“They are who we thought they were!” One of the greatest and easily usable quotes in sports history came from former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green. The quote applies to so many things.
If your team gets knocked around and blown out by a better team, “they are who you thought they were.” If you think you have a shot against a former Cy Young winner because he’s coming off an injury, only to be dominated as usual, “he was who you thought he was.” And if you bring in a former closer who has shown more of a propensity for giving up runs than preserving them of late with the hopes that he can be molded into a solid set-up man, only to melt down in his first real opportunity, “he is who you thought he was.”
Forgive the possible run-on sentence above, and the roundabout way of getting to the point that Chad Qualls is not a fit for an 8th inning hold man. He proved this last night. While there will be more opportunity for redemption in Qualls’ future, he was promoted and put into the set-up role because he’s supposed to bridge the gap from starter/reliever to Heath Bell.
Qualls spent last season in Arizona posting an 8.29 ERA before being shipped to Tampa and posting a 5.57 ERA to close out the season. Qualls struggled all of last season after having himself a decent career up to that point. Therefore, the Padres thought he could return to form in the spacious, pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park. Unfortunately, they passed up a solid candidate for set-up man when they chose to promote Qualls in the wake of Mike Adams’ trade.
Luke Gregerson, while experimenting with mustache choices, has quietly been putting together a nice resume for the Padres. Since his call-up in 2009, Gregerson is sitting on a 3.18 ERA, a 1.097 WHIP, and 9 K’s per 9 innings. He’s also only 27 and making $448,000 this season. He’s not eligible for free agency until 2015, and he has three arbitration years ahead of him unless his contract is re-worked.
Qualls, on the other hand, Is going to be 33 in a few days and is making $2.55 Million this season with a club option for 2012.
Qualls is still an above average pitcher. For his career, he has 3.7 WAR. Gregerson, through three seasons, has a 1.7 WAR. However, Gregerson has not yet had the opportunity to be a set-up man, let alone a closer. Qualls has held both positions.
It would be easy to write this off as a rant in response to last night’s bullpen meltdown, but the numbers, both statistical and contractual, support Gregerson in the set-up role over Qualls.
Qualls will do well in San Diego. Most pitchers who come here show better numbers than their previous career stops. But Qualls is who we thought he was and is better served as a 7th inning guy or long-relief man.