The Astros signed Tony Sipp in May of last year, after he was released by the San Diego Padres. With Houston, Sipp provided some stability in the bullpen, going 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 50 2/3 innings. Only closer Chad Qualls had a lower ERA at 3.33.
The 31-year old Sipp posted an incredibly low 0.89 WHIP last season, allowing just 17 walks and 28 hits. The walk total was second-highest on the team, behind Darin Downs‘ 19. His high strikeout totals still left him with a 3.71 K/BB ratio, which is quite impressive.
That was last season. What can we expect from Tony Sipp in 2015? According to FanGraphs’ Steamer, Sipp is projected to go 3-2 with a 3.13 ERA, with his walk rate increasing, and his strikeout rate decreasing. While his ERA is projected to be lower, the statistics surrounding the lefty leave his projected WAR at just 0.3, down from his WAR of 1.0 last season.
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With these projections, how can he become a breakout candidate? There are a few of factors working in his favor as we look to the 2015 season. The average velocity on Sipp’s fastball last season was 92.4, which was the highest of his career. He also threw the pitch less often than he has at any previous point in his career, which could have led to the extra juice. With a little additional velocity, Sipp was able to post his lowest ERA in three seasons.
Another factor that could work to Sipp’s advantage is the addition of Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. With those two in tow, less will be riding on Sipp, and manager A.J. Hinch can pick and choose his spots better. There isn’t a clear-cut way to pitch Sipp, with his splits being solid against both righties and lefties. If the Astros need a strikeout against a righty, Sipp is your guy, with 41 of his 63 K’s coming against right-handers. If you simply need an out, a lefty on lefty matchup could do the trick. It’s that versatility that could lead to Hinch using him in fewer innings, but in key situations leading up to the seventh inning, when the new acquisitions will likely carry the load.
Finally, 2015 is a contract year for Tony Sipp. Historically, many players perform better when they know that if they perform well, they will have an immediate return for their efforts. A good season from Sipp could earn him some extra cash, much like Neshek and Gregerson earned this offseason.
With theses factors, Tony Sipp has the potential to be a linchpin in the Houston bullpen, which makes him a candidate for a breakout season.