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.)