Moderator: Aaron Fitt will take your college questions beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Aaron Fitt: Hello folks, thanks for joining us. I’ll get started in just a couple of minutes, sorry for the little delay.
Aaron Fitt: OK, sorry again for the delay, I’ll make it up on the back end. Let’s chat.
Tony (MD): How serious is Brandon Cogswell's injury, and how much does this hurt UVA's lineup? UVA has depth, but Cogswell was their only true top of the order type guy.
Aaron Fitt: He’s such a dynamic player, he’s really a vital part of their success, on offense as well as defense. He’s got a broken middle finger on his throwing hand, and he will be re-evaluated before the ACC tournament. I have a hard time envisioning him returning to shortstop too quickly with an injury like that, but maybe he could DH. That is pure speculation on my part — as you might know, I’m not a doctor.
TJ (MD): At the beginning of the year, no one would've realistically predicated this good of a season for a rebuilding UVA squad. Even last year's rebuilding UVA squad had veterans like Taylor, Bruno, and Kline, amongst others, to help anchor things. Is the pitching enough to get them to super's, though? Waddell, Silverstein, and Howard have all faltered at key moments down the stretch. As an aside, when will Kuhn and McMullan get their own programs?
Aaron Fitt: Another UVa. question, why not? I must admit I do still harbor some reservations about that starting pitching — that’s why I still don’t think of Virginia in quite the same elite club as Vandy, LSU, UNC, Fullerton and Oregon State. I do like the bullpen quite a bit, and I love the offense, but they need Cogswell. I do think they are good enough to get to Omaha, but I also will not be shocked if they get upset before that. And those two assistants will both be head coaches when the right opportunity comes along. They are very highly regarded, and their track records speak for themselves.
Jackie (Las Vegas): Just wondering what your thoughts were on the NCAA Tournament with regards to the Big West Conference? Last year is was sad to see only one team get in but I think things might be back to where they should be with the possibility of three teams - CSF, UCI and possibly CP?
Aaron Fitt: This weekend muddled things a bit. If Cal Poly won that series, the Mustangs would have firmed up their at-large position. Instead, they slipped toward the bubble a bit, but they’re still in strong RPI shape (No. 31), so I like their chances more than Irvine’s. The Anteaters won the head-to-head and are a game ahead of Poly in the standings, but they are just No. 64 in the RPI, so they really need to keep winning. This Fullerton series is crucial. If Poly keeps fading this could yet be a one-bid league, but I think two is a better bet, and three is still possible (but feels rather unlikely).
Steven (Montgomery, AL): Auburn is playing much better of late, and followed a crushing loss on Saturday with a win Sunday to clench the series at Florida. A poor start to conference play has Auburn at 11-16 in the West. I know there is work to be done, but with a Top 30 RPI, any chance we could sneak into a Regional with a series win against Arkansas this weekend? How do you like our chances?
Aaron Fitt: It struck me this weekend that Auburn has in fact put itself in that bubble discussion — it’s been a sneaky rise. I think the Tigers will look back and kick themselves over losing that series at Missouri three weeks ago, but if they can win the Arkansas series, that gets them to 13 SEC wins. Historically, teams that reach 13 SEC wins have a decent shot at an at-large bid, and certainly the RPI is good enough. I think a series win vs. the Hogs, coupled with a win or two in Hoover, just might do it. But I don’t think Auburn wins that series this weekend.
Trey (Greenville): Great chat Aaron and I love reading it every week. ECU has won their last 5 CUSA series, have an RPI of 75 with an SOS of 46. Their is still a small chance to win CUSA if they sweep UCF, Southern Miss loses 2 of 3 and Rice loses 1 this weekend. Seeing their hot streak what do they need to do to get in the tourney? Would winning the regular season in a weak CUSA help along with a strong showing in the tourney? Would this bolster their chance especially with the selection committee looking at the last 15-20 games?
Aaron Fitt: Thanks for the kind words, Trey. Honestly, I think ECU just needs to win the automatic bid. You can try to piece together an at-large scenario, but it just feels very far-fetched. They’re 2-11 against the top 50, their RPI is too weak, and C-USA is looking like a one-bid league, so that strong finish doesn’t mean as much. Just too little, too late for the Pirates.
John (NC): No love for the Camels? With a sweep over Liberty, how close was Campbell to cracking back into the rankings?
