Three Braves’ keys in playoffs (and the long odds in Vegas)

Derrek Lee, who homered in Sunday's 8-7 win over Philadelphia, is a key bat for the Braves against San Francisco. (AP photo)

Derrek Lee, who homered in Sunday's 8-7 win over Philadelphia, is a key bat for Braves in playoffs.

Newsflash: The Braves are long shots.

According to the online sportsbook Bodog.com, which generally reflects the odds in Las Vegas, the Braves are 12-1 to win the World Series. That’s last among the eight postseason teams, behind Philadelphia (2-1), New York Yankees (7-2), Tampa Bay (9-2), San Francisco (7-1), Minnesota (8-1),  Cincinnati (11-1) and Texas (11-1). Bodog lists the Braves as plus-550 to win the National League pennant, the equivalent of 11-2, behind Philadelphia (1-1.4), San Francisco (3-1) and Cincinnati (5-1).

The longest World Series match-up odds are Braves vs. Rangers at 28-1; the shortest are the Phillies vs. Yankees at 7-2.

So now that you realize just how much money you can make when the Braves win it all — pause for effect — the question becomes: How do the Braves get past the Giants?

This figures to be a low-scoring series. The Giants and Braves are the two lowest-scoring teams with the two lowest staff ERAs in playoffs. So statistics suggest four runs would win a game. Maybe three. Maybe two.

That said, here are three keys for the Braves (beyond the obvious of pitching):

1. Defense. It has been horrible. Some of that can be attributed to injuries but it really hasn’t been good all year. The Braves finished with 126 errors this season, tied for the third most in the majors behind only Washington and Pittsburgh (127), who had a combined 195 losses. After third baseman Brooks Conrad committed errors in three straight games (including the first two games of the Philadelphia series), manager Bobby Cox flopped Conrad with second baseman Omar Infante in the field. Result: They both committed errors. That just can’t happen, particularly in a low-scoring series. Alex Gonzalez’ 19 errors also ranked low (as in bad) among major league shortstops this season.

Derrek Lee: He actually had a couple of key two-out hits, as well as a home run, in the Philadelphia series. He is hitting .287 (37 for 129) in 39 games as a Brave, which is solid. But he needs to be a run-producer and bring some power in this series. His three home runs in 129 at-bats (151 plate appearances) in Atlanta aren’t enough. Note: In three postseasons with Florida (2003) and the Chicago Cubs (2007-08), Lee is hitting .263 with one homer and eight RBIs.

Omar Infante: Before the season-finale against the Phillies, Infante was hitting .172 (11 for 64) in his previous 16 games. Then he keyed a four-run fourth-inning with a two-run triple and went two-for-five. He is the best remaining hitter on the team, bats leadoff and will key whatever rallies the Braves put together.

So what do you think the keys are to this series?

By the way, checked our poll from yesterday on your playoff predictions. After over 5,400 votes, 43 percent of you believe the Braves will win one round of the playoffs, ahead of lose in the first round (26), win the World Series (22), and win the National League pennant (9). I’ll leave the poll open if you still want to vote.

(I’m off to San Francisco tonight. I’ll start blogging from there Wednesday.)

♦♦♦

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

185 comments Add your comment

Buck Commander

October 5th, 2010
10:56 am

Buck Commander

October 5th, 2010
10:58 am

Have a good trip and enjoy yourself Jeff. GO BRAVES!!

DevilInLaw

October 5th, 2010
11:10 am

Omar is the ‘best remaining hitter on the team’ ?!? … Messrs. McCann and Heyward are apparently just chopped liver in your book.

Buck Commander

October 5th, 2010
11:10 am

I’hoping that getting back into the playoffs will light a fire under the team and that they turn it up a notch. But I’m also worried about all the pressure thats going to be on the young guys and other players that have never been in this situation before. I think it could go either way. I just hope they can handle all the drama, enjoy themselves and play well. GO BRAVES!!

ArkyTech

October 5th, 2010
11:11 am

What were Cardinals odds in 2006?

kaminari

October 5th, 2010
11:15 am

Braves – Rangers.. Yeah!!

DC Brave

October 5th, 2010
11:16 am

I am proud to day that way, way back in March, I had to attend a business convention in Vegas. I went to the Sports Book at the Bellagio and placed a small amount of money on the Braves. Odds were about the same, even then…and I still have the ticket. GO BRAVES!!!!!!

