Astros AM: Tony Sipp and his 2016 Struggles

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Aug 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Tony Sipp (29) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Tony Sipp (29) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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This is a post that I did not expect to write last year about a certain Houston Astros reliever.

Baseball, however, at the end of the day is just full of surprises. And sometimes they aren’t good ones. The Houston Astros found that out about one of their own this season.

Left-handed reliever Tony Sipp was one of the main cogs in a resurgent Astros bullpen the past two seasons prior to 2016. As a in-season signing from 2014 he immediately made a name for himself in Houston as the team’s best left-handed relief option in the bullpen, Sipp has fallen on hard times in 2016.

This development especially stings when you consider that the Astros spent $6 million on him this season with another $12 million coming his way the next two seasons. In essence, the Astros are devoting a sizable chunk of their total bullpen payroll contributions this season to a pitcher who has a 5.45 ERA/6.38 FIP split in just 34.2 innings.

What are the Astros next steps with Sipp?

For starters, the Astros would be smart to give Sipp time to adjust. The 33-year old has found new life as a professional baseball player in Houston. In his two seasons prior to 2016, Sipp had a combined 2.66 ERA/2.93 FIP. His splits against lefties and right-handers in 2015 was also quite good.

RHB Spilt: 100 AB, .190/.243/.370, 5.43 SO/W

LHB Split: 97 AB, .227/.290/.309, 3.00 SO/W

If he can come close to replicating that success in the future then that would be great. Let’s just hope that is with the Astros.

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Honestly, one rough season shouldn’t eliminate all of the goodwill he has built up over the previous two. After all the Astros are already on the hook for his full contract. Unless he passes through waivers unclaimed and an appealing trade offer was made then it would make no sense to give up on him this year. Now, if this struggle continues into the 2017 season then that would be a different story.

Another factor to consider is the going rate for relief pitching on the market.

Yes, Sipp is making $6 million per season through 2018. That is still a decent deal when he is on top of his game.

Pitching of all types isn’t cheap in baseball. Relief pitching though has been more unpredictable in year-to-year performance. A reliever with a decent track record will require a sizable financial commitment. The Astros for the most part have avoided that scenario even with Sipp’s contract considered. Looking back though Sipp’s contract was a necessary cost the Astros needed to take on to the books.

Next: Astros AM: Houston has tied Seattle for 2nd in AL West

Whether it works out will be determined as long as Sipp stays an Astro. But at least they were willing to spend to money to retain a left-handed reliever who was pitching well.

**Statistics provided by Baseball Reference**

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