J.P. Howell is the next reliever preview.
Before I get all into this article, I will answer the question on everyone’s mind. No, I am not related to J.P. Howell, although I think he has a cool last name.
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James Philip Howell, also known as J.P. is 32 years old from Modesto, California. He is entering his third season with the boys in blue this April. Following the 2015 season, Howell exercised his $6.25 million dollar option in order to stay with the team for 2016.
J.P. Howell put up the best numbers of his career last season. He appeared in 65 games and had a record of 6-1. Perhaps most impressive, he finished off the season with an ERA of just 1.43 and allowed only nine runs in 44.0 innings pitched. Howell brought some stability to the bullpen when it experienced its shaky times throughout the season.
For the past few seasons now, the bullpen has been the biggest challenge for the Dodgers. Howell stepped up to the plate and was consistent throughout the 2015 season.
2016 Role and Steamer Projections
Coming into the 2016 season, Dodger fans and teammates can only hope that Howell can do what he did last season again this season. To bring his intensity to the mound like he always does and be able to get out of some sticky situations.
Steamer projects that J.P. will go 3-3 and pitch 55.0 innings with a 3.54 ERA. Obviously those numbers are much higher than he posted this last season. Steamers projects that J.P. will pitch more innings in 2016, but be a little less effective with a higher ERA.
Either way Howell is an essential part of the Dodgers bullpen and it will be interesting to see if his role changes a little bit with Dave Roberts as his skipper. Don Mattingly used Howell mainly as a lefty specialist. Many times Howell would enter a game to face a specific batter and then get pulled. I think he has more depth than he has even shown in the past few seasons, so it will be interesting to see how Roberts uses him.
What Could Go Wrong
Howell set the bar pretty high last season with those numbers, so I am just hoping he can find a way to maintain that and not have the exact opposite happen this season. Minus a shoulder injury a few years back, Howell has been primarily healthy.
In my opinion the worst case-senerio with Howell is that he over pitched or pitched so well last season that he will not be able to pitch at the same level this season.
What Could Go Right
If Howell comes back in 2016 and can post numbers similar to last season then I think the Dodgers have their main bullpen man. Howell is not due some astronomical amount of money so even if he slides a little this season the Dodgers are still in good shape.
Howell primarily throws a skinker, curve ball (using a knuckle-curve grip) and a change up. If he can keep batters off balance again I think he will again be successful and the go to guy before the ball gets handed to Kenley Jansen for the ninth.