Veteran relief pitcher J.P. Howell exercised his player option to return to the Dodgers in 2016, but he was surpassed on the depth chart by a few left-handers in his fourth season in Los Angeles.
What went right
After posting a 5.82 ERA in his first 20 appearances, through June 2, Howell put up a 3.21 ERA in his final 44 games of the season, with 33 strikeouts and 10 walks in 33⅔ innings.
Opposing base stealers were just 2-for-6 against Howell in 2016, including one pickoff caught stealing by the left-hander.
Howell pitched in 64 games in 2016, his fourth straight season with at least 60 appearances. He is one of just 13 pitchers with four consecutive 60-game seasons from 2013-2016.
What went wrong
Howell put up a 4.09 ERA, his worst in his four years with the Dodgers, but his FIP (3.50) wasn’t all that different than in 2015 (3.34), when he posted a 1.43 ERA.
One difference: after allowing no extra-base hits with runners in scoring position in 2015, Howell allowed four doubles and a triple with RISP this year, with opposing batters hitting .383 (18-for-47) in those situations.
Howell was playing catch-up all season after allowing all six batters faced to score in a two-game stretch in San Francisco during the first week of the season.
Left-handers hit .302/.343/.417 against Howell in 2016.
Howell was left off the Dodgers’ roster in the postseason for both the NLDS and NLCS.
"J.P. was a tough one. For me, he was one of the glue guys for our team this year,” manager Dave Roberts said in October. “He's had a lot of success in his career in the postseason."
Stats: 4.09 ERA, 3.50 FIP in 64 games, 44 K, 15 BB, 50⅔ IP, 0.3 rWAR, 0.3 fWAR
Salary: $6.25 million
Game of the year
Howell pitched three scoreless inning in the Dodgers’ marathon win in San Diego in 17 innings on May 22, retiring nine of his 10 batters faced from the 12th to 14th innings at Petco Park.
It was the longest outing for Howell since May 11, 2008, when he was with the Rays.
After four years with the Dodgers, Howell is now a free agent.