In Defense of Matt Barnes

It’s been no secret that Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been struggling as of late.

Since the turn of June, the right-hander has posted a 7.82 ERA over 12 2/3 innings pitched, allowing runs in five of his last 14 appearances while also blowing three saves in that span.

He entered the month with an ERA just over two at 2.08 and a batting average against of .160, but those numbers have since skyrocketed.

The main issue involved with these regressing statistics would have to be that Barnes has been used more frequently out of the Red Sox bullpen by manager Alex Cora.

In that span where his ERA was at 2.08 heading into June, the UCONN product appeared in 22, or 40%, of Boston’s first 55 games this season.

Since the beginning of the month though, as previously mentioned, Barnes has appeared in 14, or 58.3%, of Boston’s last 24 games, which is where those struggles have arisen.

As things stand right now, the 29-year-old is on pace to make 71 relief outings in 2019, which would be eight more than he made all of last year. His previous career-high in that category was 70 back in 2017.

With that recent workload comes not much rest, and the numbers back up the sentiment that Barnes has struggled when asked to come out of the ‘pen on consecutive days.

Per Baseball Reference, Barnes has made 10 appearances on zero days rest, another career-high for him. In those 10 games, he has posted an ERA well over 10 and batting average against of .351 over 8 2/3 total innings.

With one or more days of rest, however, the former first round pick has fared much better. That much is evident by how his ERA shrinks from 10.38 with no days off down to 2.16 over 25 frames with anywhere from one to five days off.

If Barnes continues to work at the rate he is now, he is only going to wear out quicker. He’s already walked nine batters in June, more than he had in March/April and May combined.

Clearly, whatever plan president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had in place for his bullpen has not panned out and is just not sustainable for a deep postseason run.

Barnes has struggled at closing games, yes, but was he ever named the Red Sox’ closer to begin with? No.

What the Sox need is an actual closer. Someone with saving experience to fill the gap Craig Kimbrel left from last year’s team.

As long as they figure out some way to upgrade their bullpen, there’s no need for this team to sell.

So, as I have already mentioned, Matt Barnes and the Red Sox bullpen needs some help, or else the Yankees are just going to keep on widening that gap for first place in the American League East until it’s out of the picture.


Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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