It’s time to talk Red Sox fans off a cliff regarding Matt Barnes
It’s the same song and dance every season: Matt Barnes gets off to a hot start, comes down to earth slightly, then has a bad week and everybody wants to ship him out of Boston.
Rinse and repeat for five years now.
Fresh off his first All-Star season, the 31-year-old reliever was on top of the world. Entering the Break, he had a 2.09 FIP, a 44.1 percent strikeout rate, and a SIERA of 1.85. Then, he followed up his shaky performance in the Colorado exhibition by tossing six scoreless outings out of his first seven. Yes, the strikeout numbers were way down, but he’d only allowed two hits and two runs (one unearned) over seven innings.
Admittedly, the right-hander has been getting hit around like nobody’s business since working both games of the doubleheader on Aug. 7. In six games, Barnes has allowed nine runs on 10 hits, walking three and striking out seven. His ERA in that stretch is 24.30, ballooning his for the season from 2.40 to 3.91.
But as mentioned before, Barnes tends to do this. Entering the ballgame on Tuesday, he had a career ERA over eight in August––by far his worst month historically. The only other month in which his ERA is above three is June.
Start being fair to this man.
For the sake of argument, however, what could be wrong with Matt Barnes?
It honestly seems pretty straightforward, as one can’t help but acknowledge how much wear and tear a pitcher endures when constantly being used in high leverage. For Barnes, he logged 32 medium-to-high leverage innings across his 43 through July.
Yes, he’s the closer, but that’s going to wear on anybody. Especially if you end up pitching three games in two days as he did on Aug. 7 and 8 in Toronto.
The fatigue is showing, not just in his run prevention––or lack thereof––but also in his pitch mix.
Through July, Barnes used his four-seam fastball 51.7 percent of the time, averaging 96.2 mph. His curveball was his second most-used pitch at 48 percent. His changeup/splitter and other unknown registered pitches came in at a 1.1 percent clip.
Entering Tuesday, he had been using his fastball just 45.3 percent of the time, at 95.8 mph on average. His curveball usage also decreased, though minimally, as he still uses it at a 47.2 percent clip. But his changeup has seen a drastic increase in usage, from 0.3 percent up to 7.5 percent.
You can always tell when an elite pitcher is tired by their pitch mix. A 6.4 percent dip in fastball usage, along with a 7.2 percent increase in changeup usage, is alarming.
For a more in-depth focus on that, check out Foolish Baseball’s video, titled, “GAME 7: Why Baseball Isn’t Fair (ft. Mariano Rivera & Aroldis Chapman).”
Fast forward to 4:21.
With all that in mind, it seems fair to assume that Barnes is dealing with fatigue issues. Barnes himself has even alluded to that being a key contributor to his struggles.
The Red Sox closer is going to figure it out; he needs some time to rest. With the likes of Garrett Whitlock, Adam Ottavino and even Hansel Robles, the Red Sox can get by without needing their All-Star bullpen Ace for a little bit. Let him get right because he’s still, unquestionably, a top 15-to-20 reliever in the league.