What a Healthy J.P. Howell Means For the Rays

More times than not, Rays fans were left with a bad taste in their mouth last season when JP Howell would take the mound. He was inconsistent, erratic, and not getting the job done. In other words, he did what happens to most pitchers recovering from major shoulder surgery.

Watching him pitch today against the Yankees, it’s clear he is fully recovered from his surgery. His velocity, pitch movement, arm action, and pitch location were all fantastic. He was getting bad swings against all three of his pitches, especially his changeup and fastball. He mixed in a few curveballs, and when he got them down in the zone, they had excellent downward tilt.

For all of his struggles last season, Howell still fared well against left handed batters holding them to a .222 batting average. It was right handed hitters that lit up Howell last season. When he gets excellent action, as he did today, on his fastball and changeup, he will be able to neutralize right handed batters. His curveball is effective against righties, as well. What made him so dominant in 2008 and 2009, was that he fared well against hitters from both sides of the plate. In 2009, righties hit a meager .159 against him.

A pitcher that can fare well versus lefties and righties is someone that makes a good “fireman” for the most crucial situations in a game. Joe Maddon likes to mix and match, but when you face the Yankees it can be difficult to do that because of the switch hitters and the lineup alternating lefty and righty. You need a good “swing man” that can come in and face Arod(R), Cano(L), and Teixiera(S) in a crucial situation. Howell can be that guy, and that’s why I expect for him to be the go to “fireman” in non save situations this year based on what I’ve seen this spring.

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7 Responses to What a Healthy J.P. Howell Means For the Rays

  1. Joey says:

    Toby,

    I’ve been in some serious debates about JP with my friend a former Rays pitcher. The thing that made JP so special in 08 and 09 was his curve ball. He threw his curve ball almost the exact same velocity as his fastball plus or minus a few ticks. It was borderline un hitable to righties or lefties. Its too bad he pitched for the USA in the WBC because I believe he led the team in appearances in 08 and he should have been shut down after the long post season run.

    • admin says:

      Joey,

      I’m going to talk about this in my podcast tomorrow, but your friend is absolutely correct. I have never seen a pitcher like Howell those curveball is so close in velocity to his fastball. Agreed on the WBC, as well. Howell threw the most innings of relief in all of MLB from 2008 thru 2009. Toby

      • Joey says:

        Toby,

        I was a big fan of your show at noon I texted in all the time. Are you looking to get back on air anytime soon. I’d love to hear you take over the morning slot on 620. Good luck bro. Former Catcher at PC, so I spent a ton of time in the Greenville area. Love it up there. I’m going back up in 2 weeks. You gotta try this beer called Thomas Creek out of Greenville. Good stuff.

        • admin says:

          Thanks, Joey. Glad to hear you enjoyed the show. Hopefully I’ll have something more permanent in the near future. And I have tried Thomas Creek. Really enjoyed it when I was up in Charleston last year.

  2. Pingback: [THE HANGOVER] The One Where We Discuss Crying Baseballs, Dude’s Redemption, And Missing Equipment | Rays Index

  3. Paul Leaverton says:

    I, too, very much enjoyed you on the radio and was sorry when you left. Hope you are back on somwhere with your knowledgeable and up-to-date commentaries.

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