J.P. Howell pitched pretty well for the Dodgers all season in his first year in the National League, but his fortunes mirrored the team's for the first two and a half months. In his first 29 appearances, Howell had a 2.81 ERA, but only five times pitched in games the Dodgers won.
Once the Dodgers started winning - their 42-8 stretch began on June 22 in San Diego - Howell saw his role increase, and he continued to perform well. In those first 29 appearances, Howell entered the game in the seventh inning or later either tied or with a lead just five times. But in his final 38 appearances of the season, Howell entered 16 such games either tied or with a lead.
He wasn't just a LOOGY, either.
There were 22 left-handed relievers in baseball that made 65 or more appearances in 2013, and only Rex Brothers (two), Sean Doolittle (three), Mike Dunn (four) and Tony Watson (five) had as many or fewer single-batter appearances as Howell's five.
Manager Don Mattingly had trust in Howell to face all comers.
"He's a guy that gets righties out. His stuff is not the typical 94 lefty. It's soft and it changes speed," Mattingly said last spring. "He has weapons for the right-handers."
Left-handed batters hit just .164/.225/.227 against Howell in 2013, but right-handers were no great shakes, hitting .222/.312/.296 against the southpaw. Howell was able to keep both sides in the park, allowing only one home run in 125 plate appearance against righties and one home run in 121 PA to lefties.
More about Howell's five appearances that consisted of just one batter in 2013. All five were scheduled to be against a lefthander, and there was one in which a right-handed pinch-hitter appeared. The batters went 0-for-5.
Joe Thatcher led all relievers with 31 single-batter appearances, Randy Choate was second with 28. The Dodger with the most was Paco Rodriguez with 18 of his 76 appearances against only one batter.
Howell signed a two-year contract worth a guaranteed $11.25 million, plus a vesting option for a third year. For 2014, he gets a $3 million signing bonus and a $4 million base salary.
2013: The southpaw
|2014 projections - Age 31 season|
I predict 58 IP, 3.05 ERA with 9.8 BB% and a 20.2 K%, how about you?