Noah Syndergaard

Carlos Correa Better Option For Mets Than Kris Bryant

This offseason, the New York Mets have a number of holes to fill in free agency. Chief among them is third base as the Mets have not had a third baseman since 2014 when David Wright was yet to be diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Since then, the Mets have better filling around the edges and singing players like Todd Frazier, who struggled to stay on the field.

Looking at the free agent landscape, it appears the two best options are going to be Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant. While Correa is a shortstop, he has indicated his willingness to change positions like Alex Rodriguez once did. With that being the case, Correa instantly becomes the top third base option available.

Correa just turned 27, and he is on pace to have his best ever season as a Major Leaguer. Currently, he has a 6.9 WAR, and he should meet or surpass the 7.0 he had in 2016. Notably, with Correa having three seasons of 6.7 WAR or  better, we are talking about a future Hall of Famer.

The reason is Correa does not have a real hole in his game. This year, he has a 135 wRC+. This will mark the fourth time in his seven year career he has had a 135 wRC+ or better. Putting aside the 60 game 2020, he has always been above league average at the plate, and only one time has he registered a wRC+ below 123.

In the field, Correa is a great defensive shortstop. After his struggles in his rookie season, Correa has a a 47 OAA and a 62 DRS at shortstop. That puts him at a Gold Glove level at the position.

All told, Correa is a Silver Slugger level hitter at the plate and a Gold Glover in the field. He could be a right-handed balance to the Mets heavy left-handed hitting lineup, solve the eternal third base woes, and add yet another MVP caliber player to the roster.

Despite all of that, many are hand wringing over the likelihood Correa would have a qualifying offer attached thereby putting the Mets in a position to forfeit a first round pick. In the alternative, they suggest Kris Bryant.

Unlike Correa, Bryant has actually won an MVP award, and like Bryant, he has a World Series ring. While the Mets would be better for adding Bryant, he is not the same caliber of player as Correa, and he probably doesn’t solve the Mets third base question.

After being traded to the San Francisco Giants, Bryant has split time between third base and the outfield. That is much akin to what he did in Chicago. Part of the reason is Bryant is a versatile player which is a bonus. However, it is also the result of his not being a very good third baseman.

Since 2017, Bryant has not posted a positive OAA at third accumulating a -9 OAA. Over that time, he also has a -2 DRS. In the outfield, he has posted better numbers in left field with a 2 OAA and a 6 DRS. Looking at the numbers and the trajectory, you could argue Bryant is really a LF at this point in his career.

Now, you could try him at third for a while, especially if your confident in your shifting, but Bryant doesn’t quite have the bat he used to have which allowed him to offset his poor defense. Keep in mind, he is still a terrific hitter, just now the 144 wRC+ he was over the first three years of his career. In fact, since 2018, Bryant has been a 126 wRC+ hitter.

That is largely why we have seen Bryant fall from being an MVP caliber player to being “merely” an All-Star caliber player. After posting an 18.3 WAR over his first three seasons, Bryant has posted a 10.5 WAR over his next four seasons (with the 2020 season caveat). While Bryant has had strong seasons, and he has a 3.3 WAR so far this year, he’s just not the caliber of player Correa has.

We should note that disparity is likely only going to grow. Next year, Correa will be 27, and Bryant will be 30. Bryant is nearing the end of his prime as Correa is just entering it. As a result, you are likely going to get far better production from Correa over the course of their respective contracts. Indeed, Correa is better now and will very likely remain better.

If you’re a Mets team with not much help on the way from the minors and the impending free agency of players like Carlos Carrasco, Jacob deGrom (player option), Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and Taijuan Walker coupled with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith being arbitration eligible, you are a franchise very much set on expanding this window. That goes double with Javier Baez, Michael Conforto, Aaron Loup, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard as free agents this offseason.

This is a Mets team which needs to focus on winning in 2022 or tearing it down to rebuild. If you are really focused on winning now, Correa is the far better option than Bryant regardless of the qualifying offer being attached. The Mets should not be overthinking it. Go get the far better player and make this Mets roster the best it can possibly be.

