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Scouting the 2007 Seattle Mariners

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 2, 2007

Looking back on the 2003 and 2004 clubs, the first thing one usually notices is how quickly those stars from 2000-2002 got so old and stopped performing. It seemed like it happened suddenly, though the decline is more than obvious in hindsight.

It was clear that the Mariners needed a rebuild, and GM Bill Bavasi was in charge.

Well, here we are three years later, and the 25-man roster made official this week, is the best Bavasi could do. Will it be good enough? It doesn’t appear so, but looks can be deceiving.

The M’s, like all clubs, have their strengths and weaknesses that provide the keys to success, or failure, to the entire ’07 campaign.

Strengths: The Mariners are a solid defensive club with potential Gold Glovers at shortstop, third base and center field, and all three outfielders can throw, with Ichiro and Jose Guillen possessing impact arms. Yuniesky Betancourt and Adrian Beltre combine to make up the AL’s best defensive left side and the improving Jose Lopez completes a sure-handed infield.

The M’s did make slight upgrades to their starting rotation over the winter. Our are the enigmatic Joel Pineiro and Gil Meche, as well as veteran Jamie Moyer, traded last August, replaced by Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez.

The threesome should throw more strikes and provide more stability, making the rotation a bit of strength in 2007.

Felix Hernandez is in the best shape since signing a pro contract and appears poised for a breakout season at the age of 21. The King is no doubt the ace of the staff and if the M’s are to contend at all, Felix will need to be consistently in top form.

— See Analysis Below —

The M’s have an ace closer in Putz and southpaws George Sherrill and veteran Arthur Rhodes give the club a solid duo to deal with all the left-handed bats in the division (Teixeira, Blalock, Anderson, Chavez, Swisher, Bradley, Kotchman, Kendrick, Matthews, Kotsay).

Offensively, there is more punch and contact this year, with the additions of Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen. Guillen had a huge spring and Vidro, while not the best DH in the world, is adept at working the count and making consistent contact. He should be especially effective against left-handed pitchers, and Ben Broussard can provide a solid option against righties.

The M’s are a good baserunning club and with a better philosophy should be able to create some advantages rather than running into outs.

Mike Hargrove has certainly switched gears on a lot of things, including the baserunning approach. He’s lightened his stance on Felix Hernandez and appears to be in a mindset of making choices based on whatever gets the team victories NOW, rather than staying loyal to veterans or dismissing ideas just because they aren’t his own.

Bench coach John McLaren is a big part of that.

Weaknesses: Even if the Mariners get median-to-plus or better seasons from the entire starting rotation, the limits on their production put a lot of pressure on a bullpen with question marks. The setup crew is shaky at best, unless rookie Brandon Morrow or the post-surgery Mark Lowe can ultimately grab the gig and run. Southpaws George Sherrill and veteran Arthur Rhodes give the club a solid duo to deal with all the left-handed bats in the division (Teixeira, Blalock, Anderson, Chavez, Swisher, Bradley, Kotchman, Kendrick, Matthews, Kotsay).

The middle of the batting order remains somewhat ordinary, as the club is relying on the kids and two veterans with injury concerns and potential declining skills to help the lineup score another 100 runs.

Sexson, Ibanez and catcher Kenji Johjima are the only defenders who grade below average heading into the season, but while Johjima was terrible in April and May last season, he did gather himself and get the job done for the final 2/3 of the year. He’s still below average overall, but if his work ethic dictates, he’ll be significantly better in many areas this season.

Johjima’s work with the pitching staff, and particularly The King, is perhaps the single most critical aspect of the season.


Felix Hernandez, RHP

The King begins his second full season in the majors as the club’s Opening Day starter and only chance to shut down opposing bats before the ninth inning. The owner of the best stuff of any right-hander in the game has few flaws and nipped one of them in the bud this off-season, dropping more than 20 pounds and reporting to spring training in the best shape of his life and more focused than ever.

With improved command and the team’s blessing to unleash a plus slider to go with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a devastating curve, the sky isn’t even the limit. Hernandez has worked closely with pitching coach Rafael Chaves to clean up his mechanics and further develop a better feel for his changeup, which is a mind-blowing concept; four plus pitches including a change that typically tags the radar gun in the 82-84 mph range – 12-15 mph off his four-seamer?

