Chad Qualls is no longer the pitcher who teamed with Brad Lidge in Houston from 2004 through 2007, posting a 3.39 ERA with 6.9 strikeouts and 2.7 walks over four seasons, nor is he the pitcher who saved 24 games in 2009. But his price tag -- $1.15 million on a one-year contract the Phillies announced earlier today -- suggests he is not expected to be that guy. So what SHOULD you expect?
A veteran pitcher who. . .
1) . . .can run through a righty or two or three in a late-and-close situation. Last year, Qualls held righties to a .218/.255/.282 line with 28 strikeouts and eight walks in 156 at-bats.
2) . . .should only be used against a lefty if the other options are Michael Martinez and death. Qualls allowed a .320/.381/.500 line with 15 strikeouts, 12 walks and four home runs in 135 plate appearances against southpaws last season. In 2010, lefties hit .392/.448/.583 in 135 plate appearances against him.
3) . . .will have to adjust to pitching outside of Petco Park. Qualls finished 2011 with a 3.51 ERA in 77 appearances, but much of his success came at home. Away from the wide open spaces of Petco, he posted a 5.05 ERA in 38 appearances.
4) . . .may need to be monitored early in the season. Last season, he held opponents to a .601 OPS before the All-Star Break, and an .811 OPS afterwards.
All things considered, this is a low-risk signing with some upside that, at the very least, gives Charlie Manuel another righty-on-righty option. Although Qualls' performance has dipped the last couple of seasons, his fastball velocity was still at his career average of 92.6 according to FanGraphs. He threw that fastball a career-low 60 percent of the time last season, while throwing his slider 40 percent of the time. Qualls is also a ground ball pitcher with a sparkling 1.30 GB/FB rate in his career.
With lefties Antonio Bastardo and Dontrelle Willis and righties like Qualls, Mike Stutes and Kyle Kendrick, Manuel should have a much better ability to play righty/lefty match-ups in front of his closer. If Jose Contreras stays healthy, it only adds to the mix (Contreras missed most of last season with an elbow injury and has just started throwing on flat ground after offseason surgery. The Phillies think he will be close to ready by Opening Day, but a lot depends on how he responds once he starts throwing off a mound).