Remember back at the end of last August when J.P. Howell had a 1.24 ERA? It's safe to say that that guy hasn't been seen since.
A lousy September (11.81 ERA), lousier playoffs (13.50), and another lousy start to this season (5.40) has left us wondering just what in the world has happened to the guy? Does he have a dead arm? Or have batters simply figured him out?
I have no idea if there's something wrong with his arm, but I definitely think batters have improved their approach against him. They basically lay off of his breaking stuff, because most of the time it barely gets to the plate anyway. He doesn't throw hard enough to blow anyone away, so there ya go.
Friday night in Arizona, he had a chance to keep the game going in extras, as the Dodgers and DBacks were deadlocked at two apiece in the 10th. After getting a groundout to start the inning, he walked Cliff Pennington, uncorked a wild pitch to get him to second, and walked A.J. Pollack. Don Mattingly brought Yasiel Puig to play third for five infielders, but Ender Inciarte ripped a walk-off single down the first base line to beat the Dodgers 4-3.
There's plenty of reasons to be excited about the Dodgers in 2015, but right now, the bullpen is not one of them. Kenley Jansen is hurt and won't return until May. Brandon League is also out for awhile, and even though he's been a disappointment, he did have a 2.57 ERA last year. Take those two away, and it's only natural for things to not go as smoothly.
While Yimi Garcia and Joel Peralta did look very good on Friday, Howell let the game get away. The only other lefty in the bullpen is Paco Rodriguez, who started his career a couple years ago on absolute fire, but has faded since then. The only other lefties are Clayton Kershaw and Brett Anderson, and I'm guessing neither one of them will be pitching out of the bullpen anytime soon.
It's not uncommon for teams to have a shortage of lefties in the later innings, as left-handed pitchers just aren't seen as much in the Majors. But for the Dodgers, this is an issue that isn't going away. Howell looks like a shell of his former self from this time last year. Paco is about to turn 24 in a few days, so he obviously has youth on his side to turn things around. But saying it and doing it are two different things.
These are the Dodgers, so a trade is only a moment or two away. That happened a few days ago when they acquired Ryan Webb from the Orioles, but he's another righty and may get sent to the Minors anyway. The Dodgers were not able to sign Andrew Miller this past offseason, who was the premier lefty on the market. I'm hoping they don't regret not making a bigger push to get him.