By Jon Weisman
Guess what? It’s increasingly looking that J.P. Howell’s struggles in late September and October last year were an aberration.
By striking out the side in the Dodgers’ 1-0 balkoff victory Thursday over Texas, Howell has now pitched 18 1/3 consecutive innings since allowing his last earned run. And the only inherited runner who scored this month on Howell came in on a passed ball in the ninth inning at Colorado, the night Kenley Jansen was too ill to pitch.
Only one batter out of the 83 Howell has faced this year has an extra-base hit, and it’s pretty forgivable — Arizona slugger Paul Goldschmidt’s leadoff double in the ninth inning of an 8-0 Dodger victory on May 1.
The biggest difference between Howell this year and his 2013-14 heyday is that his strikeout rate, even after his last outing, is down. But even while allowing a higher batting average on balls in play in 2015, he has managed to keep batters off base at essentially the same rates.
Among pitchers with at least 100 innings in Dodger history, only Takashi Saito has a better adjusted ERA than Howell, and only five pitchers (Saito, Kenley Jansen, 1915 starter Phil Douglas, Clayton Kershaw and Jay Howell) have a better WHIP.
Howell can’t maintain a 0.45 ERA all year, but don’t let that stop you from being impressed.