Boston Red Sox relief pitcher stat predictions for the 2022 season
Red Sox relief pitcher: Matt Barnes
It looked like Matt Barnes had finally turned the corner in 2021. The former first-round pick has been a solid if unspectacular reliever over his first seven years in the big leagues, but he was given the closer’s job at the end of last season and ran with it. He rode improved control and elite strikeout numbers to an All-Star berth and contract extension and looked like one of the best closers in all of baseball.
Then, as quickly as Barnes had risen the ranks, it all fell apart. He was downright unusable once the calendar turned to August, posting a 10.13 ERA over the final months. His walks per nine rose from 2.25 to 7.9, and when he did throw the ball over the plate, it wasn’t pretty (.340/.450/.660). He lost so much faith with his team and manager that he was the odd man out when the postseason rolled around.
What Barnes really needed was a strong spring training to show that the end of 2021 was an aberration. All he’s done this spring, however, is inspire more worry. His numbers have looked fine enough (4 IP, 2 ER, 6 K, 1 BB), but his fastball has been clocked in at around 93 miles per hour. Given that he has lost a full mile per hour since 2019 and saw an even more significant velocity dip down the stretch in 2021, this is cause for concern. It’s gotten to the point where even manager Alex Cora has stated that he is worried about Barnes’ fastball.
Watching Barnes is all about managing your expectations. In other words, it would be foolish to expect him to ever be an All-Star closer ever again. Barnes has shown time and time again that he is just another middling reliever: He’s had six year straight years with an ERA between 3.50 and 4.50. Barnes will still have value in a big-league bullpen, but expecting him to be a worthy closer for a contending team is a huge mistake.
Stat Predictions: 24 SV, 4.32 ERA, 4.7 BB/9, 11.7 K/9