Boston Red Sox: Matt Barnes is too talented to allow this inconsistency to endure

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 10: Matt Barnes #68 of the Boston Red Sox reacts in the eighth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on June 10, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 10: Matt Barnes #68 of the Boston Red Sox reacts in the eighth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on June 10, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Matt Barnes’ electric “stuff” was has been on display when the Red Sox play at Fenway. His inability to duplicate such results on the road has frustrated.

Boston Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes is the author of 35 pitching performances throughout the 2017 campaign. Any baseball fan who only witnessed Barnes’ 11-pitch, three-strikeout, and eighth-inning domination in Monday’s 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins would question the veracity of any claims of erratic and inconsistent pitching from Barnes; after all, said hurler possesses a affluence of “stuff” that was on full exhibition that night.

Barnes appears to relish his symbolic role as the “box of chocolates” to which Forrest Gump legendarily equates “life”: upon entering the game, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Barnes’ aforementioned eighth-inning brilliance on Monday night further solidified the unmitigated exasperation emanating from Red Sox fans because such demonstrated supremacy is frequently irreproducible. In the inning, Barnes threw 11 pitches, nine of them for strikes, and five of those strikes were of the swinging variety, including the last pitch of all three at-bats. Barnes featured a lively 96 mph fastball in tandem with an 82 mph curve ball, both of which generated swings-and-misses, with a pair of curve balls in the dirt responsible for the initial and final strikeouts.

Performances such as these pique the curiosity of all Red Sox fans: what is the reason that Barnes, with two wipeout offerings, produces such wildly inconsistent and, at times, antithetical results?

It is beyond challenging to comprehend how the venue at which any professional athlete performs is responsible for enormous variances in performance. However, a quick perusal of the Home/Road splits of Matt Barnes leaves very few other viable explanations.

Certainly, Red Sox fans are cognizant of Barnes’ struggles on the road; however, I suspect that most fans are unacquainted with the enormity of the disagreement between his Home/Road statistics. In my 20 years of following Major League Baseball, I do not recall ever witnessing such a gargantuan abyss between a player’s Home/Road splits this deep into a season.

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In 2017, at the Fens, Barnes has tossed 18 innings, while pitching to an ERA of precisely 1.00, and generating a slash of .188/.278/.206. He has allowed a wOBA of .229, a WHIP of 1.06, while producing a strikeout rate of 36.1%, coupled with a bases on balls rate of 9.7%. It would not hyperbole to assert that the aforementioned numbers would be worthy of enshrinement into Cooperstown.

However, to quote the great William Shakespeare in his brilliant literary work, “Hamlet,” Act III, Scene I: ay, there’s the rub.

In 2017, away from Fenway Park, Barnes has been atrocious. In fact, if required to select a “Barnes” to enter the game in relief, I would readily choose Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes, were said game occurring at any location other than Fenway Park! As brilliantly as Matt Barnes has pitched in Boston, he has pitched equally abominably away from Fenway.

In 15.2 IP, Barnes’ Road ERA is 7.47, while pitching to a slash of .250/.357/.517 and a wOBA of .369. His strikeout rate drops to 24.3%, his bases on balls rate reaches an altitude of 14.3%, and his WHIP orbits the stratosphere at a level of 1.60.

While Barnes’ Home numbers would send him to Cooperstown, his Road numbers are deserving of a bus ride to Pawtucket.

The rather peculiar characteristic of Barnes’ season is that, over his brief career, his Home and Road numbers are virtually identical.

The only rational explanation for the immense gulfs in Barnes’ Home/Road performances, given that he has no record of accomplishment in which he has demonstrated such biases, is that it must be a function of the relatively small sample size. Any other conclusion would seem rather absurd; however, it certainly is something that Red Sox fans will be monitoring as we head into the “money” portion of the season.

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For a high school Physics instructor, nothing is the source of greater frustration than observing kids who possess all the talent to enjoy success, yet, for whatever reason, are disinclined to dedicate themselves. The reasons for such counterproductive behaviors are supernumerary: lack of motivation, lack of confidence in their abilities, or, among many others, the severely misguided conviction that their triumphs or talents in other areas of life will prove sufficient for them to “get by.”

The only reason that I reference this is that great frustration is always accompanied by the possibility for inexpressible satisfaction. If something lacks the ability to disturb one enough to be truly disenchanted, then it also lacks the potential to be the origin of incredible elation.

For example, yesterday, I became informed that a student with whom I have worked closely with over the past few weeks had attained her goal of passing a very difficult course. I must admit, that I was in a state of disillusionment for at least a week, as I was not anticipating a successful conclusion. However, upon ascertaining information regarding a prosperous, although unanticipated outcome, I felt inexorably ecstatic. After all, I know that I contributed, at least in some small way, to this student’s success, and nothing could have made me any happier.

In many ways, I feel similar sentiment towards Barnes. All Red Sox fans are cognizant of Barnes’ electric “stuff.” I root for him to succeed because he has every tool required for success, and it would be a shame were he unsuccessful in the harnessing of such talent. However, there must be some rational explanation that when pitching in Boston, he is able to embarrass proven Twins hitters, en route to striking out the side swinging, as he did this past Monday, yet against an inferior lineup in Kansas City, he struggles mightily.

On June 21, in the eighth inning at the Kansas City Royals, he entered the game, tossed 10 pitches, and demonstrated a significant inability to locate Home Plate. He was subsequently removed from the contest after walking the only two batters whom he was permitted to face.

Wasted talent, whether in the classroom or on the diamond, is wasted talent, and it is uncomfortable to watch. Clearly, my desire to see the Red Sox hurlers exceed expectations is for far more selfish reasons than simply the avoidance of observing the waste of talent of my students.

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As all Red Sox fans understand, were Barnes to succeed with greater regularity, that would engender the Red Sox to experience greater success, and, hopefully said success would result in the raising of a ninth banner at the Fens.