Dodgers Bullpen: J.P. Howell’s Sinker Appears Lifeless


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Just one day after the bullpen managed to collaborate and shutout San Francisco, the entire relief corps looked to be lethargic on Sunday surrendering three critical runs, as the Dodgers lost to the Giants, 9-6. Los Angeles managed just one win in the four-game series, dropping to 4-3 overall.

Starter Scott Kazmir was pulled from the game early after only four innings of work, having allowed six earned runs and seven hits, three of which included home runs. Kazmir was afforded the luxury of a five-run lead in the first inning, but couldn’t quite maintain any positive momentum or effectiveness in his second outing of the season.

The Giants’ offense overpowered the Dodgers’ bullpen in the sixth inning, touching up Louis Coleman for a leadoff double, then stinging lefty J.P. Howell for two runs, and eventually scoring another off Yimi Garcia on a sacrifice fly.

Howell, whose sinker and slider appeared to be lifeless and lethargic, has not recorded an out in either of his two appearances this season. Opposing hitters are 6-for-9 against Howell, ballooning his early ERA to 54.00.

In the Giants series alone, Howell faced six batters. All six recorded hits and all six scored runs.

Eric Stephen of True Blue LA pointed out that despite a very small sample size, Howell’s sinker is averaging two mph slower compared to 2015, per Brooks Baseball.

Fans, teammates and coaches are hopeful that it’s a minor issue, and perhaps only a complication of early season throwing mechanics or a small crinkle in his delivery.

Howell, 32, remains the only left-handed reliever in the Dodgers’ big league bullpen. In the case of injury, three southpaw relievers are being featured at Oklahoma City, including Luis Avilan, Adam Liberatore and newly signed Sean Burnett.

In terms of numbers, 2015 could have easily been the best year of Howell’s career. He appeared in 65 games spanning 44 innings, posting a 6-1 record with a 1.43 ERA.

Over his 11-year professional career, Howell has compiled a 34-28 record with 22 saves, including a 3.80 ERA, a 3.98 FIP and a 1.331 WHIP. His command has always been known to be a bit adventurous, as indicated by his career 4.1 BB/9.

For what it’s worth, his 2016 Steamer projections, perhaps influenced by a 3.34 FIP last season, revealed a 3-3 record over 55 innings with an ERA of 3.54.

Rather than testing the free agent market, Howell exercised his $6.25 million player option to stay with the Dodgers in 2016.

The Dodgers have an off day on Monday as they prepare for the home opener against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday afternoon. Kenta Maeda opposes Patrick Corbin in the first game of the series, while Alex Wood is scheduled to throw against former Dodger Rubby De La Rosa Wednesday evening.

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