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Chad Qualls' place among fringy closers

By Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer

Chad Qualls has been surprisingly effective in the closer role so far. (USATSI)
Chad Qualls has been surprisingly effective in the closer role so far. (USATSI)

On Thursday, Chad Qualls blew his first save since taking over as Astros closer in mid-May (it's his second blown save overall), ending a streak of 19 straight scoreless appearances. Though he allowed just two baserunners, it was as many as they had allowed in his previous 12 appearances combined.

In other words, he's been pretty good, probably too good to be true given his stuff and track record. But he is coming off one of his better seasons, compiling a 2.61 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 66 appearances for the Marlins last year (which aren't closer numbers, but nobody expects those), and doesn't have much competition until Jesse Crain returns from biceps surgery (assuming he does return and at peak effectiveness, neither of which is guaranteed). That counts for something.

So let's use Qualls as sort of the minimum threshold for a mixed-league closer. Clearly, he's not an exciting one to own, but I'd rather have him than, say ...

Hector Rondon, Cubs: Granted, he still has terrific supporting stats to go along with just two blown saves, but the last one was so bad -- the Cubs entered the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead -- that Pedro Strop has gotten back in the mix recently. Plus, Neil Ramirez lurks with his 0.60 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Jenrry Mejia, Mets: After swapping out closers more times than they could count over the first couple months, the Mets appeared to have settled on Mejia, but then came a stretch of four straight appearances in which he allowed at least one run. And now a back issue. With Jeurys Familia waiting in the wings, Mejia is anything but safe.

LaTroy Hawkins, Rockies: Predictably, Hawkins has pitched more like a middle reliever than a closer, making every ninth inning a gut-wrencher for the Rockies. Something tells me if Rex Brothers had better than a 5.02 ERA, he'd have already replaced Hawkins.

Ronald Belisario, White Sox: He's been positively brutal in the role, allowing eight runs, seven earned, in eight appearances. The White Sox do lack of alternatives, but they can only take so much.

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