Noah Syndergaard And Jacob deGrom Pushing To Pitch This Year For Reasons

The Mets lost to the Boston Red Sox 6-3 putting the latest final nail in the coffin for the Mets postseason hopes. Despite the Mets chances being nil, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard continue rehab programs to try to pitch this September.

Before the game, deGrom threw 20 pitches off the mound at Fenway Park. Syndergaard will begin a new rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse.


The Mets are completely out of it. Nothing deGrom or Syndergaard does will have any impact on the Mets postseason chances. They’re pushing key pitchers for reasons which are not entirely clear.

Neither deGrom nor Syndergaard will pitch in the postseason in 2021. They should’ve been shut down for the year already. Instead we’re seeing the Mets trying to get them on the mound again.

Mets Path To 2021 Postseason

With 14 games remaining in the season, the New York Mets are seven games back in the loss column of the Atlanta Braves for the division, and they are six in the loss column back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot. Long story short, the postseason is a near impossibility, and yet, a path actually remains.

The Cardinals, despite being red hot, have a difficult end of the season. They play seven more against the Milwaukee Brewers, and they have a pivotal series against the San Diego Padres this weekend. Now, the Cardinals are aided by having seven games against the Chicago Cubs to offset some of that.

The Cincinnati Reds have the easiest path and seem well poised to grab the second Wild Card. Putting aside three against the Los Angles Dodgers, they play the Pittsburgh Pirates six times and the Washington Nationals three times. Yes, they do have three against the Chicago White Sox, but the White Sox have already rapped up the division and are really getting ready for the postseason.

Going back to the Padres, it is hard to see how they’re not done. After the Cardinals, they play the San Francisco Giants six times and the Los Angeles Dodgers three. Now, this is where things get a bit interesting for the Mets. The Padres do host the Braves for a west coast series.

The Braves do not have an easy end of the season schedule. They’re heading out for a late in the season west coast trip. First is the Giants, and then after a respite against the Arizona Diamondbacks, they have a four game set in San Diego. They then end the season at Citi Field. The Mets mission is to somehow get to that last weekend at least three back in the loss column.

It’s not an easy road. The first thing which really needs to happen is a pair of sweeps. The Giants need to sweep the Braves, and the Mets need to do the same to the Philadelphia Phillies. For the Mets, that’s much easier said than done with the Phillies having Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Kyle Gibson lined up. There’s also the matter of Bryce Harper, who is playing at an MVP level.

After a pair of sweeps, the Mets would be four back in the loss column with 11 to play. In that stretch, they’d have to finally take care of the Miami Marlins in a pivotal September series. They’d have to bury a reeling Boston Red Sox team in Fenway Park, and they’d have to hold their own against the Milwaukee Brewers.

In many ways, the Mets season will hinge upon their play against the Marlins and Brewers. It may also hinge on their ability to get something, anything from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom at the end of the year. Looking at this, you may be very well inclined to say the Mets really have no shot.

The honest answer is there isn’t much of one, but in some bizarre way, there is still a realistic (albeit arduous) path to the postseason. All we can hope for at this point is the Mets are up for this challenge. The Mets team we saw play the Yankees were, but the one who played the Cardinals weren’t. We’ll find out which team we’re getting when Taijuan Walker squares off against Wheeler.

Mets With Another 3-2 Loss

Carlos Carrasco was really good, and he gave a glimpse into what a healthy 2022 season could be for him. Over 7.0 innings, he allowed two runs on three hits.

Past that, you really don’t want to know. That said, you can probably guess right.

There was the inability to hit with the bases loaded. A good reliever suffered from bad luck.

The Mets also completely overreacted to the left-handed starting pitcher. As we’ve seen previously, this resulted in having better pinch hitters. But, whatever at this point.

We can hear Jacob deGrom started throwing. Noah Syndergaard is on a rehab assignment where he can’t throw a breaking pitch.

All this does is create the illusion of hope for a team who went 2-11 against the Giants and Dodgers. They can try to sell seven of those 11 games were one run games, but being honest, those one run games were about the Mets throwing away chances to win those games on multiple occasions.

