Braves go from 20-10 finish to 11-20 start, and it's on starting pitching

For all who believed the Braves' 20-10 finish last season was foreshadowing of things to come, take note: They are the relative inverse of that at 11-20 to start this season after Wednesday's 4-2 defeat in Houston. They have lost six straight, eight of nine and 14 of 19 since the relative nirvana experience of .500 (6-6).

It's only early May but the 11-20 start projects to 57-105 over a full season. Various analytics sites projects the Braves to finish with about 93 losses. But hey, "Welcome home," as they would say in Cumberland.

There are a number of reasons for this start, but none more than starting pitching, a subject I will delve into a bit more on Thursday.

Jaime Garcia started Wednesday's game. He lasted six innings, allowing six hits and four runs, including three in the fifth after he had two outs. If this represented a low-water mark for Braves' starters over the last nine games, it wouldn't be bad. However, it's closer to a highlight.

Over the last nine games, Braves' starters have lasted a combined 48 2/3 innings (average: 5.37). During that period, there has been only one "quality start," which is defined as allowing three or fewer runs in six or more innings. R.A. Dickey allowed three runs and four hits in six innings in a 9-7 win over the New York Mets.

In the last nine games, Braves starters have allowed a combined 40 earned runs, 61 hits, 20 walks, 15 homers and have a composite earned run average of 7.45. The worst starter has been Bartolo Colon, who over his last four starts has allowed 23 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings.

Starting pitching was expected to be a problem this season, but this has been even worse than expected. The Braves' staff ERA is 4.92 and their starters' combined ERA is 5.01. The rotation also ranks 26th in total innings, which creates the additional problem of a taxed bullpen. The bullpen was expected to be mediocre enough in normal circumstances.

Here's the last nine games by Braves' starters

• Mike Foltynewicz (at Milwaukee, 4-3 loss): 6 inn., 4 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs, 2 homers.

• Julio Teheran (New York, 7-5 loss): 6 inn., 6 hits, 6 runs, 6 earned runs, 3 walks, 2 homers.

• R.A. Dickey (New York, 9-7 win): 6 inn., 4 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 4 walks, 2 homers.

• Bartolo Colon (New York, 16-5 loss): 4 inn., 7 hits, 5 runs, 5 earned runs, 2 walks.

• Mike Foltynewicz (St. Louis, 10-0 loss): 4 inn., 9 hits, 7 runs, 7 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 homers.

• Julio Teheran (St. Louis, 5-3 loss): 5 inn., 9 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 homers.

• R.A. Dickey (St. Louis, 6-4 loss): 6 inn., 8 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 homers.

• Bartolo Colon (at Houston, 8-3 loss): 5.2 inn, 8 hits, 8 runs, 8 earned runs, 3 homers.

• Jaime Garcia (at Houston, 4-2 loss): 6 inn., 6 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs, 5 walks.

The ERAs of the five starters: Teheran 4.69,  Colon 7.22, Dickey 4.29, Garcia 4.33, Foltynewicz 4.55

Not good.

The question: Is it going to get any better?

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