The End of the Chad Qualls Era
The much-ballyhooed end of the Chad Qualls era is upon us, as the Phillies have designated the right-handed reliever for assignment. Qualls had a disastrous time in Philly, posting a 4.60 ERA that is, somehow, far too kind to him. He surrendered one home run per every four fly balls, an obnoxiously-high rate — the second-highest among relievers (min. 30 IP), in fact, behind Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners.
At the end of January, when the Phillies signed Qualls, Paul Boye warned of Qualls’ declining K-rate. In 2012, it is nearly half the rate it was in 2008 (13.6%, 23.7%). Not much else had changed in the time between ’08 and ’12: he still surrendered walks at an infrequent rate (between 6 and 7%) and allowed home runs at his normal pace (between 11 and 14% of fly balls). It all went haywire this year, though, as he became nothing more than a piñata for opposing hitters.
The obvious struggles occurred against left-handed batters, who posted a staggering .480 wOBA against him in 60 plate appearances, compared to the .282 of right-handed hitters in 80 PA. You can see the difference in the heat maps here:
In the past, I have argued that the Phillies should be able to identify these weaknesses and utilize their relievers accordingly. Last year, for example, I saw potential for J.C. Romero to have utility as a LOOGY (a left-handed, one-out guy), but Charlie Manuel gave him the handedness advantage against fewer than two out of every five batters. Likewise, Qualls could have had value as a ROOGY but likely nothing beyond that.
Qualls was a relatively cheap ($1.15 million) gamble that didn’t pay off in the end. Fortunately, the Phillies didn’t commit multiple years and multiple millions of dollars to Qualls the way they have in the past with Romero, Jose Contreras, and Danys Baez, among others, so it’s no big deal. Soon, another team will, like the Phillies, pick up Qualls only to ignore all of the warning signs and fail to utilize him correctly, giving up tens of unnecessary runs. Then, they will release him soon thereafter in frustration. The baseball world, she never stops turning.