Maybe the Mets go on a run. Maybe they don’t. Whatever the case, something is broken here. Luis Rojas will be blamed, but it’s not his fault. This is on the players and front office.

2021 Mets Biggest Problem

When trying to digest and assess how the New York Mets went from in control for the division to second place in a dogfight, there’s a lot of areas you can analyze. When this happens, there are some issues.

Assuredly, the injuries to Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor are devastating. The struggles of players like Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil don’t help.

They don’t hit with RISP and sometimes not at all. Their depth across the board has been tested and exposed. If you pinpoint these, you’re not wrong, but there’s a bigger issue.

The 2021 New York Mets are a horrible road team.

Just dreadful.

So far, the Mets have a 23-35 (.403) road record. No other team with a record over .500 has been anywhere near this bad on the road. This is a road record more indicative of the Chicago Cubs, who traded Javier Báez and Trevor Williams to the Mets at the trade deadline.

This isn’t just because of injuries. It happened right out of the gate. They lost their opening series at the Phillies. After winning a series in Colorado, they were swept in Wrigley.

So far, the Mets have played 20 road series. They’ve lost 11, and out of those 11, they were swept twice. They lost three out of four three times. What’s incredulous is that came against the Washington Nationals, Pittsburg Pirates, and Miami Marlins.

The Mets have one just six road series with one of those coming against the Yankees. It shouldn’t be discounted as happening in New York because of their Subway Series history. That said, there may be something to just being home and that routine.

The biggest reason could be the pitching. While the Mets pitchers are dominant at Citi Field with a 3.03 team ERA (third best in the majors), they’re poor on the road. That road ERA rises to 4.39.

Combine that with the Mets actually hitting worse on the road (90 wRC+) than at home (100 wRC+), and you have what looks like a second division team on the road.

The question is what this means for the Mets chances of winning the division. On that keep in mind, they’re tied in the loss column meaning they’re effectively tied for the division lead.

They have 48 games remaining. Of that 48, half of them are on the road. If they keep the same road winning percentage, that drops their record from 59-55 to 69-69.

As such, if they want to win 90 games, they’ll have to finish the season 21-3 at home. The near impossibility of doing that is magnified by the Mets still needing to host the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and New York Yankees.

This means if the Mets want a road to the postseason, they’re going to have to be better on it. They won’t have an easy path facing the Giants and Dodgers on the road next week with a series against the Boston Red Sox on the horizon.

It’s difficult, but so is winning a World Series. If the Mets want to do that, they’re going to have to earn their way there. The talent is here. Lindor and Noah Syndergaard aren’t too far away.

This Mets team is good. They’ve already proven they can beat anyone. They now need to prove they can beat anyone anywhere. We have 24 games to see if they can.

Mets Must Go All-In At Trade Deadline

When making decisions at the trade deadline, it is not just about where your team is in the standings. It is also about where you are at as an organization. Right now, the Mets are 4.0 games up on the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, two teams who are under .500. As for the organization, well, they are in a much more tenuous spot.

After this season, Michael ConfortoJeurys Familia, Rich Hill, Aaron Loup, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and Jonathan Villar will be free agents. After the following season, Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Brandon Nimmo, and Kevin Pillar will be free agents. Jacob deGrom can also opt out of his contract, and Taijuan Walker can decline his player option.

Focusing more narrowly, after two years, the Mets could lose 2/3 of their outfield and 4/5 of their starting rotation. They can also lose four key set-up men as well as their closer. Put another way, this team is on the precipice of losing very important pieces of a team which is going to take it to the postseason this year.

Now, this is certainly a much different proposition with Steve Cohen at the helm than it was with the Wilpons. There is an implicit trust Cohen will continue trying to win. However, as we know, you’re not always successful identifying who to keep and who to let go as well as who the right replacements are.

When we look back to the early 90s, the Mets were coming off their best stretch in Mets history. They made the right decision letting Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez go. However, they made some bad calls like thinking Vince Coleman could replace Darryl Strawberry. They over relied on their belief Kevin Elster, Dave Magadan, and Gregg Jefferies could be first division starters. Of course, there was also the Worst Team Money Could Buy.

