J.P. Howell was a highly reliable relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays and was a big reason they went to their first World Series in 2008. While the Rays would falter against the Phillies, Howell had shoulder surgery in 2010 and after the 2012 season, he signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers.
Howell spent six seasons with the Rays accumulating a 4.03 ERA, 21 saves and 31 holds and the Dodgers were looking for left-handed relief help after Randy Choate signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Regular Season Grade: B+
Howell matched and exceeded expectations for the Dodgers this past season. He had a career best ERA and WHIP while limiting left-handed hitters to a .164 batting average.
He got off to a rough start in April with a 4.82 ERA in 11 games, allowing five runs in nine innings pitched. His struggles didn’t last long as he quickly turned things around with a 1.54 ERA from that point forward.
He finished the year with a 4-1 record, 2.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .193 opponents batting average and 54 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. As the season went along, Howell turned into a key piece in the Dodgers bullpen as he gained the trust of manager Don Mattingly.
Playoff Grade: B+
Howell came into the postseason and largely did what he had done all year as he was effective against the left-handed heavy lineup of the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. In three appearances, Howell allowed only one hit while striking out three in 2.1 innings.
He was equally as effective against the right-handed heavy lineup of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS where in four appearances, Howell allowed only one run on one four hits, with three strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched.
In seven games this postseason, Howell finished with a 1.50 ERA, allowing one run on five hits while striking out 6 and walking three batters in six innings. He was highly effective and was the most consistent lefty out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in October.
Overall Grade: B+
The Dodgers were looking for a lefty specialist this past off-season and took a flyer on Howell. He not only matched what they hoped for, but definitely surpassed the coaching staffs expectations.
He had a rough start transitioning to a new league, but once he got comfortable, he was lights out. He went relatively unnoticed this season as the young left-handed pitcher Paco Rodriguez attracted more attention with his strong season, but Howell continued to stay consistent throughout the whole season.
He leads the group of strong Dodgers’ free agents this off-season and with the emergence of Rodriguez, it’ll be a tough decision for the Dodgers about bringing him back. With a strong showing this season, Howell proved to be over the injury he suffered in 2010 and hopefully he’ll be back at least for next season.
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