Aaron Fitt: Campbell remains in the mix, in that group of teams just outside the rankings. Love how hot that team is down the stretch, love how consistent they’ve been all year, but the fly in the ointment remains the strength of schedule — just 0-1 against the top 50, 9-1 against the top 100, and 14-1 against teams outside the top 200. By contrast, Kansas State and Oklahoma State each have seven wins against the top 50, and Ole Miss has 11 (those are the three teams we brought in this week). Still, I do like Campbell, and I think the Camels are in good position to earn an at-large bid if they don’t win the Big South tourney.
JT (MD): For all the ACC bashing at not winning one, it sure feels like the league is as strong as ever (and looking at some of the young teams, feels like there's a good chance that next year will be strong as well). It's hard to argue against UNC/UVA and either NC State/FSU hosting. As good as UNC/UVA have been, can't help but wonder if NC State has the best chance to make a run for the title, if Rodon is on and they are healthy. Which team do you like, if you like any from the ACC, to make a run.
Aaron Fitt: Clemson will probably host, too. N.C. State’s starting pitching still worries me a bit — I like UNC’s chances best for an ACC title run this year. The Tar Heels strike me as the most complete team in that conference, although a crack in the armor revealed itself this weekend (the bullpen). I still like UNC’s bullpen, but I like Virginia’s better. Of course, UNC needs less out of its bullpen that Virginia does, because UNC’s starters are more reliable. I like N.C. State’s bullpen too.
Joe (Maryland): Does Maryland have any chance to get into the tournament with their rpi being so high??
Aaron Fitt: No chance — just 9-18 in the league, not even close to getting it done.
William (Tupelo, MS): What's your opinion on Mississippi State? They played poorly this weekend. What will it take to get a regional at Dudy Noble?
Aaron Fitt: I think the Bulldogs saved their hosting chances by storming back to avoid a sweep Sunday, but I’ll still probably have them outside hosting position in tomorrow’s Stock Report. I look at that body of work, and I’m just not very impressed. Six series losses, and their only series wins against potential regional teams are against Florida and Alabama — two bubble teams (maybe you can throw Auburn in that mix also, but only if the Tigers pull off a couple upsets against Arkansas this weekend). The Bulldogs lose series against all the best teams they play, and even some teams that aren’t that great (Central Arkansas and Kentucky are looking decidedly average at this point). To me, that’s not a hosting resume, and I don’t care how good the RPI is or how tough the SEC schedule has been. It’s not enough just to play good teams — you’ve got to beat them, too. But, win a series against South Carolina this weekend, win a couple games in Hoover — then they probably still will host. I’d feel better if they can sweep the Gamecocks, but I don’t think they will.
Bill (Atlanta, GA): I'm not going to complain about Ga Tech not being back ranked after handing former #1 UNC their first series loss, other than to point out they have series wins over 3 of your ranked teams. Question: Is GT off the bubble and can they possibly get back to being a host?
Aaron Fitt: I think they are off the bubble, but still not a host for me, and not a top 25 team. Before this weekend, they lost three straight series and four of five. They needed this weekend to reverse their negative momentum, but I think they still need a very strong finish against Miami and in the ACC tournament to host. Will be hard to jump the five teams ahead of them in the ACC pecking order.
Preston (South Carolina): If they don't get swept this weekend are the Gamecocks are a lock to host a regional? Also, if they sweep MSU and make it to the finals of the SEC tourney are they a top 8?
Aaron Fitt: I’ll say yes to the first part, and maybe to the second part — but I’d lean toward no.
Roger (Mill Valley CA): Hi Aaron, love your work! Does the loser of this weekend Oregon State vs Oregon series in jeopardy of not receiving one of the eight national seeds?
Aaron Fitt: Only if it gets swept, I think. Otherwise, I think both teams wind up getting national seeds. Not a lock, certainly, but I think it is the most likely scenario.
Ben Wagener (Reston, Virginia): What are the chances for Clemson hosting a regional? Even though they have won 7 straight,don't they need to take the series at Florida State?
Thanks for your weekly responses to our questions!
Aaron Fitt: Winning the series at FSU would make it a slam dunk, but I don’t think the Tigers must win it to host. If they can avoid getting swept, going 18-12 in the ACC and 16-14 against the top 50, I think that’s probably a hosting resume.
