Dodgers 2014 Player Previews: J.P. Howell, Status Quo In 2014

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2013 stats: 4-1, 67 games pitched, 62 innings, 2.03 ERA, 176 ERA+, 1.05 WHIP, 1.60 WAR.

2013 marked J.P. Howell’s first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers after the left-hander spent the previous six seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. Howell’s presence was immediately felt and he quickly became heavily relied upon by manager Don Mattingly. The first month of the season resulted in 11 game appearances for Howell and 9.1 innings of work, during which he faced 43 batters.

As the Dodgers struggled to win games, the left-hander’s workload increased in May, which ended up being his busiest month of the season. During that span, Howell pitched 12.2 innings, which was the most innings he pitched in one calendar month last season. He faced 50 batters in May and allowed only one run, which was good for a 0.71 ERA. Howell also added two holds, one of which ended in a 3-1 Dodgers win over the Washington Nationals.

In terms of game appearances, Howell was used most during September — 14 games. Several of the appearances resulted with Howell recording 2/3 of an inning and he finished the month having pitched 11.2 innings. On the season, Howell averaged 7.84 strikeouts per nine innings, which was his best total since 2009.

When the postseason arrived, Howell was used in seven games — three times against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS and four times against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NCLS. Braves batters combined for one hit and zero runs against Howell in 2.1 innings. The Cardinals collected four hits and one run off Howell in 3.2 innings.

This spring, Howell has pitched in two games, throwing one inning in each appearance. Against the Seattle Mariners on March 4, the left-hander surrendered four hits and three runs, two of which were earned.

Heading into the off-season re-signing Howell was a necessary task for the Dodgers. He, along with Paco Rodriguez, gives the Dodgers two left-handed pitchers that are capable of retiring left-handed batters and are also able to get right-handed hitters out. Lefties managed to hit a lowly .164 against Howell and righties only fared slightly better at .222.

2014 outlook: Howell should again be one of Mattingly’s top options out of the bullpen as the game hits the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. The pitcher’s ability to face batters on either side of the plate and record outs provides an important security blanket for the Dodgers.

However, how Mattingly will alternate between using Howell and Rodriguez remains to be seen. Howell is more apt at pitching multiple innings,but Rodriguez was tired down the stretch last season. With that in mind, Howell may be asked to do more in 2014, which could subsequently wear him out.


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