Ted Striker

October 5th, 2010
11:20 am

That’s some long odds. And they sound about right.

Buck Commander

October 5th, 2010
11:21 am

Jeff, while you are in San Francisco see if you can find The Count and bring him back with you. Theres a good chance thats where he has been hanging out lately. I heard something on the news not long ago about massive blood shortages and blood drives going on in that area of the state.

All In!

October 5th, 2010
11:25 am

I just put my life savings on a Braves vs. Rangers series! IMA GONNA BE RICH!!!

Dawgs97

October 5th, 2010
11:30 am

Jeff, It’s sad to say this, but after 5 years of NO playoffs, I am so happy just to see the Braves even make it, that even if they get swept in Round 1 (which is sadly what I think is going to happen), it’s still a minor miracle they’re even there.

Keep in mind…inconsistent starting pitching, an ace that has turned average at best (Hudson), season ending injuries to several key players including Chipper, Prado and Medlen, a limited payroll that didn’t allow us to add say a Roy Oswalt, poor defense and a less than average performing lineup. Plus, our set up man (Saito), just back from injury and no way to know if he will be effective.

All in all, this team isn’t going to win a game this week. The Ginats end it Sunday in Atlanta. I will root like crazy for 3 games for this team and so happy they made it back to a post season, but too many injuries, holes and problems to overcome, no matter how lucky Hinske has been.

Jeff Schultz

October 5th, 2010
11:35 am

Devillnlaw — McCann and Heyward aren’t “chopped liver” but Infante is the only guy over .300 — and the only one close.

dean

October 5th, 2010
11:37 am

Braves win 1 out there (hopefully game 1) and finish it off at Turner.

Ted M

October 5th, 2010
11:41 am

Those are indeed the keys to winning. Please let us know as soon as the roster is set. Thanks

Ted M

October 5th, 2010
11:42 am

The keys to winning the WS are those plus the Reds beating the Phillies.

sidslid

October 5th, 2010
11:48 am

Venters: Hope he just needs three days off and is not spent for the year. SF has a good bullpen so we need to match up in a six inning game.

dean

October 5th, 2010
11:48 am

Lincecum beat the Braves out there on 4/11 (Kawakami started for the Braves). Braves beat him in ATL on 8/5.

Empty Seat at Turner Field

October 5th, 2010
11:50 am

What has the longer odds – the Braves winning the World Series or the Braves selling out a playoff game?

Empty Seat at Turner Field

October 5th, 2010
11:56 am

The Commissioner should have overrode the Braves making the playoffs for the good of baseball

I mean, come on, they went 14-16 in their last 30 games. They had a LOSING record in the last month, that is PATHETIC.

The Phillies, a Juggernaut, went 23-7 over the same stretch, its just ridiculous.

Empty Seat at Turner Field

October 5th, 2010
11:57 am

The Braves went 14-16 in their last 30 games (a losing record over the last month, are you kidding me?)

Empty Seat at Turner Field

October 5th, 2010
11:58 am

Phillies went 23-7 over the same stretch – the two teams could not be more different – the braves should be kicked out of the nl east and made to play in the central, that division is a little more their speed.

Brian

October 5th, 2010
11:58 am

I agree the defense is a key for this team in the playoffs. We have the pitching and I really do believe the offense to go deep in the playoffs, but it means almost nothing if the defense is bad, as they’ll be throwing away any hope of winning. Keeping Conrad away from 3rd is a start.

Bluestreak

October 5th, 2010
11:59 am

Folks, don’t discount the Braves in the first round. We beat SF in a ’seven game series’, aka the season series between the two clubs. We beat up on their best pitcher and no one else on their staff is clutch. We have 3 great starters that have been pitching very well (save Hudson’s next to last) coming in.

If we can get production from a couple of key spots, we’ll win this series. If we hack at bad pitching and throw the ball away, we’re in trouble. But the same could be said for all of the clubs in the playoffs.

Of the three teams we could be facing (well, two due to the same division rule for the first round) this is the team I would want to be facing.

