30 Players in 30 Days: Tony Sipp
Tony Sipp found his way to the Houston Astros in a way that has now become familiar with Jeff Luhnow and his pitching staff. Sipp pitched five seasons with the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks but began 2014 in Triple-A Tucson with the San Diego Padres organization. Like Collin McHugh and Will Harris, Sipp joined the Astros as a waiver claim in May of 2014 after the reliever asked for his release.
The southpaw initially joined the club as a lefty specialist but moved to an expanded role as he found success in 2014 with the Astros. Sipp used his slider and change-up to set up his low-90s fastball en route to his lowest season ERA since 2011 when he was with the Indians. By the start of the 2015 season, Sipp had become an integral piece of the Astros’ bullpen.
Sipp was able to pick up where he left off in 2015 and improved in some areas. Sipp only appeared in four more games this season than he did in 2014 but was called upon in more high-intensity situations. While Sipp’s batting average against both left and right-handed hitters rose in 2015, he was able to strand almost 20% more base runners.
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The 32-year-old reliever worked well in high leverage situations in part because of his fiery persona on the mound. Sipp wears his emotion on his sleeve and doesn’t shy away from celebrating a huge out late in the ballgame.
Only twice in 2015 did Sipp allow more than one run in an appearance (2 ER on May 29, 2 ER on July 5) and allowed one earned run in only eight of his 60 appearances.
As other Astros relievers struggled in September and October, Sipp remained consistent and pitched in every game of the team’s playoff run – only once coming on before the seventh inning. In his six playoff appearances, Sipp threw 5 2/3 innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts.
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Unfortunately, Sipp’s season ended on a sour note as he was called upon in the 8th inning of Game 4 of the ALDS to stop the bleeding for the Astros. Sipp was on the mound for Carlos Correa‘s error, and a fielder’s choice that allowed the tying and go-ahead run to score for the Royals. He was able to throw 1 2/3 perfect innings in Game 5 two days later, but most fans’ last memory of his 2015 season will be the ground ball that deflected off of his glove, past Correa and Sipp’s subsequent reaction.
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What to expect in 2016
Sipp is set to hit free agency this winter and, despite his age, will likely demand a long-term contract. Whether he is with the Astros or not, expect Sipp to produce more of the same. The left-hander will turn 33 in the middle of next season, but is still in the prime of his career and knows how to work with what he’s been given.
A career-low 1.99 ERA and six stellar playoff appearances are great notches to add to his résumé before hitting free agency, so Sipp is likely going to get a well-deserved big payday. The Astros will certainly work to bring the veteran back, but the market will be competitive, and nothing is guaranteed heading into 2016.