Astros Spring Notes: The Issue of Doubling Down on Tony Sipp
By Cody Poage
I’m desperately trying not to overreact to Spring Training statistics. It’s not good for my health.
The Astros didn’t have too many holes to fill this past offseason. Besides outfield help and arms for the pitching staff, there wasn’t much to address.
In this process the team’s front office decided to stick with Tony Sipp as the primary left-handed relief option by all appearances. Sure, the team signed a few left-handers to a minor league with an invite to Spring Training for competition purposes. However, the Astros appeared to doubled down on Sipp for the upcoming season.
This Spring Training though hasn’t gone the way that the Astros or Sipp were most likely expecting.
Like I said, it’s hard to look at these Spring stats and not worry. Of course I say this in the context of Sipp’s notoriously lousy 2016 season. You may not fondly remember that as he finished with a 4.95 ERA and a 6.19 FIP.
In case you need further convincing, which you shouldn’t, he also allowed a .378 wOBA to left-handed hitters. His wOBA against right-handed hitters was .422. Yes, that’s definitely not optimal for a left-handed relief specialist. The previous season, 2015, which was the year before his new contract, those wOBA totals were .268 and .263. Yes, Sipp was actually more effective against right-handed hitters than their left-handed brethren by that metric.
The confounding issue with Sipp in 2017 is twofold: the $12 million remaining on his contract and that the Astros do not have a clear answer to turn to in case he falters. The hopeful answer to the latter may be Ashur Tolliver, Reymin Guadan, or C.J. Riefenhauser. But only Riefenhauser remains in camp of those three.
Next: Where is the playing time for Alex Bregman?
On the other hand, Sipp did have two solid seasons in 2014 and 2015. It is plausible that he is shaking off the rust and working out the kinks in his game. But the Astros obviously need the Sipp of old this season.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs**