Matt Barnes believes he can be the closer the Red Sox need
2021 really was the tale of two seasons for Matt Barnes. The longtime Red Sox reliever had an All-Star caliber performance ahead of the Mid-Summer Classic but would see the second half of the season turn back into a pumpkin. He pitched well enough to earn a contract extension from the organization but didn’t hold up his end of the bargain as the year went on.
As October approached, he would lose the job he earned and once again be left without a defined role. Some nights he’d still close, others, he’d be the setup man or even enter the game earlier. This isn’t a new story for those of us who’ve watched Barnes over his career, and he knows that. In a meeting with the media yesterday he was very candid and honest about his 2021 efforts. His goal for 2022? Make sure the gas tank doesn’t hit empty.
"“Yeah, it was kind of crazy,” Barnes said. “Obviously the first half of the season went really well. I think in the second half, I went through a stretch where I was in a lot of games — kind of got tired — and when you get tired, you start trying to recreate what you had had previously, right? And then you kind of create bad habits.”"
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Barnes’ stamina and we’ve seen it in years past. Whenever he gets overused around the mid-point of the season he tends to run out of gas quick when August hits. That was the same story for 2021 as his first-half ERA was a 2.61 compared to a 6.48 in the back half. More importantly, the month of August is what sunk him as he owned a disgusting 13.50 ERA.
Going into this past season Barnes saw himself in a duel with Adam Ottavino for the closer role and would ultimately win out. We also saw a new side of the righty as he was more lethal on the mound than before.
Red Sox Nation is used to seeing him rely too heavily on his curveball and then needing his fastball to bail himself out of jams. 2021 saw Matty Backpacks reverse his pattern and attack with the heat just to throw batters off with his knee-buckling curve.
His change in mentality would lead to results as he finished the beginning of 2021 with a strong 5.73 SO/W mix. Running out of gas as the Red Sox were making their charge to October would eventually lead to losing his closing job and actually missing out on the initial Postseason roster. His 2.33 SO/W didn’t help and without his best stuff opponents were able to crush him increasing their batting averages from .174 to .269.
"“Is it volume? Is it something we need to change in the weight room? Is it conditioning stuff? I don’t know, right? We’re going to sit down and have a game plan for that,” Barnes said. “How do we adjust? Maybe it’s not just August. Maybe it’s something we change in April, May and June. We’ll get together. We’ll figure out a plan, and then kind of go from there.”"
Matty B knows what his weakness is and was clear in his press conference yesterday that his sole focus is correcting his deficiencies ahead of 2022. His ultimate goal is to be the closer of the Red Sox and he wants to make sure Alex Cora never has to doubt calling on him when the game’s on the line. The right-hander is going to work on a specific game plan with the coaching staff that emphasizes building his strength and endurance so he can be a weapon late in the season.
Matt Barnes has more than earned his spot on the Red Sox roster and can be an asset for Alex Cora going forward so as long as he figures things out. He may have just received an extension but we all know Chaim Bloom isn’t afraid to move players if it gets a nice return for the club. Matty B seems to have his eyes on the prize and knows what it’ll take to achieve his goals, let’s hope he does because that’ll mean big things for Boston.