Mailbag: Chad Qualls

An $18 million luxury tax bill
Prospect Profile: David Phelps
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Rafi asks: If the Yankees are indeed still looking for a RH RP, allow me to throw out a name that seams to be totally off everyone’s radar: Chad Qualls. This guy has closer experience with a decent K (7.35/9) rate, good BB (2.5) rate, and of course, great GB rate (55% – the league leader this past year, was Tim Hudson at 64.1). He did walk 3.2/9 last season, but almost all his other numbers were the same. The biggest differences? A .399 BABIP leading to 13 H/9. While his 7.32 ERA was easily his high (almost double his previous), his FIP was 4.13, and xFIP was 3.91. Since he’s coming off such a poor looking year, and is a type-B, what kind of contract do you think he’ll get? I think he’s a great fit.

Qualls has been in the back of my mind all offseason mostly because his name stares me right in the face whenever I go to update the 2011 Draft Order page. Considering the season he had, which by most statistical measures was awful, I was stunned to hear that he turned down the Rays’ offer of arbitration. His stock was certainly down and accepting arbitration would have guaranteed him some sort of raise on this past season’s $4.185M salary. Is he going to get even $4M for one year on the open market? Hell no. Bad job by his agent declining.

Anyway, I’ve been a fan of Qualls’ ever since his playoff performance with the Astros during their run to the 2005 World Series. He threw 13 innings across nine appearances in Houston’s 14 postseason games, striking out ten, getting 68.8% ground balls, and holding opponents to a .233 wOBA. It was a beastly performance, no other way to put it. Unfortunately that was half-a-decade ago and not indicative of what he has to offer now.

As you said, Qualls’ underlying performance in 2010 wasn’t too far off from the rest of his career, he was just victimized by a .399 BABIP and a 53.0% strand rate (league average is 72%). There are legitimate concerns, though. His strikeout rate has declined in each of the last two seasons, from 8.67 K/9 in 2008 to 7.79 in 2009 to 7.47 in 2010, and unsurprisingly his swinging strike rate has declined as well (11.3%, 10.3%, 8.2%). His ground ball has also declined over the last two years, from 58.3% in ’08 to 56.9% in ’09 to 55% in ’10, and his walk rate was a career high 2.59 BB/9 (removing intentional walks). There’s a lot of stuff trending in the wrong direction here.

One thing to remember is that Qualls started the year coming off a very serious knee/leg injury that ended his 2009 season in late August. Jason Michaels hit him with a comeback line drive, resulting in a dislocated knee cap, a torn meniscus (in two places), and his quad muscle being partially torn off the bone. Ouch. There’s a chance the injury still hampered him a bit in 2010. Another thing to remember is that he’s 32, so his hellacious sinker might not be what it once was. Even if the pitch has lost just a little bit of sink, it’ll have a pretty big difference.

At his peak, from 2007 through 2009, Qualls struck out 8.38 batters per nine innings, walked just 1.77 per nine unintentionally, and got a ground ball 57.3% of the time. That’s an extremely valuable reliever, and any team that signs Qualls is banking on him returning to that level of performance, or at least thereabouts. Some normal BABIP and left-on-base rate regression will bring his ERA and WHIP back to reality, but the declining peripherals are enough to cast doubt on his ability to be effective going foward.

With all that said, I do prefer Qualls to all of the other right-handed relief options still on the market (Jon Rauch, Aaron Heilman, Octavio Dotel, etc.) and would be willing to roll the dice with him going into next season since it’s not my money. A ground ball pitcher does worry me a bit given the questionable defense on the left side of the infield, but seeing-eye singles are better than long fly balls that could go over the fence. Qualls is a Type-B free agent so it won’t cost a draft pick to sign him, and given how the rest of the relief market has played out this winter, a one year deal at $2-3M seems like a logical contract. I wouldn’t expect greatness, but I would expect a more than serviceable middle relief option with a chance for a bit more.

