Here's a cause and effect for Tony Sipp: In 2015, the 32-year-old lefty turned in the best season of his career, and also kept the Astros bullpen from completely falling apart down the stretch. In 2016, Sipp will earn more salary than he has in his entire career to date in the first year of a well-deserved three year, $18 million deal.
Although this 40 in 40 series is an attempt to look forward into 2016, I must take some time to defend Sipp's outstanding 2015. At times last season, a few patrons of #AstrosTwitter turned on Sipp-he did hit a rough patch in May and June with some homers allowed, but what relief pitcher doesn't? This made me sad, because Sipp turned in a 203 ERA+ (park and league adjusted) last year, the best mark for an Astros reliever since Brad Lidge's insane 2004 (to give credit where it's due and all, Will Harris had a 212 ERA+ in 2015). To put it bluntly, if you thought Sipp should've been traded/DFA'd/cut at any point in 2015, you would have been wrong.
Without him during September and October, the tired and rapidly-regressing Astros bullpen might've been blown to bits. In the last two months of the season, Sipp allowed a single earned run in 18 innings, followed by 5.1 scoreless innings in the postseason - although the lasting image I will have of him is his agony watching a potential inning-ending double play grounder barely miss the glove of Carlos Correra and bound into center, completing the Royals gut-wrenching comeback in Game 4 of the ALDS. Sorry I brought that back up (those runs were also charged to Will Harris).
Hopefully 2016 will have a happier ending. For Sipp, he'll rejoin an Astros bullpen that should be even better than the 2015 unit. Always keeping it platoon-neutral, Sipp should offer help in a sixth or seventh-inning role most nights out as a bridge to Harris-Gregerson-Giles. One of my favorite moves of the offseason (yes, there weren't many) was re-signing Sipp, who probably had a robust market among teams needing bullpen arms. We'll soon see if the Astros' faith in Sipp will be rewarded with a similarly-dominant 2016.