The righty was named an All-Star last season after he put together an outstanding first half.
In fact, Barnes’ first few months of the 2021 campaign were so impressive that the Red Sox inked him to an extension on July 11.
Red Sox make it official. They have signed Matt Barnes to a two-year extension with a club option for 2024.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 11, 2021
At that point in time, the veteran had a 2.68 ERA, 2.03 FIP, and .509 opponent OPS for the season.
He had established himself as an extremely reliable arm in Boston’s bullpen and played a huge role in the team’s success up to that point.
However, once the calendar turned to August, everything changed for Barnes.
From August 4 on, he got shelled to the tune of a 10.13 ERA, 7.86 FIP, and 1.100 opponent OPS over 16 appearances.
His struggles got so bad that he didn’t even make the team’s ALCS roster.
After Boston’s 2021 season ended, Barnes had a clear task in front of him: to figure out what went wrong near the end of 2021, and correct it in time for 2022.
But unfortunately, with just a few days to go until Boston’s 2022 season opener, Barnes is dealing with an alarming obstacle.
Matt Barnes was just at 92-93 mph today on the gun. Cora said the lack of velocity was something that caught his eye given it’s the end of the spring
— Julian McWilliams (@byJulianMack) April 2, 2022
Barnes’ fastball is a crucial part of his arsenal, and if it isn’t firing on all cylinders, he could find himself struggling again in 2022.
Alex Cora Chimes In
Red Sox manager Alex Cora recently offered his take on Barnes’ dip in velocity to Boston.com.
Cora seems to think that the reliever’s leg kick is part of the problem.
“I think it’s something about his leg kick,” Cora said. “Last year he was a lot tighter. Now he’s like loose. If you want to use a reference, it’s like a figure skater. When you open, it slows down. When you close, you’re actually faster, quicker. So hopefully that’s what gets him going. Kind of engaged in his delivery. And then he doesn’t have to create. Right now, mechanically he’s so off and then he tries to create velocity and it’s not there.”
Cora is well aware of how important Barnes’ fastball is to his success.
“Hopefully his [velocity] ticks up before we get there, because that was a game-changer last year: [velocity] and attacking,” Cora said. “So we’ll take a look at it and keep working with him. But that’s something that caught my attention today. … You saw the kids throwing 95-96. We’re at the stage in spring regardless of where we’re at, 19 days, 20 days, whatever, we’re almost there. And we need to get going.”
If Barnes struggles to find his footing this season, navigating the bullpen is going to be a tall task for Cora and the Red Sox.
Boston’s bullpen was serviceable during the 2021 regular season, as the unit pitched to a solid 3.99 ERA.
However, once Barnes started to struggle, the staff got substantially less reliable, which was highlighted in the playoffs.
Boston’s bullpen posted an ugly 5.23 ERA in the postseason.
Barnes saw action in just one playoff game, and it was a low-leverage spot.
Once he became a non-factor, everything changed.
The Red Sox are going to need the former first-round pick to figure things out in 2022, and if that’s going to happen, his velocity is going to need to come up.