Don Mattingly and the rest of the Dodgers' coaching staff have been on the hot seat since before opening day, and a 17-25 record so far hasn't gotten them off of it.
Los Angeles won two out of three against the Nationals, but then were swept by the Braves. After the sweep, rumors about potential coaching changes increased dramatically. But Mattingly and his fellow coaches could be saved by a trio of starting pitchers.
Clayton Kershaw has been great so far this season. The lefty is 4-2 with a 1.40 ERA and 67 strikeouts, and has really only had one bad start. If Kershaw wins his start Monday night, then it is up to the two pitchers behind him to extend what would be the Dodgers' one-game win streak.
Next up is Zack Greinke. The righty missed five starts with a broken collarbone, but has been dominant when on the mound this season. Greinke is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA and 14 strikeouts. After Greinke is Hyun-Jin Ryu. The second lefty is 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 56 strikeouts this season.
These three starters have been great so far this season. But they need to be even better over the next three days if they want to save Mattingly and a couple other coaches. Capuano and Magill had great back-to-back starts against the Braves only to come away with a no decision after the bullpen blew the game.
If the Dodgers were to sweep the Brewers, or at least win two of three, I think Mattingly will be safe, but maybe not hitting coach Mark McGwire and bullpen coach Chuck Crim, both in their first year on the Dodgers' major league staff.
The offense has been horrible, but not as bad lately as the bullpen. Two or three runs won't cut it, but neither will the bullpen. Even if the Dodgers win the series, McGwire and Crim could remain on the hot seat. Crim is responsible for managing the bullpen in that he watches over the pitchers and waits for Mattingly or Honeycutt to call him over the bullpen phone. While Mattingly is partially responsible for the bullpen's problems because he uses them a little to much, maybe getting a new bullpen coach could help.
If the bullpen were to blow another game, I think Crim should be responsible. That's only if the bullpen blows a big lead in the final game. If the bullpen were to blow Monday's game after coming in with a three run or more lead, I think Mattingly would be responsible. In the end, I think Crim is the one to blame, and while that may be a tough pill to swallow, Mattingly isn't the one watching them in the bullpen and fixing their mechanics. Mattingly was never a pitcher in the MLB, and never a pitching coach for the Dodgers, which is why blaming him for pitcher's mechanics is pointless to me.
Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu have been good enough to win 2-0 games consistently. But they could keep McGwire on the hot seat. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have been revived thanks in part to McGwire, but they can't carry the team every night. If the three starters barely win the three games, I think McGwire could be the first to go even though it the Dodgers would be 20-25.
So far this season, L.A.'s offense has given Kershaw 3.22 runs per game. Even though Kershaw's ERA is 1.40, that many runs per game is not enough for the bullpen to keep the lead. When Ryu starts, LA scores 4.67 runs per game on average. While Ryu does have a higher ERA than Kershaw, it still isn't enough.
When they start, Ryu and Kershaw are given nearly a 1.5-run cushion between the runs they give up and the runs scored by L.A.'s offense. If McGwire wants to keep his job, he needs to figure out a way to increase that cushion to three or four for each starter, because even though McGwire has nothing to do with the bullpen, it could cost him his job.
If Mattingly, McGwire, and Crim want to be on the coaching staff a week from now, they better hope that Kershaw, Ryu, and Greinke pitch deep into games, the bullpen doesn't blow the games, and the offense finally starts to hit consistently. In the end, it all comes down to the three starters, because if they are knocked out early and Mattingly has to go to the bullpen, all three coaches might not be wearing Dodger blue next week.