Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been named American League Reliever of the Month for the month of April, Major League Baseball announced Monday.
In 13 appearances out of the Red Sox bullpen last month, Barnes posted a 2.57 ERA and a minuscule .351 OPS against to go along with 25 strikeouts and just three walks over 14 innings of work. He also went 1-0 while converting all six of his save opportunities.
By recording 25 strikeouts in April, the 30-year-old hurler punched out exactly half of the 50 batters he faced, which ranked third among qualified American League relievers behind only the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman and the Indians’ James Karinchak, per FanGraphs.
As for why Barnes has been enjoying so much success through the first four-plus weeks of the 2021 season, he has been working at a quicker tempo, been more aggressive, and has focused on attacking hitters early on in counts.
For someone who was previously known to fall behind in counts and nibble quite frequently in the past, Barnes started to change his approach on the mound upon learning about just how advantageous a first-pitch strike can be.
“If you throw 100 fastballs down the middle of the plate in an 0-0 count, 92% of the time, you get a positive result,” Barnes said last week. “To me, if you tell me 92% of the time I can be successful doing something, I’m going to take those odds all day every day.
“We looked at some of the analytical stuff on attacking the strike zone, working quick and forcing guys of make some decisions at the plate,” he added. “I’ve taken that wholeheartedly and really tried to use that to my advantage. It’s about working quick, it’s about attacking guys. It’s being confident in my stuff and being aggressive in the zone.”
Barnes, who turns 31 next month, takes home the first Reliever of the Month award of his eight-year big-league career and becomes the first Red Sox reliever to receive the honor since Brandon Workman did so in September 2019.
Per Baseball Savant, Barnes currently ranks in the 98th percentile in expected weighted on-base average (.199), the 98th percentile in expected ERA (1.48), the 97th percentile in expected batting average (.144), the 93rd percentile in expected slugging percentage (.260), the 99th percentile in strikeout percentage (48.1%), the 97th percentile in whiff percentage (40.2%), and the 96th percentile in chase rate (36.6%).
The former first-round pick out of UCONN is set to become a free-agent for the first time this winter, so he has certainly gotten his contract year off to a strong start.
(Picture of Matt Barnes: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)