You can’t say the Braves aren’t trying. They’ve summoned Jose Constanza and plugged him into the lineup — batting him ninth, for some reason — and they’ve sent Kris Medlen to Gwinnett to brush up on his long-form techniques, and now they’ve demoted Tyler Pastornicky and promoted Andrelton Simmons. And they have, it must be noted, fashioned a two-game winning streak after going more than a week between victories. That said …
All this motion won’t yield the desired results unless the starting pitching gets better. I know I’m belaboring the point, but in baseball starting pitching is the one point that cannot be belabored.
The Braves just completed a six-game homestand; only once in the six games did a starting pitcher last even six innings, and that came on a night when Tim Hudson yielded seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings against Washington. Last night Hudson couldn’t hold a five-run lead and was gone after 5 2/3, having been touched for five earned runs. And he’s generally considered the best the Braves have.
The Braves’ starting pitchers have compiled an ERA of 4.47, which is second-worst (leading only Colorado) in the National League. Their total of 20 quality starts — a minimum of six innings worked with three earned runs or fewer — is also second-worst, and it’s noteworthy that the teams ranking 1, 2 and 3 in quality starts are fellow NL Easters Philadelphia, Miami and Washington.
And where the Braves go next? To Washington for three games, then to Miami for three. Then comes a 15-game stretch against the American League East, the best of baseball’s six divisions. Kris Medlen better stretch out his arm in a hurry.
By Mark Bradley