An $18 million luxury tax bill
Prospect Profile: David Phelps
  • Dick Whitman

    Jay Jaffe come out, come out, wherever you are…

  • Dela G

    DO NOT go after chad “gopherball” qualls. There is a reason we called him that when i lived in houston. The guy used to give up big homeruns in the wrong spots all the time

  • Andrew

    I didn’t realize he was recovering from such major injuries before his awful stretch in the D-Backs’ lolpen early last year. Looking at the fully body of work of his career, last year looks like a huge outlier, so I think he’s definitely worth the CHoP money if he’s interested in taking it.

    A bullpen of Mitre/whoever else might be long man, Qualls, Robertson, Chamberlain, Logan, Feliciano, Rivera–that’s a pretty solid group right there.

  • Zack

    That injury sounds nasty.

    While his agent might have messed up with the arbitration, that number isn’t guaranteed. He wouldn’t have much of a case for a grievance if they cut him after this past year and if he has a bad 10 IP in ST and another RP does better. Obviously if he has a good ST then that 4m becomes guaranteed, just risk in both choices.


    Qualis is nothing to get excited about.

  • IrishCarBomb

    The author of this thread also tried to say that Berkman was a great addition to the yankees.

    Qualls= TOTAL FAIL

    • pat


    • Steve H

      The author of this thread also tried to say that Berkman was a great addition to the yankees.

      He was.

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        fact city

      • Mattchu12


    • theyankeewarrior

      The author of this post must have missed the last 2 months of Yankee baseball in 2010

  • OldYanksFan

    Maybe if he doesn’t get a good offer in the next couple of weeks, maybe it would be reasonable to take a chance on him for $2.5m or so. That’s relatively low risk, high upside thinking.

  • prqdog

    question for you guys- don’t we want to avoid groundball pitchers- thought cashman’s whole thing was to get guys who can strike people out in order to not expose our older infielders?

    • Ed

      No, that was the thought process in a dumb newspaper article.

      Cashman’s thing is to get good pitchers. There’s a lot of overlap between really good pitchers and high strikeout rate pitchers, so some people jumped to the wrong conclusions.

  • pat

    Houston has a nice young reliever, this kid Mark Melancon. We should try and acquire him, kid looks legit.

    • Steve H

      Houston has a nice young reliever, this kid Mark Melancon. We should try and acquire him, kid looks legit transparent.

      • whozat

        well…maybe the texas sun helped bronze him up a bit?

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          don’t the stros play in a dome?

  • 43ec43

    Quick ask: re all the stats with acronyms, can you please have a directory on yoursite that explains what each acronym means. It would be helpful to decipher you r excellent performance reviews. Thank you.

  • Pounder

    NO……We are the YANKEES for Christ sake!!!!!

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      and this is relevant to????

    • Steve H

      Agreed. If we’re looking for right handed relievers go get Lincecum and Wainwright. We are the YANKEES afterall.

    • whozat

      Yeah! Effectively building a bullpen year after year by avoiding long-term commitments to players whose performance is inherently volatile is beneath us!

  • Hughesus Christo

    Seems like a good option.

  • Steve H

    People talk about the Yankees taking advance of their financial clout on big stars in FA, but guys like Qualls (like ChOP last year) are another way to use their financial advantage. Give him a shot for one year and if he fails, you easily eat the money and move on.

  • bottom line

    “A bullpen of Mitre/whoever else might be long man, Qualls, Robertson, Chamberlain, Logan, Feliciano, Rivera–that’s a pretty solid group right there”

    Seems to me that’s a very suspect pen with no really dependable 8th inning solution. Really don’t understand lack of urgency by Cash in improving pen, especially since rotation could be giving us five innings or less in lots of games. Perhaps Yanks think Brackman will be ready by June or July. But seems awful risky and pen could be burned out by then.

    • whozat

      Lack of urgency? Refusing to sign Soriano to a 4 year deal does not bespeak a lack of urgency, it shows that you’re wise enough not to give a long-term deal to a guy unlikely to be worth it just because of about 20-30 innings in the first few months of 2011.

