Chad Qualls should be the Astros closer (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Fire the committee and make Chad Qualls the closer

Bullpen by committee. No, thank you.

The Houston Astros are innovators. Trendsetters. The team that employs a “decision sciences” department refuses to conform to the “traditional” strategies that are commonly used in the major leagues.

Bo Porter (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Tasking one specific pitcher with protecting leads in the ninth inning is one of those antiquated strategies that doesn’t make sense scientifically.

Yet the Astros are one of maybe two teams in the majors currently taking the “bullpen by committee” approach. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but wait. It gets better.

One would think that science would dictate the use of one’s best pitcher available in “save situations”. Apparently not.

Apparently it’s smarter to use inexperienced pitchers in these high pressure situations. You see, that’s the kind of “out of the box” thinking that separates the Astros from other teams. (by about five games in the standings by early May)

Apparently, pitchers that have been discarded by other teams and will work for the MLB minimum salary are the ones best suited for ninth inning duty when your team is clinging to the smallest of leads. Rule 5 draft picks and guys that were traded for Rule 5 draft picks are ideal. Science tells us so.

After Anthony Bass failed to protect a 1-run ninth inning lead in Baltimore last night, we learned that something other than science played a role in that particular decision.


Okay. That sounds like a good enough reason to go with Bass. And, after Paul Clemens came in and absorbed the loss in the tenth, we needed a good excuse for why Qualls was left on the bench.

Qualls, the highest paid member of the current Astros bullpen, has seen only two save opportunities all season. His last such opportunity, which came way back on April 19th, didn’t go so well. But, since then, Chad has reeled off seven straight scoreless appearances.

That’s seems more like the kind of pitcher Houston needs on the mound in those rare occasions that there is a ninth inning lead to protect.

Yes, I realize that Qualls currently sports a dreadful 1.9 WHIP. But he also boasts a 2.53 FIP and an ERA+ of 105, both of which are tops among Astros relievers not currently on the disabled list.

I know I’ve been saying it since February, but it seems painfully obvious that Qualls is the best only candidate for closer on this team. We can only hope that tonight’s message from Bo Porter is a thinly veiled power grab by the Astros’ skipper. Seriously. Porter needs to grab the bullpen by the horns and prove that he’s capable of making some good decisions. Otherwise, he’s going to be looking for a new job sooner rather than later.


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Tags: Bo Porter Chad Qualls Houston Astros

  • G Bro

    Amen. I love “decision science” when it produces some results.But castoffs are castoffs. The science should not just be a means to select league-minimum salaried players who are a tiny bit better than the others.
    Find us a closer and stick with him. Find a set-up man in that mess and stick with him, too. Rolling the dice night after night when victory is within reach is demoralizing and stupid. At least let fans pretend you are trying.

  • † ⚾ Mundo ⚾ †

    I agree having a designated closer leads to inflated salaries for guys who, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really contribute much to the team over the course of 162 nine-inning games. What I would like to see more teams do is something Phil Garner did with Roy Oswalt a few times when Brad Lidge was unavailable – let a starting pitcher get his between-start work done on the mound in the ninth inning of a game.

    You are right in saying, “One would think that science would dictate the use of one’s best pitcher available in ‘save situations.’” Your best pitchers on the staff are your starters – you should use them as closers between starts, especially since these pansies can rarely get you more than 6 innings per start.

    • Greg Thurston

      That’s an interesting idea. But you know we are never going to see that happen. Starters are pitching less and less. They aren’t going to be used in between starts. Plus, and with all due respect to Jarred Cosart and company, there’s no Roy Oswalt on this staff.