Yep, that’s Felix.

Hernandez displayed a few flaws in his delivery last season, most notably his tendency to lead with his chin tilted skyward as he motioned to the plate and the lack of rythmn in his drive step, making it nearly im possible for him to repeat his delivery.

So far this spring, Hernandez has become more consistent in finishing his pitches, thanks to a trick taught to him by Chaves – finishing with his eyebrows angled toward the ground in front of him, rather than the press box behind home plate.

His rock-and-fire motion is still there, but with reduced violence, creating a simpler, more repeatable stride toward the dish.

Expect stints of inconsistencies with Felix’s performance this season, but there’s very little reason to believe Hernandez won’t be significantly better in 2007 than he was a year ago. By this time next spring, the 21-year-old could run for president and probably win.

Heck, I’d vote for him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Hernandez made the all-star game this season, but it also wouldn’t be a complete shock if he kind of cruised along unspectacularly until mid-season and then went on a tear to end the year.

Either way, I fully expect to see a number of stellar outings from the phenom, including a decent number of double-digit strikeout performances and possibly a threatened no-no – or two… or five.

Key Ingredient: Focus, Change-up. A determined King has no equal and as long he’s able to sustain his concentration and confidence, the season will at least be entertaining. The development of his change-up could play an enormous factor in his success levels this year.

Most Important Pitch: Fastball, two-seamer and four-seamer. Getting ahead in the count and avoiding the bigger pitch counts is imperative for Hernandez’s success, more so than the typical power pitcher, due to his age and relative inexperience. His secondary stuff matters none if he can’t get ahead of hitters on a regular basis.

What to Watch For: Radar gun readings. And I don’t mean triple digits or all the 98s posted on the digital boards around the AL. I’m talking about 81, 83, 84, 82 – the velocity of his change-up.

There were times in the minors when Felix would go 94, 96, 97 with the fastball, and on a 1-2 pitch he’d pull the string on a well-located change in the low-80s – sick.

If Felix is confortable throwing his change, the league may not have much of a chance over the next 10 years. Look for him to throw the pitch a lot more this year than last, just as he did this spring.

2007 Projection: 32 GS, 217 IP, .220 BAA, 2.6 G/F, 8.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9

The Mariners 2007 season hinges on a lot of things – a lot of things going right, that is. But in the end, the club will have to score runs to contend… consistently. The pitching staff is what it is, and it will probably be somewhat consistent in being what it is, which is mediocre to average. If the offense can generate slightly above league-average support, the M’s have a chance to win 85 games.

If they repeat 2006’s offensive output and experience similar injury results, they’ll probably dupe their 78-win performance from a year ago.

I keep going back and forth on which end of the spectrum this club is going to land. Two hours ago, I went on record and said they’d win 79 games.

One last re-analysis and I’m going to change that, 45 minutes before the first pitch.

I sense a slightly better year year from Richie Sexson, thanks to a better first half, and the same for Adrian Beltre, who I think will reach the 30-homer mark for the second time in his career, and first time in mariners blue.

Ichiro is Ichiro. He’ll probably hit .325, steal 40 bags, post a .430 SLG and play a gold glove center field. Raul Ibanez will probably have a tough time repeating his career year of ’06, but unlike many, I don’t expect a large drop-off for one of the game’s biggest bargains.

Johjima… he’s a tough read. I think he’ll be better, just not a lot better, at least offensively. He may not match his ’06 BA/OBP, but he could pop a few more long balls and pound out four or five more doubles and make the all-star team this year.

But those are fairly marginal differences during a 162-game schedule.

So why are they going to be eight games better? That’s simple, the Jose’s and YuBet.

Jose Guillen will be a force at times, and during the time he’s on the DL or in a bit of a slump at the plate, he’s an asset in the clubhouse (as long as he’s not threatening his manager), and defensively as well.

Jose Lopez is the club’s biggest wildcard in the batter’s box. He could pretty much repeat his 2006 numbers and nobody would complain much. But there’s more there – possibly 20 homers and 35 doubles – and this is the ideal season for him to breakout.

Betancourt may or may not improve on his 2006 offensive performance, but there really isn’t much of a chance that he takes a dive, either. He’s no automatic out and with more experience he’ll start hitting more line drives, too.

