Rotation? Solid. Offense, bullpen? Problems.

NEW YORK – It wasn’t a unanimous opinion, but the general consensus during the offseason was that if you were to rank the Braves’ starting rotation, bullpen  and offense in terms of level of concern, a rotation that added baseball’s two oldest pitchers and an injury-prone lefty was more of a concern than an offense that ranked among the National League’s most productive in the second half of the 2016 season and a bullpen that looked promising if healthy.

Well, with exactly one-ninth of the season completed, the starters are currently the least of the concerns for a 6-12 Braves team lugging a six-game losing streak into the Big Apple for a series with the also-struggling Mets, whose bad luck with injuries in 2016 continues unabated in a new season.

As for the Braves, the excitement over a highly praised new ballpark and a four-game sweep of the lowly Padres hasn’t been enough to offset the realization that the rebuilding project continues and the reminder that rebuilding is no fun.

That starting rotation, with the additions of 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, 42-year-old R.A. Dickey and lefty Jaime Garcia to the incumbent duo of Julio Teheran and the still-unproven Mike Foltynewicz, has more than held its own, ranking 10th in the majors in ERA (3.80), albeit with the majors’ fewest strikeouts per nine in nings (6.41). Braves starters have just three wins in 18 games, tied with Toronto for the fewest in the majors, and the reason is two-fold: shaky bullpen and lack of run support.

Braves starters are 25th in the majors in run support at 3.63 per nine innings pitched, and the alarmingly inconsistent bullpen ranks 25th in the majors in ERA (5.19), 27th in opponents’ batting average (.272) and 26th in opponents’ OPS (.806).

Braves relievers have blown more saves (four) than they’ve converted (three). Ouch.

Offensively, the Braves rank 24th in the majors in runs per game (3.61) despite having baseball’s hottest hitter for much of the early part of the season in Freddie Freeman, who has continued the remarkable hitting surge he began in early June. Freeman ranks third in the majors in batting average (.381), tied for second in homesr (seven) and third in OPS (1.303) behind Milwaukee’s Eric Thames (1.392) and Braves nemesis Bryce Harper (1.321).

But while Harper has 20 RBIs and Thames has 17, Freeman has just nine. None of the other 18 hitters with at least six homers has fewer than 10 RBIs and 15 of them have at least 13 RBIs.

Which brings me to a rather staggering statistic: The Braves have hit 20 home runs, but just three with runners on base, tied with the Giants for second-fewest homers with runners on base in the majors. Only the Royals (two) have hit fewer. The Braves’ .320 slugging percentage with runners on base is third-lowest in the majors, while the Nationals (.544) and Brewers (.500) lead the majors in that category. The Nats are hitting .321 with runners on base compared to the Braves’ .227.

The Braves’ 17 homers with nobody on base is tied for fourth-most in the majors, trailing only the Brewers (22),  Mets (21) and Astros (19). The Braves’ .438 slugging percentage with bases empty is fourth-highest in the majors (second in the NL) and a whopping 118 points above their slugging percentage with runners on base.

Ender Inciarte has two of the Braves’ three homers with runners on base, while Freddie Freeman has the other. Part of the problem is, their hottest hitter, Freeman has had only about half as many opportunities to hit with runners on base as several other Braves.

Again, Freeman has seven homers and nine RBIs, continuing a disturbing trend that’s gone on for a full year now.

Consider this: In Freeman’s past 162 games, going back to April 22, 2016, he has hit .322 (194-for-603) with 93 extra-base hits including 40 homers, 93 BB, a .416 OBP and .620 slugging percentage (1.036 OPS). As remarkable as those statistics are – and they are indeed remarkable – what’s also astonishing is Freeman’s RBI total in those 162 games: 96 RBIs. Yes, the man has 40 homers and almost as many extra-base hits as RBIs in 162 games.

Freeman had some stretches in that period where he didn’t hit great with runners in scoring position, but what the stat points to more than anything is just how inconsistent – and this season, consistently bad – the guys hitting in front of him have been in terms of getting on base.

This season, Braves leadoff hitters – Ender Inciarte has hit leadoff in all 18 games — rank 26th in OBP (.247) and Braves No. 2 hitters (primarily Dansby Swanson) are dead last in the majors in batting average (.179) and OBP (.200; next-lowest is .237).

As a result, Braves hitters with the most at-bats with runners on base are usual Nos. 5-6 hitters Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips, with 33 at-bats and seven RBIs apiece in those situations, and Inciarte, with 31 ABs. Markakis is 9-for-33 (.273) with four doubles and a .368 OBP with runners on base, Phillips is 11-for-33 (.333) with a .371 OBP, and Inciarte is just 6-for-31 (.194) with a .242 OBP.

The next-most at-bats with runners on base belong to Adonis Garcia, who is 4-for-25 (.160), and Swanson, who’s just 2-for-23 (.087).

And No. 3 hitter Freeman? He has just 16 official at-bats (4-for-16) with runners on base, though he also has five walks and a .429 OBP.

Eighteen games and just 16 at-bats with runners on base. That’s a problem. The Braves have one of the majors’ best and hottest hitters, but his searing performance feels like it’s being largely wasted.

This classic ’70s pop tune seemed appropriate for some reason.

“HOW LONG” by Ace

Ace

How long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?

Well, if friends with their fancy persuasion
Don’t admit that it’s part of a scheme
Then I can’t help but have my suspicions
‘Cause I ain’t quite as dumb as I seem
And you said you was never intending
To break up our scene in this way
But there ain’t any use in pretending
It could happen to us any day

How long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?

Oh, your friends with their fancy persuasion
Don’t admit that it’s part of a scheme
But I can’t help but have my suspicions
‘Cause I ain’t quite as dumb as I seem
Oh, you said you was never intending
To break up our scene in this way
But there ain’t any use in pretending
It could happen to us any day

And how long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?
How long?
How long has this been going on?
How long has this, how long has this been going on?
How long, how long has this been going on?
How long has this been going on?