It is part of baseball's conventional wisdom to assume that, but it has not been such a clear case as you might think. Between 1993 and 1999, excluding the 1994 strike year, there were six seasons in which the Braves had three #1 starters. Each of them won a Cy Young Award durung that period. Maddux even won an extra one, so they took the Cy in four of those six years. Those three guys were good. Indeed, Randy Johnson had probably his best year, and one of the best years in the history of baseball in 1995, and he still lost the Cy Young to Maddux, who went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. OK, you get the point. Like today's Phillies, the Braves had three legitimate #1 starters. So how did the team do in those short series?
In the five-game series, they were tremendous. They won all five they were in, all of them by 3-0 or 3-1. They won 15 of those games and lost only two.
They were NOT very effective in the seven-game series, so they finished with only one World Series title in that great run. In the NL championship series, they won three match-ups and lost three. In the World Series, they won one and lost two.
In the regular season, the team won the division every time. Six out of six.
Like everyone else, I have always thought that such superior pitching was more important over a short series. That ignores the fundamental rule of statistics - the longer the periood evaluated, the more likely that the better team will win. If you have three great pitchers like that, you can just bet you'll do great in the regular season if they stay healthy, because luck and flukes are less important over a period of 162 games than in a short period. In the long haul, things even out. You all know that a guy can bat .700 over five games, but nobody has ever batted .700 for the year. That fact illustrates the same principle - the longer the period, the more likely are things to perform at their expected level. A great team is more likely to emerge on top in a long period than in a short one.
Having noted that point, I am not about to go out and bet any money on the Reds. As I noted above, the Braves of 1993-99 won every single five-game series they were in, and none of them were even close.
Once that series is over, however, assuming that the Phillies can follow the script, the rest of the route is unpredictable. The Braves of the Glavine-Smoltz-Maddux starting era were 4-5 in their nine seven-game series, and won only one WS championship in six opportunities. On other words, the odds against the Phillies are a lot longer than you may think. A current bet on them to win the WS only pays off 2-1. That's not good action.
Current odds to win the WS:
Atlanta Braves 12/1
Cincinnati Reds 11/1
Minnesota Twins 17/2
New York Yankees 7/2
Philadelphia Phillies 2/1
San Francisco Giants 7/1
Tampa Bay Rays 9/2
Texas Rangers 10/1