Matt Barnes Has Reached New Heights Early in Season


After fanning 206 hitters in 126 innings of work between 2018 and 2019, last season was a bit of a down year for Matt Barnes.  The former UConn Husky posted the second-highest ERA of his career (4.30), the most walks per nine innings of his career (5.5) and he struggled to consistently pitch at a high level. 

Photo courtesy of: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

It wasn't a horrible year for Barnes, but he didn't live up to the expectations that he had started to build for himself in the bullpen in the three years prior.  He still managed to strike out 31 batters through 23 innings, and he held them to a .214 average throughout his 24 appearances.

The Red Sox bullpen has been notorious for holding this team back throughout the past two seasons.  It's been inconsistent, to say the least.  There's been a handful of relievers rotating between the big leagues and the minors, and there hadn't really been any solidified roles, especially at the closer spot after Craig Kimbrel left following the 2018 season. 

Brandon Workman had tallied 16 saves in 2019, Ryan Brasier added seven and even Heath Hembree and Marcus Walden were each able to lock down a couple saves.  Barnes had four that season and followed it up with nine the following year, but there were questions as to who would be closing games in 2021 when Boston traded for Adam Ottavino. 

Those questions have been answered.  After a shortened season filled with uncertainty, Matt Barnes needed to show he was fit for the closer role, and he's done just that only ten games into the season. 

Photo courtesy of: Gail Burton/AP

Barnes has appeared in five games thus far, and to say he has been electric is an understatement.  In six innings of work, the eighth-year man has surrendered no hits or runs, has walked just one and has struck out 12 of the 19 batters he's faced.  That one base on balls came against the second batter he faced in his first relief effort of the season against Baltimore.  Since then, he has retired the last 17 hitters that have stepped up to the dish. 

This is the version of Matt Barnes that fans have always wanted to see.  It obviously remains to be seen if he can keep it up for an entire season, but never before has he pitched with this level of confidence.  He's always thrown the ball hard and had swing and miss stuff, but there would always be lapses of inconsistency.  He appeared to be getting better and better as time went on, but COVID-19 sent him into a bit of a valley among the peaks. 

How would Barnes respond?  After a 24-36 season, how would Boston as a whole respond?  Last season's stats were not on par for a lot of guys on the roster, Barnes being one of them.  Luckily, it appears the Red Sox have been able to bounce back, and the 30-year-old who has emerged as the sure-fire closer appears to have not missed a beat either. 

There are 152 games left on the schedule, and Matt Barnes is going to be called on to make his mark in a lot of them.  Whether it's just for a couple outs in an interleague game, or a late-August save in the early hours of the morning against the Yankees in extras, Boston's newest closer is going to have to be prepared for the spotlight. 

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Matt Barnes Has Reached New Heights Early in Season
Matt Barnes Has Reached New Heights Early in Season
Boston Sports Syndicate
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