Rays Acquire Qualls

Late last night, the Rays acquired Chad Qualls for a player to be named later and assumed all of the remaining $1.6m of his salary. It is too bad that Qualls does not still play for the Astros as maybe they would have thrown in most of the money to cover the salary – or do they only do that for teams with $140m+ payrolls?  Regardless, the Rays have made a deadline deal for the first time in the last three season. It is not the big splash move many were hoping for but there are still just less than eight hours away from the end of the non-waiver deadline.

Qualls comes to the Rays with just under 450 innings of major league experience as well as with 15 appearances in the post-season as a member of the Houston Astros.  Qualls has two redeeming qualities – strikeouts and groundballs. The chart below shows how well he has done in both of those categories throughout this career.

Year IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP
2005 79.2 6.8 2.6 0.8 .286 75% 58% 15% 3.28 3.75
2006 88.2 5.7 2.8 1.0 .254 75% 60% 15% 3.76 4.50
2007 82.2 8.5 2.7 1.1 .323 85% 57% 15% 3.05 3.94
2008 73.2 8.7 2.2 0.5 .294 69% 58% 9% 2.81 2.77
2009 52 7.8 1.2 0.9 .321 71% 57% 14% 3.63 3.14
2010 38 8.1 3.6 1.2 .434 52% 55% 14% 8.29 4.30
Career 447.2 7.4 2.5 0.9 .308 73% 58% 13% 3.74 3.76
Post-season 21 7.3 3.0 0.9 .299 66% 71% 22% 4.71 3.65

Yes, his ERA is scary this season, but look at it compared to his 4.30 FIP. Arizona’s team defense is rather average over the past few seasons while the Rays are one of the better in baseball. Additionally, Chase Field is extremely tough on pitchers while Tropicana Field is the opposite.  In fact, Qualls has spent his entire career pitching in two offensive-leaning parks so the switch to Tropicana Field should help him some. On the chart above, take not on just how much his 2010 LOB% and BABIP are out of line with his career numbers. I challenge you to find another pitcher who has been that unlucky in 2010, or any season in the past few years for that matter.  Qualls suffered a rather painful injury near the end of 2009 when a Jason Michaels line drive hit Qualls in the knee dislocating kneecap but that has not affected his velocity in any manner so the stuff is still there, but the results are not.

Let me make one thing clear here, Qualls is not Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, or Rafael Soriano but he does not need to be. Only Randy Choate can exceed the rate at which Qualls induces groundballs and the only other pitcher over 50% is Lance Cormier. Given the fact Qualls gets more groundballs than Cormier, misses a lot of more bats than Cormier, and walks a lot less, I believe Lance Cormier has thrown his last pitch for this organization. The only other possibility would be to send Andy Sonnanstine to the minors who has not pitched in twelve days and has seen his role limited to doctoring up the picture of whatever promotional effort is on the outfield fence near the bullpen.  The move is a low-risk move that costs the club very little and Qualls’ strikeout and groundball skills are a definite upgrade from Lance Cormier’s efforts in those capacities so the club has taken the first step in addressing a weakness. What else they do today to counteract the additions of Berkman and Kearns in New York remains to be seen.

Some of the early returns on the move from Rays’ fans are less than flattering:

  • WTF???????
  • Also capable of posting a sub-8.29 ERA for #Rays these days: Jason Isringhausen, Lance Carter, Victor Zambrano, Casey Fossum, & John Rocker.
  • Why, oh why, oh why would the Rays want to trade for a right-handed relief pitcher with an over 8.0 ERA??? please tell me it ain’t so!

Fans probably forget that Joaquin Benoit had an ERA over 5.00 four different times in his career, Grant Balfour was as high as 7.66 as recently as 2007 (when the Rays acquired him), and that Rafael Soriano had an ERA of 4.56 as a rookie. There is life beyond ERA and I think in the long run, fans will look back at this move and wonder how the Rays stole Qualls from the Diamondbacks just as they have the other bullpen moves the club has made in recent years. The Rays may have had trouble identifying a Designated Hitter but their bullpen track record has been rather amazing as long as you can block out that Troy Percival signing.

Related post at TheProcessReport

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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