Nationals Baseball: When I Sipp, You Sipp, We Sipp

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

When I Sipp, You Sipp, We Sipp

The Nats signed Tony Sipp to help fill in the gaps in their "You're really going with just those guys... huh." bullpen.  He's not Craig Kimbrel and probably means there will be no Craig Kimbrel but who is he?

Sipp is a 35 year old (36 in July) who has had crazy variation in his pitching over the past few years. From a 4.78 ERA in ARI in 2013 he's gone 3.38, 1.99, 4.95, 5.79, and 1.86 last year. That's a lot of variation even for a reliever.  More wild is the FIP backs it up. He was bad in 2013, very good in 2014 and 2015, very bad in 2016 and 2017 and very good again last year. This isn't a fluke of small sample size, it's Tony.

And there really isn't too much of a pattern to follow. It's not just the BB-rate (2.5, 3, 3, in good yrs, 3.7, 3.9, 5.3 in bad) or the K-rate (11.2, 10.3, 9.8 vs 10.0, 9.4, 8.2) or how easy he is to hit (5 H/9, 6.3, 6.8 vs 8.4, 8.7, 10.7) or how easy he is to homer off of (0.2, 0.8, 0.9 vs 1.4, 1.9, 2.5) It's all of those things. He's very simply been, after a fairly consistent first few years of his career, a guy who is good or bad with no inbetween. It's pretty odd really. Projections for him - which split the difference - seem silly.

You can see though why no one wanted to sign him.  With no consistency you can't rely on the guy. The Nats might get an impressive back end guy to match up with Rosenthal and Doolittle. Or the guy might be out by May.  Who wants to spend a lot on a guy like that, especially 35 going on 36? It's more the type of guy a bad team takes in as a lottery ticket that they hope to cash in at the trade deadline.

The biggest thing though about Sipp is he barely pitches.  He's thrown 43, 37, and 38 innings the last three years. That's not what'd you'd hope for from that "other guy" paired with Doolittle and Rosenthal.  You'd want that guy to be a workhorse. (Barraclough who's thrown 72, 66, 55 is more that guy). Then a LOOGY type? Nope. Tony's a little better against lefties the last few years but really when he's bad he's bad versus lefties and when he's good he's good vs righties.

Has he been oddly luck or unlucky?  It's hard to read anything from the BABIP or LOB% that is definitive, though that's part. The type of pitches he throws? Again I don't see anything. Maybe it's all about locating that first strike? Maybe. Probably not.

 Look I don't know what to tell you.  Sipp is clearly worth a shot because when he's on he's great. Sipp is clearly not someone to depend on because when he's off he's terrible. There's a better chance that he's on because he was on last year. There's a better chance he's off because he's getting older and has been off 2 of the last three years. He's bad. He's good. He's the missing piece. He's a waste of money. He's whatever you want him to be.  

Except Craig Kimbrel.


Anonymous said...

At first I though he was one of Nyjer Morgan's alter egos.

BxJaycobb said...

Counterargument: Sammy Solis has only been good in the years he was in Little League. Upgrade!

Ole PBN said...

Love the move. On one hand, its more of the same: roll of the dice, banking on an up year. But for $1.25M? Why the hell not? He's not a sure thing, sort of like the rest of the pen. But if you throw 8 darts at the board, some will stick...

Cooper Roark said...

I figure between Barraclaugh Sipp Rosenthal and Doolittle you should get at least 2.5 great pitchers if not 3. possibly possibly possibly 4, and you're only really paying Rosenthal and Doo who honestly should be very very good. With the Lerners saying no to going over the Luxury Tax this is about as good as we can expect, especially because its looking more and more like Nuno will be our LOOGY. No problem with 1.25 mill over one year for a 50/50 chance.

blovy8 said...

Unless you are stuck on the unrealistic idea that they just have to go over the threshold to win, this is about the last piece you could expect. With Miller's back appearing to being ok, but Glover in his usual form, its essentially Suero vs. Ross for the last bullpen spot, right? If both have options, I suppose a long shot would be to go full lefty, keep Nuno, use Suero for depth coming from the minors and Ross staying in starter mode.

I kind of expect them to get stuck going over somehow later this season, but not on Kimbrel.

Ole PBN said...