I’m hard on this club, I know. I’m very critical of Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong and Mike Hargrove, and I’ve lost patience with GM Bill Bavasi. But at some point the law of averages have to help the M’s, rather than shove their faces further into the dirt. Some of these “should-be” talents should pan out, even if to the 70-80th percentile. The weakest division in baseball helps, especially since the A’s are as vulnerable as they’ve been in eight years.

PI’s TEAM PROJECTION 2007: 87-75, 2nd in AL West


60 Responses to “Scouting the 2007 Seattle Mariners”

  1. Ralph said

    I have to disagree about the rotation. Washburn was an average #3 starter, and is now the #2 by default. Bautista wouldn’t be a #3 starter on any other respectable team that I can think of. Weaver? Being the odds on favorite to be the yearly DFA candidate is nothing to brag about. And speaking of DFA candidates, many were saying that Ramirez wasn’t going to make the Braves, even before we traded for him. This could be the worst M’s rotation in years.

  2. You must not have watched the M’s rotation last year.

    I don’t care what Meche does from here on out, but he was so much worse than even his numbers suggested.

    And Pineiro was the worst starter in the AL. Don’t go looking up ERAs without the usual caveats, such as ballpark factors.

    He was THE worst.

  3. Goose said

    I would argue that Guillen threatening Hargrove IS an asset.

  4. as long as he foloows thru it is.

  5. Isaiah Hunter said

    So are you saying, all other things equal, you would take Washburn, Batista, Weaver, or HoRam over Meche? Because discounting age (plus for Meche) and contract (minus for Meche) I would take Meche over any of those four.

  6. I would take Wash and Batista over what Meche gave the club last year.

    HoRam… who knows, but ya didn’t know what you were going to get with Meche, either.

    But Meche/Pineiro… easy choice… I’ll take Batista and HoRam over Gil and Joel.

  7. Willmore said

    What a great game to see live. Felix was absolutely dealing. Even live his curve looked amazing, and it was tough to distinguish, but I think he mixed in a few nice sliders there too. However, the one thing that told me he was twice the pitcher he was last year is the way he was able to locate his fastball – inside, outside, it just made his off-speed stuff impossible to hit. Joh called a great game too, he set up the off-speed stuff with the fastball early in the game, and then in later at bats he went off-speed and then boom that 97 mph fastball just blasts past the hitter – poetry in motion.

    I’m so excited for Felix right now, I’m finding it hard to contain it.

  8. Isaiah Hunter said

    Meche’s FIP was 4.71 xFIP 4.79. K/BB was 1.86, K/9 7.4, with a 43% GB. Whereas Washburn’s FIP was 4.86, xFIP 5.35 K/BB 1.87, K/9 4.9. 40% GB.

  9. Isaiah Hunter said

    Batista’s FIP was 4.52, xFIP 4.88, K/BB 1.31, K/9 4.7 with a 51% GB.

  10. Washburn should be left out of it… he was here last year AND is here this year.

    It’s Horacio Ramirez-Miguel Batista versus Joel and Gil.

    Nobody in their right mind would argue Jeff Weaver.

  11. Turtle said

    Willmore you are dead on with your observation of King Felix.He looked just like the ace we need him to be.This will be the year that Felix takes his place with best that MLB has to offer.

  12. nighthawk180 said

    Willmore I second that statement. I was there too behind homeplate and he was “untouchable” today. He hit 95 on his 100th pitch of the night. The curve and slider combo along with the change every now and again were all spot on throughout his outing. Flashes of the king all night long. GO M’s

  13. larryl said

    Hey – where are the guys who said (during the off season) that the M’s would be better with Carlos Pena or Durazio at first base instead of Sexson? Didn’t I see both those guys on the waiver wire the other day? Wasn’t Sexson’s three run dinger sweet?

  14. Adam B. said

    Personally I’m not thrilled by any of the Mariners number four starters. However, I certainly wasn’t impressed with the idea that Joel Pineiro was going to be the “ace” of the staff in ’06.

    The thing that bugs me the most is that the Mariners have made such poor decisions when it comes to their rotation. Washburn, Batista and Weaver aren’t entirely bad ideas, but they’re not great ones with the contract lengths and money the M’s invested.

