Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Matt Barnes
Now that the 2015 season is in the books, the BoSox Injection staff will hand out their final report cards, grading the performances of each member of the Boston Red Sox roster based on their expectations entering the season.
2015 Stats: 3-4, 5.44 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 8.16 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Matt Barnes had quite a turbulent season when it came to his role as a pitcher and his Major League status with the Boston Red Sox. Barnes went back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A as well as from being a starting pitcher to a reliever numerous times throughout the 2015 season. This chaos affected Barnes’ potential success and he was not as impressive as most had wished he would be in his rookie year with the Sox. However, Barnes was able to end the season on a high note, giving coaches and fans some hope for this 25-year-old’s future as an MLB pitcher.
Barnes was first called up on April 25 after just two starts in Triple-A and sent directly to the Sox bullpen. He pitched two innings in relief that night where he allowed only two hits. Despite a stellar performance, he was still optioned back to the Pawtucket Red Sox the very next day.
However, it did not take long for the Red Sox call Barnes back up to Boston. Once again, Barnes began this stint with the club as a reliever in early May. He put up some good numbers throughout his first full month as an MLB relief pitcher, posting a 2.38 ERA with ten strikeouts over 11.1 innings. However, once June rolled around, Barnes started to flounder and found himself back down to Triple-A. Barnes would make a couple more trips between the Majors and Pawtucket before finally earning a more permanent spot on the roster in September.
Even though Barnes spent much of his time with the Red Sox this season as a relief pitcher, he did get a chance to show off his skills as a starter in two Major League games in late August. In the Minor Leagues, Barnes was a starting pitcher, but he was inconsistent in this role and he ended many seasons with an ERA above 3.50. This was reflected in his performances in Boston during his two starts. He gave up 14 hits and 11 runs over 10.1 innings.
When he returned to Boston’s bullpen in September, Barnes demonstrated improved control over his fastball and became a quality reliever for the Sox. He only gave up one run and struck out eight over the 10.1 the innings in which he pitched in relief during the last month of the season. After evaluating Barnes further, the Red Sox believe that this 2011 first round pick could be an impressive late-inning reliever in the future – perhaps even a closer – especially since his fastball can get up into the high 90s. However, he will need to work on some things this offseason.
Barnes struggled this year due to his lack of command over his fastball, his underdeveloped secondary pitches and his inexperience as a relief pitcher. Besides a handful of relief appearances in 2014, this season was the first time Barnes consistently pitched as a reliever both in the Major and Minor Leagues. Thus, it is not completely shocking that he struggled at times to master this new role.
Thankfully, Barnes is still young and has time to work on his craft. He does have a bright future with the Boston Red Sox as long as he is given some direction. When the season came to a close this year for the BoSox, Barnes indicated his desire to layout a definitive plan with the coaches and front office in order to adequately prepare for the 2016.
Boston’s bullpen this past season was one of the worst in the Majors and they are definitely looking to revamp this area of the team during the offseason. If Barnes can show improvement during spring training next year, it is likely that he will earn a spot on the Red Sox roster and possibly even a permanent job in the pen. However, Barnes must learn how to be a successful reliever first.