Eric (Minnesota): The weekend series between Minnesota and Nebraska say the Huskies dominate. With Minnesota's RPI south of 120 they surely won't get an at-large bid. But Nebraska's is now a solid 30. If they close out the conference play strong, could they be considered for an at-large bid if they don't win the Big Ten tournament?
Aaron Fitt: The problem is Nebraska is 23-26 overall, and they need a winning overall record to be eligible for an at-large bid. So if they win their last four games (at Creighton, then three at home vs. Michigan), they’ll be 27-26 heading into the conference tournament. That means they’d still need to win at least 2 games in the conference tourney just to finish above .500 overall and be eligible. It’s possible, sure, but there is absolutely no margin for error. I think if they can finish above .500, they will get in because of the SOS, RPI and conference record (which would be 17-7 if they can sweep Michigan).
Zach (Portland): There is probably a good explanation for this, but I have a hard time understanding why NC State (and potentially Fullerton for that matter) are ranked above the Beavers.
Aaron Fitt: I do actually like Oregon State’s body of work more than N.C. State’s, but the Wolfpack moved ahead of the Beavers when OSU lost that series to Washington, and since then the Woflpack has remained red-hot, so it’s really hard to drop them. I mean, NC State has won 21 of its last 23 games, and it is 18-9 against the top 50. Oregon State is just 5-5 against the top 50. Yes, the RPI works against those West Coast teams, but that’s a huge discrepancy.
Eric (La Palma, CA): We usually have strong rivalry games with lots at stake in Southern California but with Long Beach down the last few years, Fullerton has dominated..also UCLA has no true rival plus no real high stakes games out here this year it is nice to see someone on the West Coast with lots at stake this weekend, OSU/Oregon..should be a dandy..how do you see this one shaping out?
Aaron Fitt: UCLA/Fullerton is a nice nonconference and postseason rivalry, but you’re right, the rest of the weekend rivalries in SoCal have lost some luster. I think the two most compelling rivalry series of the year have been UNC/NC State and Oregon/Oregon State — both top 10 matchups between in-state rivals located close to each other. All four of those teams might wind up as national seeds. I think that Civil War series could go either way this weekend, honestly — both teams peaking at the right time, and both teams are very very good. But Oregon State has been my pick to win the Pac-12 all season long, and I’m going to stand by it. I’ll say the Beavers win 2 out of 3 (but I will not be surprised if it goes the other way).
gilbert " Gil" hodge (Plano TX): helloe aaron, my wife is a Univ of New Mexico allum.....where do you see the Lobos playing in the tournement? and what is your take on the turnaround in the UNM program by coach Birmingham? thanks
Aaron Fitt: First of all, I think the Lobos will win the MWC tournament, but even if they don’t they could get in as an at-large even with an RPI outside the top 50 because of the way they have dominated the MWC. Last year, Indiana State and Sam Houston State got in with RPIs outside the top 50 based on their strong regular-season showings. So assuming they get in, I imagine they’d be a No. 3 seed in the West somewhere — I’m guessing Fullerton, maybe one of the Oregon regionals. There are going to be four regionals in the West, and maybe only 7 or 8 teams in the Pacific time zone that get into regionals, so New Mexico heading to one of those four regionals is a no-brainer.
Tim (Pittsburgh): Pitt versus Louisville....who ya got?
Aaron Fitt: Gotta take Louisville at home. I think Louisville is an elite team that is peaking at the right time. Pitt is a good team that has been very hot, but I don’t think the Panthers are elite.
Trace (Corvegas): I don't get your reasoning behind NC State and Fullerton being in front of the beavs. The beavs SOS and rpi are better and their record is better. They're on a 12 game winning streak and have the best era in the pac 12. You have to consider sweeps above just taking 2 out of 3, and OSU is the real deal! Start moving up teams and rewarding them for sweeps. I appreciate all that you do!
Aaron Fitt: I agree that OSU is the real deal, but let’s not forget their resume includes two series losses to a non-regional team (Washington) and a borderline team (San Diego). Fullerton has not lost a series all year and has a better top 50 record (11-4 vs. 5-5) despite playing in an inferior conference. And I’ve already addressed the reason NC State is ahead of OSU.
Rich (Nor Cal): In your opinion, will Kris Bryant of USD win the Golden Spikes award? Where do you think he'll go in the draft? Thanks!
Aaron Fitt: I think he will, and I think he goes somewhere in the top 3 picks. If I’m guessing, I suppose I’ll say he goes No. 3, but I would take him No. 1.
John (Jackson, MS): Aaron, MSU fan here, what's your take on SEC host sites. I think it's Vandy and LSU obviously, and I believe Arkansas deserves a host site because they will finish the year 20-9 or 19-10 in SEC play. Beyond that, I think the MSU/USC series this weekend is for the last spot. It is curious that you have USC at 14th and MSU at 24th when both teams are mirror images of one another. It is true that USC is better in SEC series record, but that's attributable to USC getting the worst three teams in the SEC (Mizzou, UT, and UGA) and MSU missing all of those three.
Three questions: (1) Do you think I’m right with my analysis above, (2) what are the odds that the SEC could get 5 host sites, and (3) what do you honestly think South Alabama’s record would be if they played an SEC slate? USA is currently 18th with basically the same record as MSU except USA has only played played two games against top 25 teams all year (0-2), and USA lost to MSU at USA’s Stanky field.
Aaron Fitt: Certainly, South Carolina has played a more favorable SEC schedule than Mississippi State, but a key distinction is that the South Carolina’s resume has higher peaks. The Gamecocks have won an marquee series at LSU, plus a good series against a likely host (Clemson), and a sweep of Kentucky (which took 2 of 3 vs. MSU). Mississippi State’s best series wins are against bubble teams (Florida, Alabama, maybe Auburn). We place value on teams that have proven they can win series against good opponents, and Mississippi State has not done that. It’s not enough just to play against good teams; you need to beat them.
TheFan (South): Aaron, Central Arkansas and UNLV-good enough for an at-large if they don't win the tourney ?
Aaron Fitt: Neither team will get an at-large. Central Arkansas is in 7th place in the Southland (12-12), and its RPI has dropped to No. 75. Definitely out. UNLV is a bit better at second place in the Mountain West (16-11) and No. 70 in the RPI, but still way too low in the RPI for an at-large spot.
Glen (Baton Rouge): You have been critical of Cody Glenn as LSU’s #3 starter. In his last 3 starts he has thrown 21.1 IP, given up only 3 ER with 4 BB and 14 SO. Do you trust him to throw the regional opener, setting LSU up with Nola and Eades to get to a Super Regional?
Aaron Fitt: He’s been very good lately — give him credit. It depends which No. 4 seed LSU draws; I’d still be tempted to start Eades in the opener and Nola in game two, because it’s so important to stay out of the losers’ bracket, but either way you’ve got to win three games. That’s always an interesting strategy debate, I think. I certainly think Glenn is good enough to win in the postseason, considering the caliber of the offense and defense supporting him. He competes, throws strikes, lets the defense make plays behind him. That’s all he needs to do.
ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): thoughts on Jameis Winston's frosh season? Hitting over .300 as starting RFer and supposedly up to 97mph out of the pen vs Jacksonville. Does he have legit 2 sport as a pro shot? What would his ceiling be if he concentrated on just baseball?
Aaron Fitt: I think he would be a monster if he just focused on baseball. His raw tools are crazy, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how game-ready he has proven to be as a freshman. I did not expect him to be such a significant contributor right away. Big-time X-factor for the Noles.
ul>Dee (Winona, MS): This weekend, State continued its streak of series losses against teams with a winning conference record. They have no good series wins and still have an RPI of 10. Do you think they can get a host spot by winning 1 of 3 against every decent team they’ve played?
Aaron Fitt: It worked for Miami last year! OK, that’s not true — at least Miami swept UNC last year, and took two of three from a fringy Georgia Tech team… but the Hurricanes also were swept three times (by Florida, Virginia and Florida State), and they lost series to Clemson and Virginia Tech… and somehow they still hosted. MSU’s resume doesn’t have anything that compares with sweeping UNC, but MSU also hasn’t gotten swept. If Miami could host last year, I think MSU could host this year — whether it deserves to or not.
Chester Copperpot (Searching for One-eyed Willy): Aaron, love your work. Hoping you can make it back to the Hawk for another game under better weather circumstances.