    And delaying your best pitching prospect from starting for another year is just pure stupidity.

    What exactly are the M’s going to do with an aging talentless Batista in ’09?

    And don’t get me started on Vidro.

  15. Adam Boyd said

    You guys have got to be kidding me. Gil Meche was HORRID. He had a nice June and July and then got slaughtered the rest of the year. Half the time he barely made it 5 innings. Pineiro couldnt even get out of the second. I guarantee Batista and HoRam will improve upon these performances.

  16. Ralph said

    No, it isn’t Bautista/Ramirez versus Joel and Gil. If you can conveniently leave out Weaver and Moyer, then I guess you might have a chance with that argument. But it’s not reality. Miguel Batista is a #5 masquerading as a #3. If you want to call the rotation even, that’s fine. Wrong, but fine. But it’s not better than last year’s opening day rotation, and has the potential to be the worst 2-5 in the division, if not the league. Throw in the loss of Soriano, and it’s not even a contest.

  17. Jesse said

    to somewhat change the subject, my brother and i were at opening day yesterday. We spent several minutes chatting with electric (though injury prone)Oakland Athletics starter Rich Harden, as he signed autographs for fans. We expressed to him our interest in him as a player, and how much we would like to see him in Mariner blue. To our surprise he gushed about how much he liked Seattle, how great the fans are, and how interested and intrigued he would be in joining the Mariners. He seemed very disenchanted with the Oakland fan base, and the organization itself. He did not at all hide his interest in the Mariners organization, and how much he would love to team with Felix at the top of the Mariners rotation. Harden is under contract through the 2008 season (with a club option for the ’09 season)and depending on when he hits free agency, would be either 28 or 29 years of age. Though his injury history scares me, there is no doubt that he can be an electric front of the rotation starter when healthy. I am not going to be ignorant and believe his word as set in stone, for we all know that in todays mlb cash is king, but in your opinion (knowing that he is at least moderately to very interested in Seattle), would you be interested in the Mariners making a run at him.

  18. eknpdx said

    Is it really a pitcher “X” vs pitcher “Y” comp all the time?

    Bavasi is a huge failure when it comes to evaluating talent, proof is in the pudding. However it’s clear he focused most of his effort to transform the pitching staff from flyball to groundball oriented.

    I think it’s more of a home vs. road issues with the pitching staff. We can say that pitcher “A” is better than pitcher “B”, however you can also say Pitcher “B” is more likely to produce better results that Pitcher “A” with the same team. Our flyball pitchers of the past were good at Safeco and sucked on the road, which is why, despite having the worst offense in the league at home, we had a winning record.

    I think the hope is that the groundball oriented staff gets us better results on the road, while possibly improving the home park advantage.

    Really, is it primarily the case of player vs player, or does “fit” on the team have a bigger effect on outcomes?

  19. MC said

    Hey – where are the guys who said (during the off season) that the M’s would be better with Carlos Pena or Durazio at first base instead of Sexson? Didn’t I see both those guys on the waiver wire the other day? Wasn’t Sexson’s three run dinger sweet?

    Sigh. Strawman argument. Nobody was saying the team would be better off with Pena or Durazo at 1B over Sexson. They said the team could be better with Durazo or Pena (though I don’t believe either of those 2 were actually mentioned) at 1B over Sexson and using the money saved therein to acquire better talent elsewhere.

    You can’t leave that part out otherwise you’re just talking out your ass.

  20. cujo said

    Are those 87 wins your predictions are the pi predictions?

  21. jhelfgott said

    Hey Larry. I’m one of the guys who suggested that Pena, Durazo (pending heavy scouting), or about 8-10 other guys floating around the FA wire or blocked in their organization, along with the approx. $24 million in funny money the Ms would have in the event of a trade, would be better than Sexson.

    One big hit does not prove carrying Sexson was a good roster construction strategy. Every year a no-name 1B comes up and produces about 85% of what Sexson will give us this year, and a lot of the time they even play better defense. Greg Norton slugged over .500 for Tampa Bay last year. Wes Helms signed for $2million in ’06 and hit .323/.390/.575 in limited time for the Marlins in a pitchers’ paradise. I STILL say Roberto Petagine would be a better option than Sexson. Oh, and let’s not forget there’s a younger, better defensive option who costs $4 million wasting away on the bench who has eclipsed the .800OPS mark twice in the last three years.