All told, when the Mets switched from build around a core to replacing and altering the core, things fell apart. We can look at other points in Mets history when that happened. It happened again when the Mets passed on Alex Rodriguez as part of a calamitous offseason after the 2000 pennant. The 2009 Mets made the mistake of keeping Oliver Perez. The 2017 Mets got their money tied up in Neil Walker, and they saw Robert Gsellman and Lugo couldn’t hang as starters for a full season.

In some ways, that leads us to now. The Mets have extremely important decisions to make on who stays and who goes. They need to see who the correct replacements are. From what we’ve see from this front office, we should have faith they are up to the task. That said, we all had very well placed faith in Frank Cashen, and he blew it up.

Seeing where the Mets are, the best decision they can make right now is to absolutely go for it. Yes, that may very well require overpaying for players and rentals. Back in 2015, that didn’t make much sense. It was year one of contending for a young core who was cost controlled. Their decisions, including letting Daniel Murphy walk, turned it into a two year window. That window slammed shut without a World Series.

Right now, the Mets window is definitely open, but it’s being propped open. Without the right options, this window can slam shut after this year. It may well be that after the 2022 season. The Mets definitely need to keep this possibility in mind as they look to add at the trade deadline.

Players like Kris Bryant and Trevor Story dramatically changes the fortunes of this team. The same can be said for a player like Jose Ramirez. It may hurt to overpay for Max Scherzer or another top of the line starter, but imagine a two headed monster of deGrom and Scherzer (and having deGrom insurance) as the Mets look to win a World Series.

Ultimately, the Mets are going to see radical changes to this roster over the next few years. They’re in first place now with a team capable of winning a World Series. They need to make sure they do everything they need to do to get that World Series, or they may be ruing the missed chance for a team in transition over the next few years.

Mets Don’t Need Starter At Trade Deadline

With the New York Mets in first place and there is earnest discussion over what the Mets should add at the trade deadline. With all the injuries, the discussion has centered on starting pitching.

Before delving into potential names, the first consideration should be the Mets only need four starters to get them through the postseason. With respect to that, they have a phenomenal foundation with

  1. Jacob deGrom
  2. Marcus Stroman
  3. Taijuan Walker

By ERA, that’s the best 1-2-3 in the majors. That’s especially impressive considering they are missing their second and third best pitchers in Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard.

Now, it’s a dangerous game waiting for injured players to return. That goes double for pitchers. For example, we’ve already seen Carrasco’s and Syndergaard’s return dates pushed back repeatedly.

However, on that note, Carrasco is throwing batting practice, and he’s throwing in the mid 90s. After another session, he may be set for a rehab assignment.

If Carrasco continues on this path, he will have at least one start in the majors prior to the trade deadline. If he’s back in the rotation by then, there’s no sense in adding another starter.

As we’ve seen, Tylor Megill has the stuff to at least be a five and fly starter. There’s also David Peterson and Corey Oswalt, who could be available soon after their IL stints. Again, we shouldn’t count on them, but they’re part of the equation. That’s nothing to say of Syndergaard who MAY return in September in some capacity.

In terms of the fifth starter spot, they have the numbers to address it. We should keep in mind whoever that starter is, it’s unlikely they’ll be on the postseason roster, at least not as a starter.

To that point, if the Mets are looking to add pitching at the trade deadline, perhaps they should be looking more at relievers. They’ve already seen an incredible number of injuries on that front, and Miguel Castro, who was supposed to be a key piece of the bullpen, has lost his effectiveness.

Of course, if Carrasco has yet another set-back, the Mets should pivot. Moreover, if the right deal presents itself, the Mets shouldn’t object to improving the roster. That said, the team has much bigger holes in the bullpen and at third base, and after what Brodie Van Wagenen did to the roster, they have somewhat limited resources to add at the trade deadline.

Taking everything into account, as of right now, the Mets focus shouldn’t be on adding a starter. It should be on building the best possible postseason roster.

Tylor Megill Reminiscent Of John Maine

Back in 2006, the New York Mets were in first place, but they were running out of starting pitchers. As a result, they called up John Maine.

Maine was a hard throwing right-handed pitcher who never quite looked ready for the majors, at least he didn’t in Baltimore. However, with Rick Peterson and Willie Randolph, something clicked.

Maine was able to use his fastball and slider to earn a permanent spot in the Mets rotation. Maine began to really force the issue at the end of his July 8 start.

Maine had allowed a go-ahead homer in the sixth before retiring the final two batters of the inning. That started a stretch of 26 innings. By that time, a Mets team looking to add a starter felt comfortable balking at the steep prices, and of course, they had to pivot due to Duaner Sanchez’s cab ride.

Maine would have a strong 2006 season going 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA, 122 ERA+, 1.113 WHIP, and a 7.1 K/9.

What ensued was a crazy postseason where he was an emergency replacement for an injured Orlando Hernandez right before Game 1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maine was terrific that postseason including his picking up a win in Game 6 of the NLCS.

What Maine did that season is difficult to emulate, but as previously noted, Megill is emulating that right now. We saw another sign in his last start where he went toe-to-toe with Brandon Woodruff over five innings.

Like Maine in 2006, Megill is only in the majors due to injuries, and he may be here to stay because of them. Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard have yet to pitch this season, and their time tables keep getting pushed back.

Joey Lucchesi had season ending Tommy John surgery. Jordan Yamamoto is on the 60 day IL. David Peterson has hit the IL. The end result has been Megill rushed to the majors and getting his opportunity, and the Mets suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly being in a position where they’ll need to look to add a starter at the trade deadline.

With every start, Megill is alleviating those concerns. Working with Jeremy Hefner and Luis Rojas, he’s taken his game to another level. Working predominantly with his fastball and slider, he increasingly looks like a Major League starter.

So far, he’s made three starts. He hasn’t registered a decision yet, but he has improved with each start. He has a 104 ERA+ and a very impressive 11.9 K/9. That’s even with him walking a couple of batters more than you’d like . . . much like Maine.

With his poise, repertoire, demeanor, and this coaching staff, there’s no reason to believe Megill won’t continue to improve. With each successive start, he’ll make the case he not only should be a part of this rotation, but he can be a part of a World Series contending team.

Again, that’s where the Mets were in 2006. John Maine gave them some comfort they could address other needs because Maine stabilized the rotation. When the pitchers didn’t heal like the Mets had hoped, and others pitchers got injured, Maine had a strong postseason giving the Mets every opportunity to win the pennant.

Megill is showing he can be that type of pitcher. He can be the stopgap. He can be the pitcher who convinces the Mets they don’t need to add pitching at the deadline. He can have a real impact this postseason.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Cruise Along Subway

This year’s edition of the Subway Series saw two struggling New York teams. After the series, the Mets weren’t the ones struggling anymore:

1. There shouldn’t be anymore doubt Brandon Nimmo is the Mets best offensive player, and he’s the real catalyst for the team.

2. If the point of replay is to get the calls right, there’s no point to replay when Nimmo is called out on a play he was clearly safe.

3. Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman certainly are not the same pitchers since the crack down on sticky substances.

4. Imagine being someone who thought Cole deserved to be in the same breath as Jacob deGrom let alone thinking he was better.

5. Taijuan Walker absolutely should’ve been an All-Star, and he proved it again with his no-hitting the Yankees for 5+ innings. Hopefully, he will be an alternate for when deGrom won’t pitch in the game.

6. Was the Aaron Judge homer off Walker the first time one 99 broke up the no-hitter of another 99?

7. Again, there is no way the Mets should even contemplate DFAing Jose Peraza, especially after that bases loaded double to clear the bases. Use one of J.D. Davisoptions and teach him how to play a position.

8. It’s funny that Tony Tarasco was on the field for the play where the Mets fan reached over the wall for the Peraza double. Tarasco was the Baltimore Orioles RF on the Jeffrey Meier/Derek Jeter play.

9. Pete Alonso‘s homer off Chapman was arguably the biggest hit of the year.

10. Alonso looks much more like the 2019 version hitting 275/.343/.517 with nine homers and 135 wRC+ over 134 PA since returning from the IL (h/t Tim Ryder).

11. Dominic Smith is red hot with a .875 OPS the past week and a .327/.365/.571 over the past two weeks. Like Alonso, he absolutely can keep this up.

