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The 100 Greatest Angels - #67, Jack Howell

#67 - Jack Howell, 3B

Career Stats

I never liked Jack Howell, giving up on his rookie promise around his 80th strikeout midway through that dismal 1987 campaign. But read a little more, your Rev may have been wrong

First, Rob McMillin has the facts:

Third baseman Jack Howell was the reason the Angels let Doug DeCinces go during the 1987 season. A left-handed batter who fielded right-handed, he hit .373 for AAA Edmonton while slugging 13 homers in 1985. He never quite had the career DeCinces had, though, posting good-but-not-great numbers for the Angels; a thumb injury nagged at him in 1988, sapping his power. A really bad showing in 1990 (8 HR) and one even worse in 1991 prompted a trade to the Padres, for Shawn Abner. The Padres granted him free agency after the season, and he went to the Japanese leagues, where he immediately started hitting, with a league-leading .331 average and 38 homers for the Yakult Swallows. Coming back to the Angels in 1996, he became a platoon player who wasn't allowed to face lefties. This helped his slugging percentage immediately, as he posted a career-high .508 in 1996 and .540 in 1997.

He left the Angels to play two more seasons with the Astros; injuries prevented him from appearing in even 40 games either year. He retired after the 1999 season.

Second, The Chronicler crunches the numbers...

Jack Howell played pretty well for the Angels, but he was perceived as such a disappointment that it never seemed that he did. In his first full season (1987), he hit 245/331/461, hitting 23 homers. Those numbers were better then than they are now, even though everyone was hitting homers in 1987; you also have to take into account that he was a third baseman stuck in left for most of the year because the Angels wanted to hang on to the ghost of Doug DeCinces.

The next year he played in 154 games and had the same OPS+ as he had the year before (110). Of course, no one was tracking stuff like OPS+ at the time, so everyone just noticed that he hit 254/323/422 with only 16 home runs, knocking in a mere 63 and striking out 130 times.

He was 26 years old at the time, so you figure everyone would be okay with that, but Jack Howell's problem wasn't that he was a guy who would hit .250 with 20 home runs and 50 walks; his problem was that he had hit .373 and .359 in his two years in AAA, so everyone expected him to be a superstar. When he wasn't, everyone freaked out.

I mean, look at 1990. Jack Howell in 1990 played in 105 games; so did second baseman Johnny Ray. Ray hit .277, Howell hit .228. But Howell walked more than twice as many times as Ray, and had a higher OBP, .326-.308. They had basically the same slugging percentage, too, .371 to .370.

I think if you told the Angel brass at the time that Jack Howell was a better hitter than Johnny Ray, they'd have had you deported for madness. Ray retired after that year, though...

...anyway, Howell wasn't getting better, and sure as hell wasn't hitting no .373, so he was traded to the Padres in the middle of 1991, and after that year went to Japan, where he started tearing the cover off the ball. He came back in 1996, and put up two nice years as a bench guy/DH for the Angels before finishing off his career in Houston. He ended up with a career 105 OPS+ for his time with the Angels, which ain't awful.

Jack Howell is what Dallas McPherson might well become.


Rob runs the informative 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog and The Chronicler, aka Blackhawk Waterloo, writes about the Angels at his Chronicles of the Lads blog.