    Don’t know about Durazo and I’m too lazy to check, but Pena’s with the Devil Rays. He signed for $800,000. I still can’t wrap my head around why he doesn’t have a full-time job. He’s a 29 year old you can pencil in for at least an .800OPS, and he still has upside. I would have been thrilled if the Ms had traded Sexson, signed Pena, and signed or traded for a couple of decent backup options. Sexson hitting a HR on opening day does nothing to change that.

    Ever wonder why Theo Epstein has never spent big money on a 1B? The exact strategy you mocked (sign a couple of journeymen 1B/DH types instead of spending big money, give each of them some PT and see what happens) is what netted the Red Sox David Ortiz and Kevin Millar for peanuts back in 2003. They gave over 100 ABs to Jeremy Giambi before they figured out what these guys were capable of, but it paid off bigtime. Epstein knows that 1B/DH is the easiest position in baseball to fill. He’s also pretty damn successful.

  22. Greg08 said

    jesse –

    harden is one of my favorite players and i would also love to see him on the mariners

    u never no he might come to seatle because bavasi does have a fetish for injured players LOL

  23. The only 1B/DH, and corner OF you sign to big FA money are the ones that are TOUGH to get. So if you get the chance to snag one, you do it.

    But there aren’t many… Pujols… Manny… Vlad…

    Sexson’s signing wasn’t terrible, but it would have actually been good if it were for three years, not four.

    I still think he gets dealt.

  24. Greg08 said

    if Ichiro is dealt, what type of players will the Mariners get for him?

    and do you think Bryan LaHair is a big enough bat to fill the hole if Sexson is dealt?

  25. Lance said

    JAC, what’s the difference between mediocre and average? Aren’t they synonymous?

    Being the eternal M’s optimist, and considering they’ve improved by six wins in ’05 and nine in ’06, and considering that two teams in the division have gotten weaker, I believe the incremental pattern will continue and the M’s will finish with 92 wins, a 15 game improvement. 92-70. Sounds right to me.

    And, both Bavasi and Hargrove will have their job come 2008. So those sitting at their computers during the imagined Lincoln/Bavasi/Hargrove deathwatch need to find something better to do.

  26. the Iceman Cometh said

    Does anyone think it’s possible that the M’s could win 85-90 games and Hargrove STILL be let go next year? His contract will be up and they could easily make a clean switch. Someone in the organization must realize how awful he is at his job.

  27. I think both guys will be gone, probably, either way.

    Mediocre and average? There’s a difference. A league average SP, for example, isn’t mediocre.

    Mediocre is defined as moderately to low quality. In baseball terms, average isn’t of low quality.

  28. Adam said

    Greg, I think we can get two ML-ready, high-ceiling prospects for Ichiro.

    Matt Kemp and James Loney, perhaps?

  29. StandinPat said

    I hope to god Hargrove is gone at the end of the year, if not sooner. One game into the season and he’s already proving what a moron he is. 1) Betancourt in front of Lopez? Lopez even though he is younger has a little more polish, alot more power potential, but less speed which is why Betancourt was in the 9 hole last year anyway, speed directly infront of Ichiro. 2) Because of his lack of spring training time the M’s prob wont pitch Putz in back to back games for a while. So why use him with a 4-0 lead in a non high-leverage situation? If we dont have the confidence to get 3 outs while giving up only 3 runs or less out of our bullpen then we are severely screwed. And what now if we go into the top of the ninth tonight only leading by 1 or 2?

  30. Lance said


    1) Yuni is a better hitter than Jose. Comparing their 2006 2nd halves and STs showed that. Yuni is too good to bat 9th at this time. I’d rather have him hitting with guys in scoring position than JLO, right now.

    2) J.J. only got a couple of innings in during ST because of arm concerns. So, to be able to come in without the game on the line is like a free ST appearance that he didn’t get. It made sense not to pass up on that.

    You may get off on believing you know more than Mike Hargrove about managing a major league baseball team, but you really don’t.

