Matt Barnes: 'Being a two-pitch pitcher in this league right now is incredibly hard'

Rob Bradford
August 23, 2019 - 12:18 pm

Things haven't gone quite as planned for Matt Barnes this season.

The strategy of using the reliever to face the meat of the opponents' batting order -- regardless of the inning -- has taken a detour, with the Red Sox for intent-and-purposes dubbing Brandon Workman as their ninth-inning guy.

Part of the detour was due to an unrealistic expectation that one pitcher could be called upon each and every time to face the opposition's best. There also hasn't been the same sort of production. For instance, while Barnes carried a high success rate against No. 3 hitters in 2018 -- limiting the spot in the order to a .192 batting average and .642 OPS -- this time around there has been a .407 batting average against from the third hitter against the righty.

While Barnes has had his fair share of success throughout 2019 he did open up on the Bradfo Sho podcast regarding some of the unexpected challenges thrown his way. And, as he pointed out, a good chunk of the ups and downs have been a product of having to adjust to the changing times in Major League Baseball.

"It’s a different game now," Barnes explained. "It is. Being a two-pitch pitcher in this league right now is incredibly hard. Unless you have something that is so far above everything else. Like if you have a 100 mph cutter or (Jordan) Hicks is throwing a 102 mph sinkers or (Josh) Hader is throwing 99 mph from right field. Unless you have something crazy like that, it’s just a hard game to be a two-pitch pitcher in right now."

Barnes' approach certainly doesn't lend itself to the way most pitchers are being raised these days.

Only one pitcher (Minnesota's Ryne Harper) throws a higher percentage of curveballs, with Barnes throwing the pitch 50.4 percent of the time. The rest of the offerings are almost always fastballs. In other words, he represents the kind of pitcher that baseball is trending away from.

The difference for Barnes, however, is that he can usually get away with the two offerings considering their effectiveness.

He owns a fastball that lives up in the zone at an average speed of 96.4 mph while possessing the aforementioned curveball that has held opponents to a .193 batting average against while getting the majority of his swings and misses. The challenge, according to Barnes, is figuring out when hitters are starting to key on one more than the other.

"It’s a constant battle of trying to figure out when do I maybe switch a little bit," he said. "When do I start attack, attack, attack with the heaters and then drop a curveball in. Maybe you continue to pound heaters because maybe it looks like they’re sitting on curveballs. 

"I’m still going to throw it. I’m going to throw it. I’m going to throw what I want, whenever I want, where I want. I have to. That’s my stuff and here it is."