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2014 Dodgers review: J.P. Howell

Michael Thomas

J.P. Howell was a trusted member of manager Don Mattingly's bullpen for a second straight year. Here is a look back at 2014 for the southpaw.

What went right

In a bullpen that was largely unreliable outside of closer Kenley Jansen, Howell was a steady performer for most of the season for the Dodgers in 2014, putting up a 2.39 ERA, a 3.30 FIP and 3.52 xFIP in 68 games, with 48 strikeouts and 25 walks in 49 innings.

Howell allowed left-handed batters to hit just .170/.284/.227, but was also effective against right-handed batters, holding them to just .198/.301/.284. Howell's strikeout rate was higher against right-handers (26.3 percent) than against lefties (22.1 percent).

Among Dodgers pitchers since 1884 to pitch at least 100 games in relief, Howell's 162 ERA+ in 2013-2014 ranks fifth in franchise history, including second among Howells.

Howell was also stellar at keeping inherited runners from scoring, allowing only two of 35 (5.7 percent) to touch home plate safely. Among all major league relief pitchers who inherited more than a dozen runners in 2014, Howell was second only to Mets right-hander Vic Black, who allowed just one of 26 runners (3.8 percent) to score. Howell stranded his final 23 inherited runners in 2014.

What went wrong

This is likely a huge oversimplification, but J.P. Howell in 2014 was in many ways like Paco Rodriguez in 2013 - the left-handed pitcher ridden hard who suffered a bit down the stretch then into October. Howell had a 1.17 ERA as late as Sept. 10 and allowed seven runs in his first 64 appearances in 2014, including no home runs.

But over his last four games of the regular season Howell allowed two home runs and seven total runs in just three innings. Howell allowed a game-tying two-run home run in Game 2 of the NLDS, but pitched a pair of scoreless outings in his other two games of the series, totaling four outs.

Howell appeared in 38 of the Dodgers' first 80 games, but was rested more down the stretch with 30 appearances in the final 82 games of the year. Howell pitched in 16 games with zero days rest before the All-Star break, then just six such games after the break.

2014 particulars

Age: 31

Salary: $7 million, including a $4 million base salary plus his $3 million signing bonus.

Game of the year

Howell entered the game on May 23 in Philadelphia with a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning, but the bases were loaded with nobody out. The left-hander got Domonic Brown to line out to left field, but not deep enough to score a run, then got Jimmy Rollins to ground out to third, forcing Ben Revere at home for the second out. Then Carlos Ruiz flew out to Yasiel Puig to end the threat and keep the Phillies off the board in a 2-0 win for the Dodgers.

Roster status

Howell has one year remaining on his two-year contract, and will earn $4 million in 2015. He also has a mutual option for 2016 worth $6.25 million, with a $250,000 buyout should the Dodges decline it. The option converts to a player option if Howell pitches in 52 games in 2015 and if he doesn't end next season on the disabled list.