When I started digging into the numbers for Chad Qualls, I was a bit surprised to find a guy, who I perceived, to have struggled in his time with Houston actually turn out to be a well above average relief pitcher. That's why relying soley on your perceptions is a bad idea and why statistics are a great compliment to the game of baseball.
In four seasons with Houston Qualls posted a 129 ERA+ with the Astros, which is why he's being covered today in advance of game 129 on the season.
Drafted in the second round of the 2000 draft, Qualls followed a lineage of dominate relievers produced by the Astros farm system. First it was Billy Wanger (171 ERA+), then Brad Lidge (133 ERA+) and finally Chad Qualls (I'm sure many of you think of Octavio Dotel when discussing these names, but he was a Mets product). Since there time the Astros have employed above average relievers via trade (Jose Valverde, Matt Lindstrom, Latroy Hawkins and Mark Melancon) or the waiver wire (Wilton Lopez); None have come from the farm system.
|HOU (4 yrs)||23||12||3.39||262||52||6||284.0||267||113||107||30||84||218||129||1.236||8.5||1.0||2.7||6.9||2.60|
As you can see from the table above Qualls' one down year was 2006 and even then he was well above average in regards to ERA+. I remember him struggling, but maybe that's because of the expectations we had of him having to follow in the footsteps of Wagner and Lidge.
On December 14, 2007, Qualls was traded, along with Chris Burke and Juan Gutierrez, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jose Valverde. In his two years with the Astros Valverde posted a 143 ERA+; In his two years with the Diamondbacks Qualls posted a 145 ERA+.
Now that isn't as black and white as it seems. Valverde leaving via free agency for the Detroit Tigers, under the old CBA, allowed the Astros to select Michael Foltynewicz and Mike Kvasnicka in the 2010 draft. While Qualls had a terrible third year with the Diamondbacks, 51 ERA+ in 38 inning, leading to his midseason trade to the Tampa Bay Rays. Since then he's had an average year with the Padres and a terrible go of it with the Phillies, Yankees and now Pirates.
Is the two years of Jose Valverde, the selection of Michael Foltynewicz and Mike Kvasnicka greater than the loss of Chad Qualls, Chris Burke and Juan Gutierrez? I don't know, but at the moment I'm leaning towards a push on the trade. I think a lot of the deal working in the Astros favor hangs on Folty and what he becomes. Signs are encouraging but he's got a long way to go to match the other side of the deal.
But this is an article about Qualls and it could be argued that Chad Qualls was one of the last good products to come out of the farm system particularly in the bullpen.