Expect Quiet Bats on Opening Day Between Giants and Dodgers

Rainman M.

Thursday, March 29, 2018 11:27 AM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 29, 2018 11:27 AM UTC

Los Angeles hosts rival San Francisco tonight at 7 ET on ESPN. The Dodgers opened at -300 and the run total is set at 7. Should bettors look no further than to back arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw?

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles DodgersFree MLB Pick: First 5 UnderBest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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There is no value in backing the Clayton Kershaw-led Dodgers. But going against the Dodgers isn't smart, either. Kershaw has a solid history in his first home game of the season, allowing three earned runs in the past 14 innings in this situation. In the past seven seasons, his FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) has been under 3.00 in the same situation. Kershaw, arguably already the best in the game with a career 2.36 ERA, tends to be at his best in his first home game of the season. The insanity of Kershaw is not just how good he is, but how good he is when he's bad. At the start of last season, his slider had devolved into a somewhat slower fastball by losing some of its movement. But he still earned an ERA of under 2.50 in the first two months of the season despite striking out fewer batters.

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His opponent, San Francisco, won't pose much of a threat. Kershaw has a solid history against Giants batters: current active Giants are hitting .199 in 488 career at-bats against Kershaw. The Giants have slightly improved their situation with the additions of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, but they won't be enough. Active Giants have only mustered 19 extra-base hits in Kershaw. Last season, he was 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA against San Francisco.

Ty Blach, another southpaw, starts for SF. The Dodgers seem to have evolved against left-handed pitching. In 2016, they were last in OPS (on-base plus slugging) against left-handed pitching. They struggled at the start of 2017, but after a couple of months showed strong improvement and finished the year with an OPS vs lefties .166 higher than in 2016. But I don't think it's smart to evaluate the current Dodgers by their mid- and late-season form from last year, which was several months ago. For all we know, the Dodgers could need time again to regain that dominance against lefties.

Blach has consistently enjoyed success against the Dodgers, earning a 3.20 ERA in three starts against them last season. His one bad start came later in the season amid a tough stretch. Blach is really thought of as a long reliever -- he's not known for his endurance. So if bettors are absolutely fixed on betting LA, the best time to do so would be after Blach has faced the LA batters one time. But right now, Blach is as fresh as can be. Last season, Blach gave up a solid two runs in 16 innings in April, discounting his performance in the pitchers' nightmare of Arizona's ballpark.

Active Dodgers are hitting .238 against him in 101 at-bats, a number that is slightly inflated because third baseman Justin Turner will out several weeks with a broken wrist. Blach is entering his second full season in the majors and has upside. He won't wow batters with his velocity or pitching arsenal. He throws a solid fastball, which stopped working for him in the middle of last season, when he struggled the most, and an effective, complementary change-of-pace changeup, which could evolve into a second solid pitch.

The Giants' bullpen could see some action tonight because Blach isn't reliable to pitch deeply into a game and that scares me, considering that 'pen was ranked 19th in ERA last season and still raises questions. So let's stick to a First '5' bet on our MLB picks.

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