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Clayton Kershaw is back, and the Dodgers are terrifying

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Kershaw’s return is good news, even if you hate the Dodgers. And you hate the Dodgers. Yes, even you, non-Giants fan who came here through a “Clayton Kershaw” Google search.

Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

McCovey Chronicles will be covering news from around the league all season long with our new daily MLB Chronicles column.

Clayton Kershaw will make his season debut tonight when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Cincinnati Reds.

I know, I know - this is a San Francisco Giants site, and you shouldn’t have to look at a Los Angeles Dodgers player. Forgive me. This is important news, for the Giants, for the NL West, and for baseball as a whole.

Hate the Dodgers all you want, but Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers alive in baseball history, and the sport is better when he’s in it.

If you like theater, Kershaw will be facing off against former teammate Yasiel Puig and . . . well, yeah. That should be fun to watch.

It will presumably take Kershaw a while to round into form. He missed all of Spring Training, and made only two rehab starts, totalling 10.1 innings in AA and AAA. It will presumably be a few starts before he fully looks like Kershaw, and before he’s stretched out to 100 or so innings.

More importantly (for the Dodgers, that is), Kershaw helps with what has been a weakness for the team. Los Angeles has used 16 pitchers this year (not counting catcher Russell Martin), and seven of those players have provided replacement or sub-replacement value, per Fangraphs.

LA’s staff is 16th in baseball with 1.3 fWAR, and 19th with a 4.54 FIP. That will improve, with or without Kershaw, but adding a three-time Cy Young Award winner certainly accelerates the process.

But don’t get too excited about LA’s pitcher struggles. They’ve been the best team in baseball elsewhere, accumulating 6.1 fWAR from their position players 1.7 WAR better than the next highest team. The Dodgers’ team wRC+ of 137 is a better hitting mark than every Giants player not named ‘Madison Bumgarner.’ The Dodgers are hitting like a team with nine 2013 Buster Poseys.

So don’t let the recent six-game slide or the 9-8 record fool you. The Dodgers still have the best point differential in the league, and the third-best mark in MLB.

They are terrifyingly good, and now they’re even better.