Look past ERA and Chad Qualls can be a free agent bargain

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With a 7.32 ERA in 59 innings split between two teams Chad Qualls had a dreadful season, but most of that can be blamed on a .399 batting average on balls in play that was the worst in all of baseball among the 327 pitchers who logged at least 50 innings.

In fact, Qualls was one of just two pitchers with a batting average on balls in play above .375. Qualls could be unlucky again in 2011 and that number would still probably drop by 40 points, and his career mark is .309.

Thanks to a solid strikeout rate and high percentage of ground balls he posted a nice-looking Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) of 3.91, which is typically a better predictor of future ERA than ERA itself. And both his xFIPs and ERAs were consistently in the 2.75-3.50 range from 2004-2009.

Even while struggling Qualls maintained good velocity on his fastball-slider combo and if teams can avoid being scared off by his ugly ERA there’s a quality setup man to be found in Qualls’ track record and secondary numbers.

The Angels were the first team to use up all of their mound visits

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Last night’s Angels-Astros game was a long affair with a bunch of homers and the use of 11 pitchers in all. The Angels used six pitchers and all of that business led to plenty of conferences. Six, in fact, which is their allotment under the new rule capping mound visits. As far as I can tell, that makes the Angels the first team to use up all of their mound visits since the advent of the rule.

Sadly, they did not try to go for a seventh, thereby testing the currently unknown limits of the rule. Umpires have been instructed to not allow additional mound visits, but they cannot issue balls or tackle anyone or anything to enforce it. Presumably, if Maldonado had walked out to talk to Cam Bedrosian about the weather or where he was going to dinner after the game, the home plate umpire would’ve simply done the old Robin Williams English policeman’s bit of yelling “Stop! . . . or I shall yell ‘Stop!’ again!” Maybe a fine would issue later, but we’ll never know.

At least until someone breaks the limit. And we know someone will, right? We should have a betting pool on who does it.