Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.
No. 28, Chad Qualls (0.0 rWAR)
Every team needs an Old Mediocre Reliever (OMR), and Qualls filled that role for the 2016 and 2017 Rockies—at least when he pitched. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as often as the Rockies would have liked, as he threw just 162⁄3 innings this year, and just 461⁄3 innings total over his 2-year, $6 million deal. A few disabled-list stints, including two this year, limited his time on the roster.
On a per-inning basis, 2017 Chad Qualls was indeed the platonic OMR: 5.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and a 5.40 ERA. Like any respectable OMR, he had a bad meltdown where he looked closer to 58 years old rather than 38 years old. For Chad, that came in a key inning of what would be the No. 55 Dumbest Rockies Game of the Year. Up 8-4 against the Reds in the 6th, Qualls surrendered 3 earned runs in what was a 5-run inning for the Reds. The Reds went on to win 12-8.
Qualls, who opened the season on the disabled list, went back on it in mid-June. He returned and to face seven Giants hitters at the end of the month, but was DFA’d to make room for Jon Gray on June 30th. No team chose to pick Qualls up, and he ended the year as a free agent.
Like most Old Mediocre Relievers, Qualls was hardly noticeable with the Rockies. He was the baseball equivalent of a ham sandwich from Subway. That said, the anonymity of becoming an OMR can obscure the solid and sometimes excellent career that they had prior. Nobody sticks in the big leagues till they’re nearly 40 by being bad the whole time. Qualls wasn’t a premier closer, but he earned his reputation as a strike-thrower and extreme groundballer who could get key outs late in games.
There’s a good chance that Qualls has reached the end of his major league career, and as a guy who turns 40 next year, perhaps the end of his professional career. It would not be surprising to see him quietly retire sometime during the offseason. On the off chance he pitches in the majors next year, it almost certainly won’t be for the Rockies. Regardless of what he chooses, he’s had a career to be proud of.
P.S. - I am contractually obligated to post this GIF in Chad’s honor: