We've had our share of Arizona fire drills this season, so a lot of this will come as a review. Let's condense it to its simplest form:
You should know the Qualls story by now; he's been gasoline alley from the opening of the season. It's a shame, because the setup looks so good with his career profile into the season – he's always had a good walk/strikeout ratio and he's a ground ball pitcher. But in 2010, that's all been shot to smithereens.
Qualls wasn't working in a save situation Thursday against Atlanta but it was essentially the same level of importance – the top of the ninth, at home, in a tie score. That's a routine assignment for a closer, since a save opportunity is no longer possible. The loss Thursday was death by a thousand cuts – the Braves nicked Qualls for five singles and four runs – but at the end of the day we don't ask how, we ask how many?
The Qualls sympathizers will quickly note that Qualls was working for the third time in four days and the fifth time in seven days, but when you're carrying a 7.77 ERA and 2.09 WHIP, there's nowhere to hide. A.J. Hinch has been clearly frustrated with his team's ninth-inning messes in recent weeks, so we could be close to a tipping point with his closer preference. The Q did have a win and three saves on his June ledger entering Thursday, but remember that his Monday conversion came despite three walks in the ninth (27 pitches, 10 strikes). Give the carny a pair of tickets, sonny, and you can take your chances on this carnival ride, too.
Heilman is a journeyman all the way, but he's clearly the best addition for anyone that's hedging Qualls right now. He's posted a 3.08 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 26.1 innings, with 22 strikeouts against nine walks. He doesn't always pass the eye test on the mound, but those numbers make him look like Mariano Rivera(notes) compared to the current Qualls experience. Point, click and add, as needed.
While we're on the save-chasing front, we should also discuss what happened at the end of Houston's victory at Colorado Thursday. Brandon Lyon(notes) wound up getting the final three outs for the Astros in a one-run win, despite the fact that Matt Lindstrom(notes) hadn't pitched the day before and was coming off two consecutive save conversions. That sort of surprise move makes fantasy owners nervous (or excited), but apparently there's nothing wrong with Lindstrom.
"(Matt) needed a day," manager Brad Mills said of Lindstrom, who had recorded all 14 of the Astros' saves up until Thursday. "Even though he wasn't used [Wednesday], he was up and ready to come into the ballgame. He'd done it the day before. We don't want to push him as much. He needed a little rest."
Gotcha, skip. With that explanation in mind, Lyon isn't worth an immediate grab to the entire save-chasing nation, but we do need to consider that he's been unscored on in 21 of his past 23 appearances and Lindstrom is far from a sure thing going forward. Lyon should be owned in all NL-only groups and competitive hold leagues; in formats on the thinner side, we'll keep him on the possible-speculation board.
Back in a few hours with a Closing Time and a Starting Pitcher Shuffle Up and Deal.