  31. I think you do, though Lance.

  32. StandinPat said


    I heard looking at stats from only half of one season, and ignoring any scouting reports that might be out there is by far and away the best way to compare to players…

  33. Lance said

    Jason, sarcasm will get you everywhere.

  34. Lance said

    Did you see that? And you want him hitting 9th?

  35. Greg08 said

    wow i’m lovin the way betancourt is swinging the bat
    last night he hit two fly balls to the warning track and tonight a home run…hes putting a good swing on the ball

  36. StandinPat said

    hahahaha. Wow Lance you are amazing. So we went from looking at half of one year, to one single game? So shouldnt Betancourt be hitting 3rd right in front of Sexson with that logic? Or about this, if Lopez was hitting in front of him that would have been a three run blast. Isnt it fun looking at such small sample sizes? Lance is your real name Andy Hargrove?

  37. Lance said

    Timing is everything.

  38. Goose said

    And Hargrove brings in arguably his worst reliever to protect a 2 run lead in the 7th. Mateo predictably gives up the lead.

    Lance, I’m pretty sure none of us here would of done that.

  39. StandinPat said

    Here F’in Here!

  40. marinerswinws said

    Mateo is what he is a long man that can keep us in the game when were behind, hes good at that. What he is not is a setup guy like hargrove used him tonite. IMO Rhodes should have been in the game.

  41. StandinPat said

    or huber, or sherrill, or white or amaral.

  42. Goose said

    Mateo is a garbage man. He used to be a long man.

  43. Goose said

    I’d honestly feel more comfortable with Woods in Mateo’s spot.

  44. marinerswinws said

    Even Baek would be better right now.

  45. Ron Hagerty said

    The late inning pen needs to be centered on Reitsma, Rhodes, Morrow, and Putz… The rest of these jokers shouldnt pitch in close games..

  46. john reilly said

    I like Petagine too but he must have done something or said something because no one wants to give him a shot. I mean not even the Long Island Ducks.Did he announce his retirement from baseball? I mean he turns 36 in June.

  47. jp17 said

    Betancourt signs a contract extension which could keep him here until 2012.

    3 year deal, with an option for the fourth. Haven’t heard anymore than that. Reported by KOMO.

    Good stuff.

  48. Willmore said

    Jason, where do you see Tim Alderson going in the draft ? And what are your thoughts on him?

  49. Greg08 said

    wow 7-0 in the 1st inning for the Wisconsin game..
    ricky orta got crushed
    carlos truinfel got an error on his 1st chance..

  50. ericthemariner said

    Anyone now what happened to Mike Schilling he looked promising but isnt on the T-Rats roster is he still in Peoria, hurt or did he get released?

  51. Greg08 said

    hes on the everett roster

  52. Ron Hagerty said

    Ugly games for Wisconsin.. Orta was terrible.. Truinfel did get a couple of hits, and stole two bags

  53. Greg08 said

    that was an ugly game
    7 errors…wow
    West Tenn game was bad too..they only managed a couple of hits
    JThomas was good though

  54. 3rd Watch said

    Schilling has some family issues that he is dealing with. This may be why he has not been assigned to a team yet. Really nice guy, but his heart and head are not baseball ready right now.

    Mike if you happen to read this I wish you the best of luck. All of us at BPD are wishing you the best.

  55. Lance said

    T-Rats had to play in the freezing cold. I wouldn’t concern myself with Orta’s game, or the seven errors. I’d rather wait to see what they do once they get thawed out.

  56. DiQ said

    In the USSMariner gameday thread it was reported that Triunfel got injured in the first game. Any confirmation on whether this is true and what the injury is?

  57. Tri did get hurt, but he’s day to day, nothing major at this point. Someone on the team speculated hammy…

  58. Turtle said

    Does the cold and snow mean HoRam doesn’t really suck this bad too.Dear God let’s hope so.

  59. DiQ said

    oh god i freaked when i heard. as long as it’s nothing serious i guess that’s cool. hey JAC any word on how to catch minorleague games? are low minorleague games ever broadcasted?

    thanks, not sure wether to post here or the new site. haha.


  60. Jerry said

    Hey, well THIS IS MY OPIONING. I think the mariners need better pitching cause right now its killing them giving up all these runs in the first inning, and…….AND a A.L. WEST title back. N maybe a W.S.

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