Brian

October 5th, 2010
12:05 pm

I’d go with this lineup for game 1 if I’m Bobby against the righty:

3B- Infante

RF- Heyward

1B- Lee

C- McCann

LF- Hinske (Diaz against a lefty)

2B- Conrad

SS- Gonzalez

CF- Ankiel

I only say Ankiel goes because Mclouth isn’t near as good a defender in CF as Ankiel (his arm is nowhere near as good either) and he’s actually worse in LF. Yes, he probably gives you a better chance on offense than Rick, but again, the defense thing comes into play. We’re not going to score many runs anyways, so it’s smarter to put your best defensive team out there as possible. Even though it’s not great to begin with, but you have to put out the best you have.

Brian

October 5th, 2010
12:08 pm

Schultz, you sit there and talk about Infante’s struggles at the plate and it’s probably because he’s tired. I’m not sure he’s ever played this much in a season, so you’d think he’s a bit whooped. These off days should help him. McCann could use the rest as well.

Kevin

October 5th, 2010
12:11 pm

I believe the Braves need to do some things different in the playoffs concerning their offensive approach. Have players like McLouth or Ankiel and Heyward, if he leads off, try to bunt to get on base. As has been said, two or three runs may win each game and getting on base as a leadoff hitter is huge. Let Heyward attempt more steals. Make the defense for S.F. worry what ATL might do next. Work to get just one run every three innings and I think we win the series against S.F.
Let’s not sit back, let’s take it to them. Go Braves!!!!

The Nature Boy

October 5th, 2010
12:12 pm

I think the Braves win in 4…we have to win game 1 that will give us confidence and take away home field advantage…we need J-Hey and McCann to come up big and as you said Jeff we need Infante to get on base…

Um

October 5th, 2010
12:12 pm

“Phillies went 23-7 over the same stretch – the two teams could not be more different – the braves should be kicked out of the nl east and made to play in the central, that division is a little more their speed.” Empty Seat at Turner Field

Hey, care to share Phillie’s record for all the other months?

K.K.

October 5th, 2010
12:15 pm

#1 Key–starting K.K.

Shug

October 5th, 2010
12:16 pm

Been with the Braves since ‘68, but can anyone tell me that this isn’t the worst team to make the playoffs since the wild card was invented.

Gadawg443

October 5th, 2010
12:18 pm

The key to this and all the playoffs is 3 things – HUDSON, LOWE, HANSON! Period end of story – they pitch lights out the Braves have a chance to win some games, the don’t and the postseason will be very short lived.

Skeezix

October 5th, 2010
12:18 pm

Solid pitching and good defense are the primary keys. Then we need two or three guys to get hot and stay hot with the stick. Now if Omar, Jason, Brian and Derrek all start hitting (I know I’m dreaming here), that would be a real difference maker.

Um

October 5th, 2010
12:18 pm

Not as impressive is it

Also compare Phillie’s last 10 with Braves last 10. You were 6-4 and we were 5-5…. You are right we are not even close. I’m not denying you have a great team, but after we embarrassed you for 14 straight years, please spare us of those “you don’t belong to play with us” comments.

Jeff Francoeur

October 5th, 2010
12:23 pm

Why aren’t ya’ll talk’in about MY post season run????

The Rangers can’t wait to see me to hit into a double play late in a one run game!!!

Post season baseball ~ catch the majik!

BRAD STEVENS

October 5th, 2010
12:23 pm

My keys…

Defense, batting with runner’s in scoring position and Brian McCann.

We have just as good a chance as any team left. Anybody that watched sports knows that…esp. baseball. It only takes a couple hot bats and good pitching.

Skeezix

October 5th, 2010
12:25 pm

Hands down the Phillies are the best team in the NL and should win the NL pennant. If they don’t, with that rotation and line up, it will be viewed as a major upset. But, it is the playoffs–and there were many years between 1991-2005 when one could have said the same about the Braves, yet we came up short. So there is reason to hope.

Katherine

October 5th, 2010
12:26 pm

When it comes to the playoffs…we all know that the most talented or the the team that spends the most doesn’t necessarily win. Anything can happen…that’s what makes the playoffs so much fun to watch. No one is giving the Braves a chance…so hopefully that will spark them to do well. Go Braves!

Master Forecaster

October 5th, 2010
12:28 pm

THE PHILLIES SHOULD WIN IT ALL. THEY HAVE THE BEST TALENT BY FAR. IT SHOULDN’T EVEN BE HARD FOR THEM- A CAKE WALK.

