NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v St Louis Cardinals

J.P. Howell #56 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the fifth inning while taking on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Six of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium. (Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images / October 18, 2013)

J.P. Howell, 30, reliever

Final 2013 stats: 4-1, 2.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .193 opponent batting average, 54 strikeouts in 62 innings.

Contract status: A free agent.

The good: Left-handed specialist was everything the Dodgers had hoped, and probably a little more. His ERA and WHIP were the best of his career. Held left-handed hitters to a .164 batting average, but right-handed hitters hit only .222. Fit in great in the clubhouse.

The bad: Not much to complain about. Had kind of a rough start, with a 4.82 ERA in April, but had a 1.54 ERA afterward. Only division foe he struggled with was the Padres (7.50 ERA, 2.18 WHIP in six games).

What’s next: Effective left-handed relievers are prized, so it figures the Dodgers will want him back. He went to USC.

The take: The Dodgers will have left-hander Paco Rodriguez returning, but they may have become a little too fond of his success and burned him out from overuse. In his first full season in professional baseball, Rodriguez appeared in even more games (76) than Howell and faded down the stretch.

Howell largely went unnoticed, but he was a highly effective and the Dodgers’ confidence in him seemed to grow as the season progressed.

Scott Elbert is coming off surgery and his return date is uncertain, so the Dodgers would certainly like another dependable left-handed reliever. It appears to be an easy call, but the bullpen seems to undergo an annual makeover.