Mike Ritter, of MLB.com, reports Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Chad Qualls has replaced relief pitcher Brandon Lyon as closer for the remainder of the season. In the ninth frame of the club's game Friday, Sept. 12, Lyon nearly blew a 3-0 lead by giving up four singles and two runs before Qualls replaced him to get the final out.
Melvin said he chose Qualls over some of the team's other bullpen options, such as relief pitcher Jon Rauch, because Qualls has been his hottest reliever. Qualls is 4-9 with a 3.11 ERA and 3-2 since July 10. He hasn't been scored on in eight straight appearances and has allowed a run in only one of his last 18. The right-hander posted a 1.98 ERA in August and has yet to allow a run in six innings in September. Melvin noted that Qualls has been getting ahead in counts and has used his slider more effectively recently.
In his career, Qualls has never been officially named a team's regular closer, but the right-hander has three saves in 2008 and nine in his career. Last season, in which he notched five saves, he filled in at times for current Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge when Lidge struggled while both were members of the Houston Astros.
Lyon has an 11.57 ERA since the All-Star break, although only one of his five blown saves has come in the second half. He endured most of his problems in non-save situations, but it was enough that manager Bob Melvin felt the need to make a switch, with the club in playoff contention. The manager added that Lyon would probably be used in fewer pressure situations in the seventh and eighth innings.
Setup man Tony Pena would likely have been used if a save situation presented itself Saturday, Sept. 13, according to Melvin. Qualls likely wasn't available because he had pitched in four of the club's previous six contests.
Qualls could use the final two weeks of this campaign, along with any potential playoff games, as an audition for the role in 2009. Lyon is a free agent after the 2008 season. Qualls said his goal has been to become a closer since he became a relief pitcher.
Fantasy baseball owners, especially keeper leaguers, shouldn't hesitate to pluck Qualls from their league's free-agent pool. If a fantasy manager can make up ground in the saves category in the last couple of weeks of this season, this move is a no-brainer. If not, it prevents another owner from making a final push in said category.
Fantasy baseball players in full-retention keeper leagues may have themselves a legitimate low-end No. 2 closer, with the potential to be more, if they're the first to Qualls in leagues in which he's not owned.
Needless to say, Lyon should be discarded in all formats. Fantasy owners who were hopeful that Rauch was next in line needn't waste the roster spot anymore, either. Pena remains valuable in very deep leagues in which backing up a closer is worthwhile or in any leagues in which holds is a category.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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