J.P. Howell is Really Good

With Scott Downs down and out on the disabled list, the best reliever in the American League East is…

Nope, not Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon. It’s J.P. Howell of the Rays. A pseudo-relief ace, Howell’s usage is dictated based on the situation. Since closer Troy Percival fell to injury, Howell has been the highest leveraged reliever on staff with an average pLI of 1.88. During that time, Howell has been involved in 15 games, with only three saves coming from it. Howell’s batting line against during the run is a measly .154/.267/.440.

Howell is striking out nearly 11 batters per nine despite possessing a fastball that tops out in the high-80s. An average fastball from him measures at 86 miles per hour. With velocity against Howell, he relies on a slurve and change-up combination to get most of his outs. Howell’s walks and homers allowed have also taken a step in the right direction, and even though it’s unlikely that Howell continues to allow such a low homerun/fly ball ratio, his xFIP is 2.90.

As the trade deadline encroaches, many pundits will place the Rays amongst the suitors for relievers like Huston Street and Jose Valverde. The fact is, they can’t really afford to pay top dollar for a closer. The financial issue may play into Howell’s usage. If Howell is being used in ways other than a traditional closer, his cost could be kept down when he reaches arbitration in the off-season. Using a relief ace makes baseball sense too, and that’s why the Rays are doing it, but the financial aspect is just another perk.

J.P. Howell is one of the best, if not the best, healthy reliever in the American League. He may not rack up the saves, but he deserves to be an all-star.




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18 Responses to “J.P. Howell is Really Good”

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  1. Antonio says:

    I’m confused. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be funny or not.

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    • Andy S says:

      How is this supposed to be funny? This is a serious article…J.P. Howell is the man this year.

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      • Antonio says:

        “J.P. Howell is one of the best, if not the best, healthy reliever in the American League. He may not rack up the saves, but he deserves to be an all-star.”

        I was referring to this.

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  2. Jack's Son says:

    J.P. Howell is really lucky*

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    • Andy S says:

      Yep, J.P. Howell, with his ~3 K/BB ratio and ~2 GB/FB ratio is a very lucky pitcher ~~

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      • Jack's Son says:

        And look at his infield defense (and LF). Give him time before crowning him

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      • Andy S says:

        What on Earth does his infield/LF defense have to do with how good of a pitcher he is? I’m looking at his defense independent metrics.

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      • cubfanraysaddict says:

        not to mention his BABIP is .301 this year, with a team avg. of .295, JP Howell is just a really good pitcher with three plus pitches and is used very effectively by Joe Maddon.

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  3. Chris says:

    Howell is a stud. Has been for a while now.

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  4. Dan says:

    I’d be hard-pressed to say that he’s better than Joe Nathan, but I think a more interesting comparison is Bobby Jenks. He’s got a better K/BB and a lower GB rate, but the main difference seems to be in the HR/FB. Howell’s is abnormally low at 4% while Jenks’s is sky-high at 20%. Some of this is park and some is the types of pitchers they are, but going forward, I would expect this to normalize a bit and I’d prefer Jenks.

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  5. Reed says:

    George Sherrill

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  6. Jack's Son says:

    See you all at the end of the year..

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    • CH says:

      Make your case for why Howell isn’t one of the best RPs in the AL.

      R.J.s case FOR him is incredibly solid.

      Your case against him is “his defense is good, so that means he’s a bad pitcher.”

      I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you haven’t made a convincing case (or any case at all, really) so far.

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  7. Aaron M says:

    Ya his career stats dont match up well against the other “closers” listed on the graph with him. But those stats include his numbers when he was a starter with the Royals and Rays, not just the 2 years as a closer. Those two years of stats will dominate the other pitchers on that list. JP has been a stud out of the bullpen. Just make him the full time closer TB, Percival’s career is done.

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  8. Dominic says:

    And add in the fact that whoever his team is facing, when they need tough outs, they put him in… not just a closing roll, but when its the 8th, and pedroia, youkilis, and ortiz come up, they put Howell in, if it’s the Yanks, and Damon, arod, and texiera come up, they use howell… They put him in, in the worst situations they have, and he still has around a 2 era. With the other closers, they only get put in when the 9th comes, regardless of who they’re facing

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  9. Jack's Son says:

    Nice 6 ERA over the last 2 months.

    Good, but lucky.

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  10. jIMMY says:

    ARE YOU GUYS HIGH, HES THE BEST

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