I've beaten the tar out of J.P. Howell being used in the highest leveraged situations and Joe Maddon is really doing a brilliant job of doing just that since Troy Percival finally broke. Howell has appeared in 15 games the last 30 days, which dates back to when Percival was still pitching, and his average leverage index is 2.14; Percival's in those two games was 2.52. Howell's average pLI with Percival around was 1.21, and without is 2.18. Let's take a look at when Maddon is using Howell:
@ FLA entered bottom 7th, ---, 0 out, ahead two, 2.91 aLI
@ FLA entered bottom 9th, ---, 0 out, tied, 1.89 aLI
@ CLE entered bottom 7th, ---, 0 out, down one, 0.53 aLI
MIN entered top 8th, --3, 0 out, ahead three, 2.35 aLI
MIN entered top 9th, 1-3, 1 out, down one, 1.71 aLI
KCR entered top 9, ---, 0 out, ahead four, 0.21 aLI
KCR entered top 9th, ---, 0 out, ahead one, 2.22 aLI
@ NYY entered bottom 8th, 1--, 1 out, ahead one, 4.62 aLI
@ NYY entered bottom 8th, 123, 1 out, ahead two, 3.88 aLI
LAA top 9th, ---, 0 out, down one, 0.66 aLI
WSN entered top 8th, --3, 2 outs, tied, 2.74 aLI
WSN entered top 9th, ---, 0 out, ahead one,2.38 aLI
That's 15 appearances, two save chances, a 1.73 FIP, and the highest leverage on the team during that time. Maddon's not using Howell as a closer at all, he's using him as a relief ace, a fireman, the iceman, whatever you want to label him, Maddon is using him perfectly. Seriously. He could've easily said he was giving the set closers job to Jason Isringhausen or Dan Wheeler and most people would've bought into it, instead Maddon has done something far, far savvier and the Rays are a better team because of it.
Fantastic job, Joe.