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2015 Dodgers review: J.P. Howell, the bullpen staple

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

J.P. Howell has been a reliable staple in the Dodgers bullpen for three years running. Here is a look back at his 2015 season.

What went right

Howell's 1.43 ERA is the fifth-lowest by a Dodgers pitcher in a season with at least 50 games pitched, and his 262 ERA+ was also fifth-best in franchise history.

In three years with the Dodgers, Howell pitched in 200 games, and using that as a minimum he ranks first in franchise history with a 1.97 ERA and a 183 ERA+.

Howell also put up solid peripheral numbers, sporting a 3.34 FIP (ranking 82nd among 210 major league relief pitchers with at least 30 innings) and a 3.53 xFIP (75th).

He allowed nine of 39 inherited runners to score (23.1 percent), well below the National League average of 28.8 percent.

Left-handed batters hit just .224/.295/.224 with no extra-base hits against Howell in 2015, with 22 strikeouts and seven walks in 95 plate appearances.

Howell's K-BB% of 13.2 percent was his best since 2009, thanks to a career-best 7.4-percent walk rate.

Howell, who led the Dodgers with 65 games pitched in 2015, is one of three left-handed pitchers since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958 to have three straight seasons of at least 60 appearances, joining Ron Perranoski (1962-1964) and Joe Beimel (2006-2008).

What went wrong

Right-handed batters hit .318/.368/.455 against Howell this season with three home runs and three doubles, and righties had as many plate appearances (95) as lefties did against him.

Opposing base runners stole seven bases in eight opportunities, the second-most allowed among Dodgers relievers (runners were 9-for-9 against Juan Nicasio).

After allowing no home runs in his first 43 appearances of 2015, Howell allowed three home runs in his last 22 games, beginning with Aug. 10.

2015 particulars

Age: 32

Stats: 6-1, 1.43 ERA, 1 save, 39 strikeouts, 14 walks, 44 IP, 3.34 FIP, 1.6 rWAR, 0.3 fWAR

Salary: $4 million, in the final season of a two-year, $11.25 million contract

Game of the year

Howell pitched a scoreless 13th inning for the win on May 3 against Arizona, but that sentence alone doesn't do this game justice. Howell allowed a pair of singles to put runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the 13th inning of a scoreless game. Then, a pitch got away from catcher Yasmani Grandal, who was able to recover quickly and flip to Howell covering home plate.

Howell caught the ball then, with his back to home plate, whirled to place his glove into the exact perfect spot, blocking home plate and ready to tag the sliding Jordan Pacheco.

"I was just trying to get in his way a little bit, not block, but tag him. I knew I was there, right in the middle of [the plate]. I just put it down and hoped he didn't do a creative slide," Howell said. "It was a lucky bounce, man. A great feed from Yas. It was a good play, but it was lucky. But I'll take the luck."

The Dodgers won the game three pitches later when Grandal hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning.

Roster status

Howell has a player option for 2016 worth $6.25 million. More on his decision next week, but given the likelihood of Howell to land a multi-year contract somewhere it seems a safe bet that he will become a free agent.