Saturday, April 9, 2016

Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Francisco Giants, 4:05 PM ET
LAD: Clayton Kershaw (7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K – 93 pitches, 61 strikes, 23 BF vs. SDP on 4/4)
SFG: Madison Bumgarner (5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 HR, 5 BB, 6 K – 101 pitches, 55 strikes, 22 BF vs. MIL on 4/4)

Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America & Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America

Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America & Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America

Clayton Kershaw began 2016 exactly the same way anyone would’ve guessed: dominantly. Facing an admittedly weak San Diego Padres lineup, Kershaw worked effortlessly through seven strong innings, allowing just two baserunners all day and retiring 13 straight batters to conclude his outing following a Jon Jay single with two outs in the third inning (the only hit he surrendered all day).

The frightening thing about Kershaw’s outing is that, while dominant, he may not have had his best stuff. Here’s a look at a chart of every fastball Kershaw threw on Monday, from

While Kershaw is known for having elite command of all his pitches, there are a lot of fastballs here that a) caught a lot of the plate, or b) missed it by a fair margin. However, Kershaw’s ability to execute fastballs when ahead in the count was exceptional:

Here we see a chart of fastballs when Kershaw was ahead of hitters, and the locations are much better: low in the zone or just off the edge of the plate, with maybe one exception. Kershaw also used his ability to change speeds, mainly with his breaking pitches, to keep hitters off balance. Below you can see a chart of Kershaw’s velocity pitch-by-pitch, courtesy of

Kershaw’s ability to throw good pitches in counts where the batter is more vulnerable and keep their timing off by mixing offspeed pitches effectively led to his success. According to Brooks Baseball, Kershaw induced 13 swings and misses on Monday (7 FB, 1 CH, 4 SL, 1 CU), good for a 13.5 whiff percentage.

On the other hand, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner did not have anywhere close to the success that Kershaw had, facing a similarly weak Milwaukee Brewers lineup on Monday afternoon. Reportedly battling the flu, Bumgarner took to the hill anyway for his third-consecutive Opening Day start. Bumgarner struggled early, allowing a single and three walks in the first inning, then surrendered a long home run to Scooter Gennett to open up the second inning. Bumgarner then allowed another leadoff homer to Jonathan Villar in the third inning before working working a scoreless fourth and striking out the side in the fifth to conclude his outing.

While Bumgarner escaped the game with a win thanks to a strong offensive showing by the Giants, his five walks tied a career-high, a number he hadn’t reached since 2013. Similar to Kershaw, Bumgarner’s fastball was all over the place in his season debut:

Unfortunately for Bumgarner, his offspeed pitches were not nearly as effective as Kershaw’s. Along with his fastball, Bumgarner’s offspeed offerings were erratically placed, with many misses low-and-away to right-handed hitters:

Overall, Bumgarner’s general inability to locate his pitches made him less effective than we’ve come to expect from the 6-foot-5 southpaw out of Hickory, North Carolina. However, finishing his outing with three consecutive strikeouts gave us a more familiar glimpse of what Bumgarner is capable of as a pitcher.

While both of these pitchers are coming off of very different outings in their Opening Day starts, it’s reasonable to expect that they should come out looking sharp on Saturday afternoon in San Francisco. In our first true “battle of the aces” since Opening Day, we’ll get two of MLB’s top left-handers squaring off in the first series between what looks to be the National League West’s top two teams. Bumgarner will need to have a bounce-back outing to get his season on track early while Kershaw looks to keep up his strong performance and continue carrying the Dodgers to victory every fifth day.

Honorable Mentions:

Pittsburgh Pirates @ Cincinnati Reds, 1:10 PM ET: Gerrit Cole vs. Raisel Iglesias – Flamethrowing Pirates righty Gerrit Cole take the mound for his first start of the season following a 19-8, 2.60 ERA season in 2015. Raisel Iglesias makes his second start of the year for the Reds after tossing six innings with seven punchouts against the Philadelphia Phillies in his 2016 debut.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves, 7:10 PM ET: Carlos Martinez vs. Julio Teheran – The 24-year-old Carlos Martinez makes his first start of 2016 on Saturday after pitching to a 3.01 ERA over nearly 180 innings a season ago. Julio Teheran looks to build off a successful season debut in which he allowed two runs over six frames with four punchouts against the Washington Nationals.

Texas Rangers vs. Los Angeles Angels, 9:05 PM ET: Cole Hamels vs. Garrett Richards – Cole Hamels picked up a win and struck out eight over seven innings for the Rangers on Opening Day, but he also allowed two solo home runs and walked three batters. Garrett Richards struggled in his start against the Chicago Cubs on Monday night, allowing three runs off of six hits and three walks, but he featured a new and improved changeup in his repertoire and punched out seven over five innings of work.

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