Watching my first Nats game of the spring. I know I commented in the last post that defense was overvalued... but Ryan Zimmerman makes me believe that defense might be the single most important aspect of the game. I think next season we seriously need to look at restructuring "Mr. Walk-off's" pay. $18M for this season and I'd say he ain't worth $6... 1) can't throw and if he needs to, if will be an E3 9 times out of 10. 2) Can't field and has zero range. 3) Slow on the bases. Just watching him run makes my plantar fasciitis flare up. 4) Has a complex swing full of holes. And 5) lets not forget the additional $1-5M it takes to bring in a good platoon option because he's alway on the DL. He's more of a liability and reason to smack yourself in the forehead than MAT will ever be AND... dare I say... the reason we can't afford to bring in Kimbrel?

JWLumley said...

All relievers are a crap shoot anyway, (look at Kimbrel's first and second half last year and he might be the greatest reliever ever) so why not. Projecting bullpens is a fool's errand. Yes, some guys like Kimbrel are much more projectable than others, which is why they cost more, but virtually all reliever seasons are a small sample size so a couple of bad outings and the numbers get out of whack. I'm too lazy or I'd invent a stat that measured relievers based on their appearances, for instance, how many 1-2-3 appearances did they have or what percentage of their appearances did they allow zero runs in etc. In the end, it comes down to stuff, either your straw hats [read: scouts] believe in the guy's stuff or they don't.

sirc said...

April 2, 2019. Top of the 7th, 2 on, 2 out, Wander Suero on the mound. Bryce Harper steps to the plate and out of the dugout trots Davey, left hand extended. Out of the bullpen emerges...

You choose:

A.) Sammy Solis
B.) Tony Sipp

Harper said...

One thing I noted over on Twitter is the Nats made their big RP move signing Trevor Rosenthal. Nats fans need to accept that. Ideally his heavily bonused contract works in two ways.

1) He's great - he's dominant and potentially saves a bunch of games. He earns like 15+ million.

2) He stinks - barely pitches. He earns like 6 million. Nats can use that 9 million to bring in someone else at the trade deadline.

This is their plan. The only downside is if somehow Rosenthal is not very good but closes a bunch of games (say an early season Doolittle injury) which would mean he'd both not give the Nats what they want AND use up their money. But that's the gamble you take

blovy8 said...

The incentive in Hellickson's deal might matter too, if they need him to start 30 games, he'll make four million more than his base 1.3.

W. Patterson said...

@sirc - Solis is in the minors so I don't think Davey would call him. That'd leave Sipp, or whoever could pitch low/outside and get Bryce to whiff. That, or ground to 3B playing between 1B and 2B. Out of the inning and who cares about the two on.

Let's see if it happens, btw. I'm looking forward to the series.

sirc said...

W. Patterson, I declare you to be no fun at all and no longer want to play with you.

Also Solis is not "in the minors."

JWLumley said...

@Sirc - It's a bad idea to pitch to Harper in April, May through September, I'd much prefer Sipp. But I think the Nats know that Harper is streaky, if he's hot, just walk him, if he's not, Drew Storen could get him out in the playoffs.

W. Patterson said...

@sirc - Sorry. Don't mean not to be fun. It's been one of those days, and I promise to be better tomorrow.

And Yahoo! Sports, the source of all that's good and well, says that San Diego signed Solis to a minor league deal after Sammy was released by the Nats. So not in the minor leagues now, but will be in a few weeks.

Kubla said...


Fangraphs has some stats like "shutdowns vs meltdowns" that may come close to what you're looking for since they're based in +/- 6% win probability added in a relief performance.

Here's Sipp:

He's got a career 126/83 (SD/MD) but really high variance and on the wrong end of the balance multiple times. So, about the same as the other stats say.

Doooooo: 152/39 with one nearly 1:1 year but never underwater. His bad year seems to be more of a product of overall mediocre performance rather than huge wpa swings.

and Mariano Rivera: 580/121 with variation in the absolute numbers but usually consistent with the overall ratio.

I could look at Fangraphs stats all day.

JWLumley said...

