4 losses this year.

  • Juan Pierre drove in the go-ahead run, his 4th RBI in 133 PAs. At his present rate of play, Pierre would finish with 18 RBI in 599 PAs. Since WWII, just 10 players had 600+ PAs and less than 20 RBI in a season.
  • The 20th Miami HR (last in MLB) filled in the “12-” spot on their men-aboard bingo card; they still have openings for -2-, –3, and 1-3.
  • LA had a tiebreaking threat in their 5th, putting the first 2 on. But Juan Uribe was picked off 2nd with Nick Punto trying to bunt, and then Punto and A-Gon whiffed. Why on earth would you have Punto sacrifice? Let’s avoid the question of batting him 2nd if you don’t want him hitting (from the left side) with the go-ahead run on 2nd and no outs. What happens if the sac works? Gonzalez is going to be walked, no doubt, leaving it up to Matt Kemp (who’s been a disaster in RBI spots and already has 7 GDPs) and Andre Ethier, who’s been an all-around zero, not even hitting right-handers.


Angels 7, @White Sox 5: As Bill James said of Jeff Bagwell in the BJHBA, “Pass.”

  • The Halos have plenty of question marks, and Barry Enright just adds to the list. Like, how do you get called up from Salt Lake City with a 9.61 ERA and 9 HRs in 4 starts? He got through 3.1 IP here with just one tater, which only slightly raised his career MLB rate — 2.1 HR/9 on 34 HRs in 146.7 IP, 4th-highest ever with 100+ IP.


Late Thursday

@Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 1: Scoreless game, home 5th, 1 out, men on 3rd and 2nd, and pitcher Patrick Corbin at bat, with 5 hits in 50 career ABs — and the middle infield plays normal depth? Wow. Sure enough, he hit a slow grounder to SS for the go-ahead run. Snakes got another run next inning by bunting at Ryan Howard, and that was enough. Gerardo Parra has 12 hits in 41 career bunts (14 sacrifices).

  • Last year, Arizona began 4-0 but never did get to 5 games over .500.
  • Corbin’s season-long string reached 7 games with 6+ IP and 2 runs or less, the longest since 2010 (Ubaldo’s 12).
  • Phils have scored 2 or less 15 times, and have yet to reach double figures. (Company you don’t want to keep: The Phils Cubs, Dodgers and Mariners have a high of 9 runs, while the ChiSox still haven’t scored more than 7.)
  • Here’s your Latin practice for the day — repeat after me: Mariekson Julius Gregorius sluggens .DCCXXIII est. (Plus, he has people skills.) (No, I don’t really know the Latin for “slugging,” nor how they actually wrote their decimals, if at all.)


Ryan Vogelsong is the first SF starter since 2007 to yield 6+ runs in 3 straight starts. When Matt Morris did it, he was salary-dumped 2 weeks later.

Jose Altuve is on a pace of 225 hits. The Houston record is 210 by Craig Biggio, 1998 — their only 200-hit season. Just 5 second basemen in MLB history had a season of 225 hits.

Justin Upton has gone 12 games since his 12th HR, but still stands alone atop the MLB leader board. At this pace, Upton would finish with 55 HRs and 97 RBI. The record for less than 100 RBI is 46 HRs by Alfonso Soriano, 2006 (39 of those while batting leadoff). With anyone aboard, Upton is 8 for 45, 1 HR.

Has Luke Hochevar finally found his niche? Working from the bullpen for the first time, he has an 0.81 WHIP in 12.1 innings and has allowed just one run — a solo HR by the first man he faced this year. The former #1 overall pick was a rotation regular from 2008-12 and posted a combined 77 ERA+, the worst of 108 guys with 90+ starts in that span. He’s pitched in low-leverage spots thus far, but the results could lead to a bigger role.

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18 Comments on "Friday game notes, im-perfect focus"

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JA, Justin Upton is fully aware of his non-exploits with RISP or runners on. He’s on record as saying that with ducks on the pond he often is less patient/too aggressive. You can’t really see it in his walk totals, but it’s somehow comforting to know he thinks he knows what’s causing it.

Plus it’s not really J Up’s fault that the 1-2 hitters couldn’t get on base whatsoever during his early HR barrage.

Dr. Doom

Anyone who hasn’t watched the DP that Brandon Phillips turned yesterday with Braun batting is sorely missing out. Outstanding.

Timmy Pea

Anthony Rizzo is a really fine hitter and is good in the field. I honestly think he’s going to be a superstar, but I’m not sure why Sveum keeps having him try to steel bases!????

Timmy Pea

B-Ref has him at 240 lbs, he’s at least that much.

I may have missed one or two, but yesterday joins the following dates with two one-hitters. 1. 2012-06-26 (Ervin Santana, Jason Hammel) 2. 2002-04-26 (Shawn Estes, Odalis Perez) 3. 2001-05-25 (Kerry Wood, Hideo Nomo) 4. 1989-04-10 (Bruce Hurst, Dave Stieb) 5. 1988-09-24 (Mark Langston, Dave Stieb) 6. 1988-08-10 (Don Robinson, Willie Fraser) 7. 1985-06-05 (Dennis Martinez, Mickey Mahler) 8. 1979-05-09 (Dick Ruthven, Mike Norris) 9. 1975-06-08 (Jim Palmer, Ken Holtzman) 10. 1975-05-31 (Catfish Hunter, Mike Cuellar) 11. 1971-07-18 (Luke Walker, Mike Kekich) 12. 1971-04-18 (Gary Gentry, Steve Dunning) 13. 1970-04-19 (Wayne Simpson, Tom Griffin) 14. 1969-07-06 (Gary Waslewski, Dick Kelley)… Read more »
Richard Chester

There’s also Wayne Simpson and Tom Griffin on 4-19-70.


Thanks, Richard. I’ve updated the list.


On the subject of Upton, J, he didn’t have a great time of it in the field today, although AT&T in the sunshine is never the friendliest place for outfielders.

Voomo Zanzibar

JA, you’re really hitting your stride with the artful and scathing criticisms.
This is exceptional writing – both fun and informative.


I attended Matt Morris’ final game in San Francisco, July 29, 2007. I might not have been hugely focused on Morris’ form though, as a certain Barry Bonds happened to be sitting on 754 home runs at the time. No, he didn’t hit 755.

I like looking through box scores of games that I have attended with the benefit of hindsight. For instance, who knew that the Marlins pinch-hitter in that game, with barely a season of at-bats under his belt, would go on to become a Giants postseason legend by the name of Cody Ross?