Will Tony Kemps lack of homeruns keep him from winning SEC POY? The other two true candidates(Bregman and Renfroe) both have a bit more power than Tony but I truly don’t think Vanderbilt would be where it is without Tony Kemp leading off. Thanks.
Aaron Fitt: You know the way to get your question answered. Combining the Goonies and Tony Kemp in one question? Money in the bank. To answer your question, I think the lack of power numbers probably do keep Kemp from winning the award, because those other guys have had such loud seasons. But I agree with your premise that Kemp is a huge reason the Commodores are the No. 1 team in college baseball.
bill (hamilton, nj): Hey, Aaron....couple of teams are slipping in the RPI...Rice, Oklahoma and Kentucky. All were locks a few weeks ago. Arkansas is still in the 40's...Arkansas is in, but do they host with such a high RPI as a ONE? As for the other 3, looks like they are in trouble. Your thoughts...,,
Aaron Fitt: Arkansas needs to boost its RPI to host, but the RPI Needs Report says the Hogs can land inside the top 32 if they sweep their road series at Auburn, and I think they can do it. And the SEC tourney will provide more RPI-boosting opportunities. That is why I think Arkansas will host — I’m projecting on the RPI. I don’t think they’d host if they wind up in the 40s, but I don’t think they will wind up in the 40s. Those other three teams are all legitimately on the bubble, remarkably. I’ll have to break them down in Stock Report, but I think Rice is in the most trouble of the trio. The Needs Report says Rice has no path to finish in the top 45, and they aren’t going to win the C-USA regular-season title (in a lousy year for C-USA). It might be automatic bid or bust for the Owls. Kentucky, meanwhile, must sweep its last series against Missouri to get to 13 SEC wins and have a real shot. I think Oklahoma is safe if it wins its final series at home against Kansas State.
Dan (Idaho): Does Mike Mayers (Ole Miss) project to go in the first 5 rounds of the June 2013 draft? Thanks!
Aaron Fitt: Let’s say 4th to 6th.
WISM (NYC): Aaron, two words: Kris Bryant. Two questions:
1) Has anyone so insanely run away with the home run title in the last couple of decades? And doing so in a solid baseball conference. This is getting to the point of being comical, like Babe Ruth hitting 60 homers with few other teams hitting as many that year.
2) If you're facing San Diego, why are you pitching to Kris Bryant? Don't you just walk him and take your chances with a relatively mediocre rest of the lineup (Haupt, Joe and Robinson excepted).
Aaron Fitt: I’ll have to research the previous largest margin for a home run champion — right now he’s got nine more than second-place Ryan Kinsella (who plays in an offensive conference and an offensive home park, Elon), and 12 more than third-place D.J. Peterson (also a better hitting environment). So yes, this is utterly insane. And I must give Portland coach Chris Sperry credit for having his pitchers attack Bryant all weekend — Sunday was fun to watch. The Pilots don’t have anything to play for, so kudos to them for going after him and competing. For most of the year, he hasn’t gotten a lot to hit (he’s got 56 walks), but he’s become such a disciplined hitter that he can wait for his pitch, and when he gets it, he usually doesn’t miss.
Stan (Mobile, AL): What are South Alabama's chances of hosting a regional?
Aaron Fitt: I think their chances are pretty good, especially if Mississippi State loses another series this weekend. But I’ll break that down in more detail in tomorrow’s Stock Report — I need to do some number-crunching.
Paul (Dover, NJ): Aaron,
How close was Seton Hall to making the list ?
Aaron Fitt: Very close — in fact, Seton Hall and Mercer were the other two teams we strongly debated ranking at No. 25. A 1-5 mark against the top 50 gave us some pause, but Seton Hall is red-hot — 33-7 since starting the year 0-9. That’s a regional team, and very nearly a Top 25 team.
Roger (Forest va): CAN YOU SAY A FEW THINGS ABOUT MERCER AND THEIR CHANCES OF PLAYING IN NCAA TOURNEY
Aaron Fitt: Very good offensive team, pitching is solid enough. Mercer is an at-large lock, I think. Looks like a No. 2 seed to me.
Patrick (Lake Forest, Ca): Hey Aaron, thanks for all the hard work! What do you think about UCI 3B Taylor Sparks? Although he doesn't walk too much, he seems to turned a corner this year. 1st round pick next year?