@Kubla Yeah, but here's my issue with those (kind of like some defensive stats) is that they're based on win probability. So usage can have a major impact. For example, the guy pitching the 8th inning to the bottom of the lineup in a close game is given more credit than they guy who faces the heart of the lineup in the 7th inning in a game that isn't close. It's funny, sabermetric folks are always saying they don't believe in clutch and yet so many of the stats they develop factor in clutch. Still, I think predicting reliever seasons is next to impossible once you get outside the top guys.

BxJaycobb said...

@JWLumley. It’s not a contradiction. There is no clutch skill, meaning it’s not predictive of the future. (This is born out consistently in empirical studies—-as a general matter, if you give players enough reps, they will perform the same in “big moments” as “small moments.” I.e. their career numbers overall will generally match their numbers with RISP or late in games. One player with equal overall skill is no more *likely to respond better to a given big situation than the other guy—-to the extent stats appear that they do respond differently, it’s usually just small sample size distortions. IOW if Bryce Harper gets as many ABs in the playoffs as he does in a given season, he will probably have numbers that look like his career numbers. That’s what happens to folks like Derek Jeter or Chipper Jones or other players and pitchers who have played a billion playoff games. But that’s not the same thing as saying “looking back at this year, player X did really well in big spots and helped win lots of games,” which WPA measures. Now, that doesn’t indicate player X will continue to get big hits late in games or when there is just means that hey, this guy happened to help us in big moments this years so let’s keep track of that in a stat! It’s the distinction between “there is no clutch gene that should ever make decisions based on” vs hey Ryan Zimmerman hit 3 walk off homers this year! He’s gonna have a high WPA....but don’t think Ryan Zimmerman will continue to be more likely then his normal likelihood to his a homer in a walk off situation.

Josh Higham said...

I think JWLumley is right. Leverage increases on average as you move from mid game to late game. A 7th inning guy, over the course of his career, should do about equally well in high leverage 7ths as in relatively breezy ones, and sometimes the 7th is very big, but a 1 run lead with guys on the corners is bigger in the 9th than in the 7th, so a 9th inning guy will get more WPA for getting out of that jam than a 7th inning guy will.

There's a little of "the closer is the closer because he's the closer" in WPA. Yes, Josh Hader is the high leverage guy, and you would expect him to be equally dominant in low leverage situations since the clutch gene doesn't exist. The key is though, that Josh Hader would be similarly dominant in the low leverage situations he doesn't see many of. If Counsell deployed Hader for 2 clean innings against batters 1-6 with a 5 run lead, his WPA would be tiny even though he held the other guys scoreless with 4 Ks.

The fact that he's already been established as good in high leverage situations biases his WPA upward compared to an alternate version of him who is just up from the minors and his manager doesn't trust him yet. It's a small quibble because the correlation is between being good and having lots of shutdowns and not many meltdowns is strong and positive.

As I read it, JWLumley's point isn't that clutchness exists, but that self-declared statheads claim that numbers are agnostic, even though WPA (for pitchers) is partially determined by the manager's belief in the pitcher's "clutchness."

This is not as logical or carefully constructed as I'd like it to be but I'm in a hurry and no one is paying for my high quality comments.

The Ghost of Ole Cole Henry (JDBrew) said...

I don’t know. When I was much younger I believed in “clutch” players. But now, I sort of think that one CANNOT be better in big moments, but one CAN be worse in big moments. I think it boils down to how a player psychologically handles a high pressure situation. I think some can handle it very well, and thus perform at their best (THEIR best, not better than their best) and some cannot handle a high pressure situation and will perform decidedly worse. And I don’t think this is true for every player. I think the biggest moments impact all players differently and this cannot be measured AT ALL. I think that some people are affected by high pressure and some are not. Of those that are affected some fold, some flourish. I believe that “clutch” exsists, but only in so much that a player who is affected by the stress of the moment performs at his best vs pulling a drew storen. So I don’t necessarily think (this is entirely opinion, no real statistical backing, so if you can prove me wrong I would certainly entertain someone with factual data backing up their claim, but on the other hand all stats are cherry picking) that all players over a big enough sample size will perform the same in “big” moments vs “small” moments. I think many will, I think some will show deviation. And truly if the sample size is that large, are these moments still “big” and “small?” I guess my point is, these is 100% no way to know for sure and it’s all just each one of our opinions, and this one is mine.