It’s just been that kind of a season for Chad Qualls. He still has a 92+ MPH fastball, and he still has a biting 86 MPH slider. He’s still inducing over 50% ground balls. He’s walking fewer than three batters per nine innings and his 9.15 K/9 is a career high.
Despite all of this, Chad Qualls’s ERA was at 6.86 entering last night’s appearance against the Atlanta Braves.
Qualls had been the baseball embodiment of Murphy’s Law this season. Entering last night’s game, his excellent peripherals had his FIP at 3.97 and his xFIP at 3.23. When we look at some of the luck indicating statistics, we see where the disaster has originated. His HR/FB rate was sitting at 16.7%, but that’s not terribly surprising given a 13.5% career rate. After that, things start getting ridiculous. Qualls had only managed to strand 54.9% of baserunners. Despite a typical batted ball profile – 19.4 LD%, 53.7% FB, 26.9 GB% – his BABIP was a lofty .441.
Interestingly enough, last night’s appearance, a save in a 7-4 Diamondbacks victory was an outing in which Qualls threw only 11 of his 27 pitches for strikes and walked the bases loaded. He only managed to escape due to two ground outs, including a double play ball off the bat of Yunel Escobar to end the game. Perhaps this is the beginning of some regression for Qualls. The two ground outs lowered his BABIP all the way to .429. His LOB% skyrocketed to 58.7% after stranding the bases loaded.
Despite this outing, Qualls has still had terrible results this season. Whether it’s the 19 runs allowed in just over 20 innings, or the four blown saves, or the equal number of shutdowns and meltdowns (6 each), or the -1.59 total WPA. He was on the verge of yet another meltdown last night. The fact that Qualls still has excellent peripherals likely offers little consolation to Diamondbacks fans, who have seen their team utterly waste one of the league’s highest octane offenses because of a bullpen that can’t shut the door. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, this is just one of the issues that a team faces when attempting to build a bullpen: even when you do everything right, it can all still go horribly wrong.