    • Andrew

      Look around the rest of the league, there aren’t many better bullpens that are a) as cost-effective and cheap as the Yankees’ and b) that good. What because Cashman didn’t overpay to get guys like Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks, he’s got a “lack of urgency” in regard to the ‘pen? That’s the undertone to your complaining, and it doesn’t compute. The guys the Yankees were in on went elsewhere for various reasons, none of which was a “lack of urgency” by Cashman. And the offseason hasn’t ended yet, so it’s still premature to say the rotation is “giving 5 innings or less in lots of games”.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      the best inning solutions?

      CC, Hughes, AJ.

      In that order.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        * that’s 8th inning solutions.

        we really do need the post edit and the little ‘read’ icons :)

  • TopChuckie

    On top of the arbitration money, Qualls could have gotten a shot to close again in TB and then make much bigger money next offseason. Big mistake.

  • Jeffrey

    Somehow I doubt that Cashman is going to spend that money on Qualls. He didn’t look too generous when discussing with Kerry Wood who is a far superior option. I suspect that he is going to stick to the internal options for the bullpen.

    • Clay Bellinger

      They were apparently willing to give Wood 2 yrs/10 mil to return. That relatively generous.

  • bottom line

    Yes, it’s a cost-effective bullpen the Royals or Pirates could be proud of. But it’s not a gtood pen. And it’s not a good rotation either.

    This myth of reliever inconsistency has really swept up the masses in delusional thinking. Of course, there are many inconsistent relievers. But the best ones are good year after year. Is Rafael Soriano inconsistent? Oh, I guess he is. Hies ERA over the last six years oscillares between being uner 3 and under 2.50. Last year, he really upset the pattern with 1.73. That’s inconsistency Cashman could use at a very small fraction of what they were willing to pay Lee.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      ok that’s just dumb.

      Robertson Chamberlain Loogy Logan and Rivera…and you want to compare them to the AAAA lolpens in Pittsburgh and Kansas?

      I’m going to go ahead and guess most people didn’t read the rest of you post.

      • bottom line

        Guess you missed the point again. Not comparing our pen to theirs. Just saying a simply cost-effective pen would be satisfactory there.

    • jsbrendog (returns)


      i lol’d

    • Zack

      And look at the pattern of IP over his last 6 years. All relievers fluctuate somehow, he does it with health.

      • bottom line

        Looks to me like Soriano has delivered 60 innings or more four of the last five years. That’s actually very good for a guy who mostly pitches just one inning. The herd opposition to Soriano on feeble grounds that he’s a fragile inconsistent unreliable and overpriced option is simply ludicrous. The guy is good –very good — and would immediately improve theis flawed Yankee team dramatically, also allowing the potential trading of Joba (or conversion to starter).

        • Zack

          The herd opposition to Soriano on feeble grounds that he’s a fragile inconsistent unreliable and overpriced option is simply ludicrous

          He turned 31 a few days ago and he’s spent 33% of his career on the DL. He’s never had 3 full seasons in a row. He’s very good…when he’s on the mound. How is that reliable? He’s going to get a 4 years when he’s never proven he can actually pitch more than 2 years in a row.

          All relievers in general are unreliable. Go type in “The next mariano” in google, there’s countless number of names that pop up, yet they all fade away – becuase relievers burn out.

          He is overpriced. Boras is looking to get him closer money (4+ years at over 12m), plus the cost of the draft pick.

          No one said he wouldn’t improve the bullpen, doesn’t mean you do it. Werth would be an improvement over Gardner, doesn’t mean you give him 125m.

  • grace

    Ok, we need to stop getting relief pitchers and start getting starting pitchers because right now our only pitchers are CC, Hughes, and AJ. Pettite might not even come back so we are still left with three vacanacies and no one to fill them. Thanks Cliff Lee you were a great help with that by the way.