Boston-Area High School student/Apparent time traveler, Chris Cotillo, has speculated that the Astros are in the running for former Arizona reliever Tony Sipp. The 29-year old left hander posted a 4.78 ERA in 37.2 innings for the Diamondbacks in 2013.
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The Astros have made a lot of moves to bolster the bullpen this offseason, signing former Astros Chad Qualls and Matt Albers, trading for Anthony Bass, as well as selecting Darin Downs and Raul Valdes off of waivers, but GM Jeff Luhnow has stated that they are still looking to add one more arm.
Sipp looks to be a good fit for the Astros bullpen and would be brought in as competition for other left-handers such as Valdes, Downs, and Kevin Chapman. Unlike Chapman and Valdes, Sipp was has been used as more than just a LOOGY in his career. For his career, Sipp has faced more right handed batters (578) than left handed ones (515) and has held righties to a lower batting average (.208 RHB/ .224 LHB).
Sipp’s 2013 season cannot be summed up accurately by his 4.78 ERA (spoiler alert: that’s true for just about every pitcher). He had three outings where he gave up 3 ERs, which skewed his ERA. If you take a look at Sipp’s K/9, you can see why teams are taking an interest in him. Sipp struck out 10.08 batters per nine innings, which is well above league average. Move one line over to his BB/9 and you see why he was DFA’d by the Diamondbacks. His 5.26 walks per nine innings is awful. Lucas Harrell had a 5.16 BB/9 in 2013, just for reference.
Maybe Luhnow et al have a way to fix these types of guys. Remember that Jose Veras had a very similar story line when he was signed by the Astros in the 2012 offseason. In fact, their numbers are eerily similar. In 2012 Veras had a 10.61 K/9 and a 5.37 BB/9. As you know, he straightened that out and put together a career year for the Astros and Tigers, posting 8.62 and 3.16 respectively.
Ultimately, I think the Astros end up with Chapman, Downs and one other lefty in their bullpen on Opening Day. If Sipp does sign with the Astros, he could have a career year just like Veras. The raw stuff is there, and if the coaching staff asks him to tone down the strikeouts just a little in exchange for more control, I think we could be talking about another goldmine signing by Luhnow.