Aaron Fitt: He’s very talented — I saw him hit some balls hard on Friday. But he’s always had juice in his bat, it’s just been a matter of polishing his game. His approach is improving, his defense has improved a lot, and his power is legit. I could see him being a first-rounder next year, but his strikeout/walk numbers might hold him back. We’ll see how he develops over the next year.
Rick (Chicago): Is there a Stony Brook in the field this year that could make a CWS run with a group of talented vets and scrappy play? USA comes to mind for me
Aaron Fitt: The thing is, Stony Brook was not just a scrappy old team last year — those guys were really talented. They had seven players drafted, including a supplemental first rounder, a third rounder, and three more guys in the top 12 rounds. And that group of players had won for their entire careers; they had postseason experience, and they had standout summers against premier competition in the Cape, and they were not cowed by Miami and LSU. I just don’t see a team out there that fits that same mold this year. Seton Hall is intriguing — that is a veteran-laden team that has been in regionals, but it isn’t as talented as the Seawolves were last year. Maybe Sam Houston State or Austin Peay State, two teams I mentioned in the preseason as potential Stony Brook-types.
Pete (Amarillo, TX): Aaron,
What are JD Peterson’s deficiencies that are keeping him out of the Top 10 draft discusssions ? Thanks
Aaron Fitt: The biggest thing is his lack of defensive value. He’s probably a first baseman in pro ball, so even though the bat is special, he isn’t as value as a guy like Bryant or Moran, who can play third base (or even right field).
Justin (Chicago): Are there any young teams with a legit chance at the title this year that will be even better next year? UVA, IU, and Fullerton are 3 teams who seem to have gotten there a year early and could be elite or near elite teams next year.
Aaron Fitt: Those are good ones. Florida State, NC State, LSU, Vandy, even Oregon State — all should be very good again next year.
Liam (Memphis, TN): The Memphis Tigers just took 2 of 3 from Rice and sit in second place in Conference USA standings. They have series sweeps over Marshall and Missouri and beat Ole Miss twice in two outings. What will it take for the Tigers to get a spot in the field of 64?
Aaron Fitt: Gotta win the automatic bid — that RPI (No. 82) is just too low.
Michael (Georgia): What is your take on Western Carolina as a team and what their chances of getting an atlarge bid? thanks
Aaron Fitt: Dangerous offensive team with some real thump in the lineup, very consistent weekend rotation, and a reliable closer in Preston Hatcher. Really like the veteran core with Tyler White, Aaron Attaway (maybe my favorite name in college baseball this year!), and Julian Ridings. I like the precedent the committee set last year, when it rewarded regular-season champions with at-larges even if they were just outside the top 50 in the RPI. I think that bodes well for WCU — I think the Catamounts have a pretty decent shot at an at-large bid.
Glenn L. Clarke (Laguna Niguel, CA): Prior to the season Cal State Fullerton's recruiting class was ranked 23rd in the nation I believe. How would you rank it now after one year?
Aaron Fitt: Ha, a lot higher… Eshelman proved a lot better than I expected, and I already thought he was going to be pretty good. I always loved Justin Garza. I’m still not sold on the depth of the class after those guys, which is why I’d still put it behind Vandy, UNC, UCLA, Alabama, Clemson, maybe LSU and Arizona State. But it looks like a top 10 class just based on those two pitchers alone.
Alex Lennon (Fairfax, VA): Hey guys, thanks for all you do on manic college Mondays. With a couple of potential untraditional hosts in play, how are the facilities at South Alabama and Indiana? Any questions about their ability to host?
Aaron Fitt: Indiana’s facility is brand new — I visited it right after it opened in March, and it is beautiful. South Alabama also has a host-worthy facility. No issues there.
Justin (Oregon): What team has the best pitching staff to change the way a team has played all year when it gets to the post season? Is the staff that Oregon State has put together the best staff top to bottom this year? Thoughts? Are they the best staff in the last decade at Oregon State?
Aaron Fitt: I’ve still got a soft spot for that Nickerson-Buck-Gunderson staff in 2006, when you had nice supporting pieces like Daniel Turpen, Mike Stutes, Joe Paterson and Eddie Kunz. But this group is certainly in the conversation with that one.
Aaron Fitt: OK folks, I probably need to wrap up for today. Thanks for joining us, as always!