Astros: The left-handed relief battle appears to be over
By the numbers, the Astros likely know who will be their left-handed specialist in the bullpen.
The Astros arguably had one actual weakness heading into the offseason: a lack of a quality left-handed reliever. If you may recall, Houston were already paying Tony Sipp $6 million per season when they acquired left-hander Francisco Liriano from the Blue Jays during last season’s trade deadline. For proper context, Liriano was converted from a starter to a reliever mid-season. It is needless to state the obvious, but I will, the Astros were desperate for a left-handed reliever.
Fast forward to spring training, and the Astros are still in the same boat. Sipp is the likely left-handed reliever to start the 2018 season, and I can make this statement based on the numbers.
See! Sipp is one of two left-handed pitchers left in camp. The other is Dallas Keuchel, and I doubt he would be okay with a move to the bullpen. Well, he may change his tune if it were Game 7 of the World Series.
Anyway, Sipp, by the numbers, is the likely left-handed reliever. Even though fellow lefties like Buddy Boshers, Reymin Guduan, and Framber Valdez had varying levels of success, Sipp is the presumptive winner of the competition as he is the last standing in major league camp.
Sipp: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, .316 BA
Guduan: 5 IP, 7 H, ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, .313 BA
Boshers: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, ER, BB, 3 SO, .235 BA
Valdez: 6.1 IP, 7 H, ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, .304 BA
Yes, Sipp likely earned the job despite less-than-impressive numbers. But spring training numbers don’t mean much if anything at all. Game-by-game context is also needed. For example, Sipp surrendered all four of his runs in one appearance. Sure, that one game blemish isn’t a great look. But it’s spring training, and one bad showing shouldn’t sway an entire opinion. On the other hand, there were performances from left-handers this spring not named Sipp that could be options later in the season. Well, not named Anthony Gose and Sipp.
Next: Astros on the Move: Four players sent to minor league camps
The decision to stick with Sipp is likely two-fold. One reason would be financial as Sipp is earning $6 million in the last year of his current contract. That’s a hefty salary to swallow if the Astros did decide to go in another direction. The second reason is likely results-based. Like this author previously remarked, Sipp has shown promising signs this spring despite one rough appearance. And in the last season before he hits free agency, both he and the Astros should be hopeful about a rebound. Don’t forget that Sipp did post a 1.99 ERA in 60 appearances back in 2015. While he is a few years removed from that level of success, it has been there in the past.
**Statistics courtesy of MLB.com**