12. That sure looked like the Jeff McNeil of old in this series.

13. The Mets made the right call keeping Billy McKinney up over Albert Almora. Now, McKinney needs to prove he can play off the bench effectively. He may get a week to prove it.

14. Considering he’s being stretched out, you absolutely take those five innings from behind Corey Oswalt, who looked good besides the one mistake.

15. On the bright side, while we may not see Carlos Carrasco or Noah Syndergaard until August or September, they’re going to be well rested and ready to dominate in the postseason.

16. What is going on with Michael Conforto?

17. Good thing Jeurys Familia is back because Miguel Castro doesn’t have it anymore.

18. This Mets team is built for the postseason because of their pitching and their ability to fight back late in games.

19. It was odd to see the Mets not optimize their defensive alignment behind Marcus Stroman, especially with the DH in play.

20. This series coming up against the Milwaukee Brewers is a good temperature check to see how good the Mets are, and for that matter, just how good the Brewers are.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Couldn’t Take Full Advantage Of Phillies Bullpen

For once, it was nice watching another team struggle through a bad bullpen, but you still would’ve hoped the New York Mets made more of their opportunity against that dreadful Philadelphia Phillies bullpen:

1. Deepest condolences go out to Marcus Stroman who lost his grandmother.

2. The fact Stroman pitched through the pain of losing a loved one is another in a long series of how no one should ever question his heart or dedication. Again, this is the type of player and person the Mets want to keep around past this season.

3. Corey Oswalt has been really good and looks well poised to take over the role Robert Gsellman once had. That’s good because it doesn’t look like Gsellman is coming back anytime soon.

4. That spark Michael Conforto provided the Mets offense sure seemed short lived.

5. On that note, the Mets offense is aware they don’t have to wait for the ninth for a rally, right?

6. It’s really difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong with Jeff McNeil other than bad luck. His batted ball numbers are extremely similar to previous seasons. With that being the case, they just need to stick with him.

7. The Mets really need to switch McNeil with Luis Guillorme defensively. Aside from struggles in a COVID impacted season, McNeil is a good third baseman. Guillorme is other worldly at second and not so great at third. It’s time to fix this.

8. Zack Wheeler dominating the Mets is just another example of just how impossibly bad Brodie Van Wagenen was as a GM.

9. Just imagine if the Mets had Wheeler behind Jacob deGrom. They’d be absolutely impossible to beat in a postseason series. It would really be on the level of 2001 Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

10. deGrom is so amazing two earned over six innings is considered a bad start. When your worst is better than 99% of the league’s best, you know deGrom’s season is beyond hyperbole.

11. The Mets have a bit of a Pete Alonso problem. He’s just nowhere near his 2019 form, and he just seems to be getting further away. More troubling is the struggles hitting at home.

12. That’s not exclusive to Alonso. The Mets also have a Dominic Smith problem, and basically [INSERT PLAYER] problem. McNeil was noted above, and Conforto’s power had seemingly disappeared.

13. Brandon Nimmo appears nearing his return, and the Mets offense seems to need him. That’s problematic considering there are more than enough bats already in this lineup.

14. When Nimmo does return, Billy McKinney needs to stay on the roster. He’s earned his spot and has significantly outperformed Albert Almora.

15. Mark Vientos and Carlos Cortes are flat out raking in Double-A and need to be moved to Syracuse ASAP. They need to be ready to help this roster if needed come August and September.

16. David Peterson had a strong start. He needs to start stringing them together.

17. Francisco Lindor had a huge game winning hit, and he increasingly looks like the player he was in Cleveland.

18. There’s been focus on Guillorme’s batting average, but he’s got a terrific .403 OBP. Considering he’s an eighth place hitter, you can’t ask for more than that. That goes double when he just finds a way on base in the late innings.

19. It’s funny. The Mets have gone 6-6 in a 12 game stretch against the NL East, and their 4.5 game lead is now 4.0 games. The only real change now is the order of the trans behind them.

20. At some point, the Mets need to go on a run. To that, Noah Syndergaard does say the Mets are a second half team . . . .