Matt Barnes thinks he can be the closest the Red Sox need
2021 has really been the story of two seasons for Matt Barnes. The longtime Red Sox reliever had an All-Star-caliber performance heading into the Mid-Summer Classic, but would see the second half of the season turn into a pumpkin again. He pitched well enough to get a contract extension from the organization, but failed to keep up his end of the bargain as the year progressed.
As October approached, he would lose the job he had won and again find himself without a defined role. Some nights he would still close, others he would be the setup man or even enter the game early. This is not a new story for those of us who have watched Barnes during his career, and he knows it. In one meeting with the media yesterday he was very candid and honest about his efforts for 2021. His goal for 2022? Make sure the gas tank is not empty.
“Yeah, that was kinda crazy,” Barnes said. “Obviously, the first part of the season went very well. I think in the second half I went through a period where I was in a lot of games – sort of tired – and when you get tired you start trying to recreate what you had before, right? it not? And then you sort of create bad habits.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of Barnes’ stamina and we’ve seen it in recent years. Whenever it gets overused around the middle of the season, it tends to run out of gas quickly in August. It was the same story for 2021 as his ERA in the first half was 2.61 compared to 6.48 in the second half. More importantly, August is what sank him as he had a disgusting ERA of 13.50.
At the start of last season, Barnes saw himself in a duel with Adam Ottavino for the closest role and would eventually win. We also saw a new right-hander side as he was more deadly on the mound than before.
The Red Sox nation is used to seeing him lean too heavily on his curveball and then need his fastball to get out of jams. 2021 saw Matty Backpacks reverse his pattern and attack with the heat just to dismiss batters with his knee-buckling curve.
His change in mentality would lead to results as he finished the start of 2021 with a strong SO/W mix of 5.73. Running out of gas as the Red Sox made their charge through October would ultimately result in the loss of his closing job and the loss of the original playoff roster. His 2.33 SO/W didn’t help and without his top opponents were able to crush him by increasing their batting averages from .174 to .269.
“Is it the volume? Is this something we need to change in the weight room? Is it conditioning? I don’t know, do I? We’re going to sit down and have a game plan for this,” Barnes said. “How do we adapt? Maybe it’s not just August. Maybe that’s something we change in April, May and June. We will meet. We’ll come up with a plan, then go from there.
Matty B knows what his weakness is and made it clear in his press conference yesterday that his only goal is to fix his shortcomings before 2022. His ultimate goal is to be closest to the Red Sox and he wants to make sure that ‘Alex Cora will never have to. doubt calling him when the game is on. The right-hander is going to be working on a specific game plan with the coaching staff that focuses on building up his strength and stamina so he can be a weapon at the end of the season.
Matt Barnes has more than earned his spot on the Red Sox roster and can be an asset to Alex Cora going forward as long as he gets things figured out. He may have just been given an extension, but we all know Chaim Bloom isn’t afraid to move players if he gets a good return for the club. Matty B seems to have his eyes set on the prize and knows what it will take to achieve his goals, let’s hope he does because it will mean big things for Boston.