He earned the honor by posting a 2.61 ERA, 2.09 FIP, and .518 opponent OPS over 38 appearances prior to the Midsummer Classic.
His stellar start to the year was even enough for the Red Sox to ink him to a contract extension.
Here to stay!
— Red Sox (@RedSox) July 11, 2021
But after the 2021 All-Star break, everything came apart for Barnes.
Over his final 16 appearances, he was virtually unserviceable.
He got shelled to the tune of 10.13 ERA and 7.86 FIP over that span.
His struggles were bad enough for the Red Sox to leave him off the ALCS roster.
No doubt, it was a rough way for his year to end.
But his time with the Red Sox is far from over, for better or worse.
What’s next for him?
Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Still Has Faith In Barnes
Chaim Bloom, who calls the shots for the Red Sox, isn’t worried about Barnes’ future.
After the team left Barnes off the ALCS roster, Bloom had this to say.
“Knowing what Matt looks like when he’s at the very top of his game made it harder to see him go through a rough patch,” Bloom said. “I have no doubt that he will get back to that place, but when you’re talking about these types of series, we obviously have a shorter time. The opponents matter a lot, the way you might use a guy … is everything.”
Bloom added that he still thinks of Barnes as “one of the best and most reliable relievers in the game.”
“Just knowing who he is and getting to know him a lot better over the course of the last two years and looking at the totality of his track record, including the entirety of this year, he’s still up there as one of the best and most reliable relievers in the game, so I’m not worried about him long term at all,” Bloom said during Boston’s postseason run. “Obviously, would we love for him to be dominating on a nightly basis like he did in the first half? Of course, but big picture, I still feel the same way about him as I did a couple months ago.
“… What we know about Matt Barnes, and he’s shown it for an extended period of time, is his ceiling is the absolute top echelon of relievers in this game, so the next challenge, which is a tall order for anybody, is to position himself to be at that level always.”
It’s clear that Bloom and the Red Sox still have confidence in Barnes, but he’s definitely going to have to prove his worth in 2022.
Boston is hoping that its extension with the one-time All-Star won’t end up looking like a mistake.
Should Boston Actually Be Confident In Barnes’ Ability To Bounce Back?
Bloom mentioned Barnes’ track record and spoke of it glowingly.
Let’s take a look at it.
His first couple of seasons at the MLB level were rocky, but we’ll throw those ones out since he was still finding his footing.
He first established himself as a solid relief option in 2016.
And since then, he has made 348 appearances, giving us a massive sample size to evaluate.
Over that span, he has registered a 3.86 ERA, 120 ERA+, 3.36 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP.
That’s certainly solid production, and it might be a sign of what his future holds.
It’s easy to get caught up in small sample sizes.
Barnes’ poor finish to the 2021 season was just a tiny portion of his overall resume.
Matt Barnes, Sword Collector. ⚔️⚔️⚔️ pic.twitter.com/6QC0ZKLZeL
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 29, 2021
In the first half of the 2021 season, we saw Barnes at his best.
In the second half of the 2021 season, we saw Barnes at his worst.
The real Barnes probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Red Sox fans probably shouldn’t expect him to be an All-Star-caliber arm in 2022, but it’s reasonable to think that he could re-establish himself as a reliable relief option.
That’s the hope, anyway.