Matt Barnes is the closer the Red Sox have been searching for
Since being called up to the Major Leagues in 2014, Red Sox right-hander Matt Barnes has had an up-and-down career. The Connecticut product has never posted an ERA under 3.65, which he had done in the 2018 World Series run, and has always struggled with consistency.
There was no doubt even coming up as a rookie; there was pure untapped potential with Barnes as a reliever, particularly as a closer. His fastball nearly averages anywhere between 96-99 mph to go along with a curveball and slider that can touch the upper 80’s. His stuff was always there, but the approach was not.
In 2021, Barnes is already on his way to a career year, and currently is looking like one of the best closers in the game. He has embraced the role and almost looks like a different pitcher on the bump.
In 12 games, he has posted a 1-0 record with a 2.77 ERA, with five hits allowed, one walk, fourteen strikeouts, and has recorded five saves. In save situations specifically, he looks like a different pitcher with a lot more confidence. The big reason for that is he is finally trusting his nasty pitching arsenal.
The Matt Barnes we are used to seeing over the years struggled with command, especially last year, walking 14 batters in 23 innings pitched. The one walk in 2021 in 13 innings pitched is what stands out. He attacks hitters, gets ahead of the count, and is challenging the hitters by pounding the strike zone. The aggression and confidence he is showing could be the adjustment he needed all along.
Pitching is mostly mental. We all knew he had the talent, but it was just a matter of him putting it all together and making those tweaks that worked for him. At 30 years old, Barnes found his stride at the right time, which is sometimes a common theme in MLB. Many closers don’t become dominant until a few years, and we should all expect this type of production for the rest of this year and beyond.
He is simply proving that he is becoming the closer the club has been searching for since the departure of Craig Kimbrel, and this could be why Chaim Bloom did not aggressively approach a closer. The strikeout rate is also impressive, striking out nearly half of the batters he has faced. He has only made really one bad pitch, a three-run home run from Kyle Seager in the Seattle Mariners series. After that outing, you could see the frustration, but the encouraging thing was his next few appearances; he shook it off and continued his dominance.
As long as he continues to throw strikes and trusts his nasty stuff, he will be a nightmare for any team in the league when it comes to the ninth inning. It is a small sample size, but the improvement of how he looks on the mound is too drastic to think it is just a hot streak. The pitcher we are looking at is night and day from the previous years. A closer with confidence and a different mindset is a force to reckoned with and we are witnessing that with Matt Barnes.