Just when I thought the Chad Qualls era with the Houston Astros was drawing to a close, I had a very persistent CTH reader keep on asking us one question. Why was Qualls left off the roster for the American League Division Series versus the Kansas City Royals? I wrote this weekend that maybe this omission was a sign of what was to come for Qualls this offseason and if the Astros pick up his third-year option? You can read it here: Do the Astros need to buy-out of Chad Qualls contract? Coming into the season, you would have thought that the former closer for the Astros would be on the postseason roster if they made it, but he wasn’t.
Power versus Sink
According to Brian McTaggart, Hinch said that the final roster spot came down to Qualls and Josh Fields, with them going with the later because he is the pitcher in the bullpen with the highest velocity. Fields average velocity is 94.3 mph via Fangraphs while Qualls averages 91.6 mph. I can see where Hinch’s logic was coming from, bring in the hard-throwing right-hander after seeing a pitcher like Pat Neshek. However, Qualls does have the ability to get a critical double play as a high rate ground ball pitcher.
Preston Tucker versus Chad Qualls
For most of the season, the Astros carried 12 pitchers pretty consistently. Hinch felt for this series versus the Royals that it would be better to carry the extra bat in Tucker to come off the bench in the right situation or matchup. Yes, Tucker got a bunch of playing time this season, but mostly when Jake Marisnick, George Springer, or Carlos Gomez were on the mend. With Marwin Gonzalez‘s ability to play the outfield, I am surprised the Astros carried five outfielders. As much as I am a fan of Tucker, it wouldn’t have hurt the Astros if he was not on the roster versus the Royals
Struggled in September and October
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As I wrote in my earlier post, Qualls struggled in May (4.91 ERA), June (8.44 ERA), and September/October (6.14 ERA) via Fangraphs. Maybe the fact that Qualls struggled down the stretch led to Hinch not feeling confident in his ability to get hitters out with the pressure of the playoffs. However, according to McTaggart, Hinch told Qualls that he would be on the on a potential ALCS roster if they made it. Maybe the Astros wanted to give Qualls some time to rest, but he didn’t get that opportunity. Maybe it had to do with how the Royals have played against Qualls.
Matchup against the Royals
It’s hard to look at Quall’s head to head stats versus the Royals in 2015, as he only faced them one time pitching one inning striking out two hitters. Hinch might have looked at Quall’s career stats versus the Royals. Over his career, Qualls has struggled more against the Angels (8.44 ERA), Twins (8.31 ERA), and Athletics (7.41 ERA) than he has against the Royals (5.00 ERA). Maybe this can be due to Royals style of hitting where they seek contact.
These are a few reasons why Qualls could have been MIA on the playoff roster. The real reason is within the heads of Hinch and Luhnow, we may never know.