"With four All-Star pitchers (Oswalt, Pettitte, Clemens and Lidge) in peak form, the Astros are the favorite in the National League." -- Albert Chen, SI.com
After scouring the web for 24 hours, looking for anybody, anywhere, cocky enough to post their Astros-Braves opinion on the triple w, I've found that actually, it's a landslide: just about everybody on the net who thinks they know enough to pick is going with the Astros.
Starting with Peter Gammons and Rob Neyer, and moving on down to people I've never heard of before, with names like "Wes Goldstein," what I found looked less like a trend than some kind of mass hysteria:
|Gammons||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 1|
|Gary Miller||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Crasnick||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 1|
|Neel||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Stark||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Olney||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Neyer||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Caple||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 1|
|Phillips||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 1|
|Kurkjian||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Gomez||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 1|
|McAdam||ESPN.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Rosenthal||Fox||HOU||3 - 1|
|"The Edge"||CBS Sportsline||HOU||Edge|
|Goldstein||CBS Sportsline||HOU||3 - 2|
|Reich||CBS Sportsline||HOU||3 - 1|
|Mack||CBS Sportsline||HOU||3 - 1|
|Donovan||SI.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Verducci||SI.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Luft||SI.com||HOU||3 - 0|
|Chen||SI.com||HOU||3 - 2|
|Habib||SI.com||HOU||3 - 1|
|David Pinto||Baseball Musings||HOU||W|
|Staff||Cool Standings||HOU||3 - 1
(50.7 - 49.3%)
|Dan Scotto||Beyond the Box Score||HOU||W|
|rastronomicals||Crawfish Boxes||HOU||3 - 2|
|Scott Miller||CBS Sportsline||ATL||3 - 2|
|Doug Miller||MLB.com||ATL||3 - 0|
|Rogers||ESPN.com||ATL||3 - 2|
|Karabell||ESPN.com||ATL||3 - 1|
That's 26 pundit points for the 'Stros, and only 5 for the Braves.
But I do find it interesting that as many of these writer types see a sweep for the Braves as see one for Houston.
Thirteen see it 3 - 1 Houston, and twelve (including your humble servant) see it 3 - 2.
I mean, go 'Stros, but you've still got to wonder if any of these people actually watched the Astros offense at any point this year. If they'd watched enough of the team that finished with a .309 onbase percentage close and late, or of the team that finished with a .236 batting average from the 7-slot, or hit .253 with the bases loaded, they might be considering the Braves a bit more.
Please do not get me wrong here. I am picking the 'Stros in five, and there's no doubt that Houston can win the series with their pitching. But 26 - 5 kind of says that the Astros should win the series. And I don't know if I can go that far.
Pettitte, Clemens, and Oswalt finished 1, 3 and 4 in the NL in quality starts, with a grand total of 80. Yet, combined, they won fifty games. That means the three made thirty quality starts where they didn't get the win. Nearly 38% of the time, leaving after the sixth, having given up three--worst case--was not good enough to get a win. And you know we can't blame the bullpen for that, because Houston had the second best bullpen in the NL.
What this says to me is that it might not matter if the three pitch well.
The Braves are inexperienced, and are proud possessors of a history coming up short in the playoffs. I think that the writers are consciously or subconsciously holding that against them. Well, I read something that pretty much puts that experience stuff to bed, and I think it'd be a mistake to use history as a reason that the Astros will beat the Braves.
What I'm trying to say here is that really, you can imagine a bunch of scenarios in which the Braves can beat the Astros. For whatever reason, the vast majority of writers chose not to consider them.
That doesn't mean that the Astros aren't going to win, it just means that you shouldn't take much stock in this mass of opinion. . . .