Brien O'David

October 5th, 2010
12:28 pm

Hey Empty Seat– We heard all the whining and complaining when Chase Utley was injured.. Now we have more injuries. Why don’t you go act like a good little philly fan and go puke on somebody or get yourself tased?

Katherine

October 5th, 2010
12:30 pm

Empty Seat at Turner Field
October 5th, 2010
11:57 am

The Braves went 14-16 in their last 30 games (a losing record over the last month, are you kidding me?)

Apparently you weren’t there this past weekend….it was so much fun. They playoff game will be sold out and as I recall the yankees also had a losing record over the past month but are in the playoffs as well. I wouldnt count them out either.

Katherine

October 5th, 2010
12:32 pm

The phillies and the yankees are both in the top 5 as far as spending and yet neither one is assured of winning the WS…….I hope the cockiness and over confidence comes back to bite them in the arse lol

Ueeediot

October 5th, 2010
12:35 pm

In a 5 game series, I think I have to go with Hanson, Lowe, and Hudson, in that order. And because game 1 is so vitally important in a 5 game series, I would tell Lowe to get his head in the mindset to pitch game 1 also and have him stretch out a little.
I wonder what the math would say about completely changing the idea of your starting pitcher in the regular season and what a quality outing would be. Would it be possible to change the mindset of your club that instead of having 5 starting pitchers and 7 relievers, that for this post season, we are carrying 12 or 13 pure pitchers and we will use you for 1, 2, or 3 innings here and there, keep our opponents off balance and change it up. The post season schedule certainly helps this idea with extra days off and no possibility of a day game.
I hope they have a different attitude about the playoffs than previous years or about the regular season. Bobby doesn’t need to or have to be a ‘players coach’ for the next few weeks.
We are going to have to play much better defense. I would like to see 2 or less errors in the SF series, please.
Melky, from me to you, please open it up and break out in the post season. if Melky would get hot, this team would fire right up.

10-1 lead after 3

October 5th, 2010
12:36 pm

Like most of the 1991-2005 Braves teams, the Phillies are far and away the best in the league. The difference is that the Phils don’t have Bobby Cox to, um, git’r'dun.

ymmot

October 5th, 2010
12:38 pm

..what pressure should the Braves have on them really? There cannot be any real expectations, that’s why we have a chance. Heck let’s fire up Glaus and put him in at third!

Ueeediot

October 5th, 2010
12:42 pm

people are funny with the whole “put Glaus @ 3B” campaign.
Did you not notice how Prado even had to cheat towards second and left the lines open? I kept wishing he and Infante would switch for the simple reason that both of them would have to cheat towards second and dive towards the line. Prado got the short end of that stick.
You think Glaus can play on the lines and cover? You haven’t been watching. Think back to just before Derrik Lee started standing around at 1B. Remember Glaus couldn’t even stop pick off throws?

to the blog: who is on your 25 man roster?

Lew Burdette

October 5th, 2010
12:54 pm

Lord I hate to say it, but three and out. Sorry.

Ueeediot

October 5th, 2010
12:58 pm

Will Eric OFlaherty be available to us?

Kentavo

October 5th, 2010
1:02 pm

Wow; I’m sure Bobby is going to pull some surprises with the playoff roster; you just never know.
I mean, will he keep Freeman and drop Glaus? There’s not enough room or flexibility with both of them. That is just one of many tough calls.

CJM

October 5th, 2010
1:05 pm

Guys you aren’t getting it here. You can’t win games scoring next to nothing. Choosing the better defensive player only matters if there is a legit offence that can carry that players offensive liabilities. Play McClouth in center and use Ankile later in the game as a defensive replacement. You ahve to get a spark fro somewhere and he is clearly swinging a better bat. Lead him off and let the chips fall where they may.
Against Lincecum
CF McClouth
3rd Infante
RF Heyward
1b Lee
C McCann
SS Gonzales
LF Diaz
2b Conrad

Kentavo

October 5th, 2010
1:05 pm

And how many outfielders? Who is the odd man out? Ankiel, McClouth or Melky?
If any of that trio produces in the post-season, we’ll forget all about their miserable 162-game performances.