Effects of

Finally, Fire Brand is back! You may notice a dearth of recent entries. This is because Canaca, our old hosting company put us on a bad server, which is why we had downtime these past weeks. Dave Cohen, our webmaster, backed up our files and had Canaca switch us to a new server, a good server. Canaca then immediately deleted the old server files, and told Dave Cohen to put the backup into the new server. Unbeknowest to Dave, the backup he had saved was corrupt; the constant downtime had interrupted the back-up, and therefore when the back-up said it was completed, it actually wasn’t. Therefore we packed our bags and moved to 1&1 Web Hosting, and the last two days have been spent moving to a new company. There, Dave had to put up the last backup he had, which was created August 7th, causing all MVN Entries made August 8th and on to be lost. The good news? We are on a rock-solid server now, and 1&1 makes nightly backups, which means we will not lose entries again, and we have a ton more space to play with. So aside from this hiccup, MVN is stronger than before. Without further ado, please enjoy the most recent Fire Brand of the American League column:
On August 18th, Peter Gammons came out with a new notebook entitled “Rock solid house of Cards“. After the initial story, he heads to ‘News and Notes’ which I find is the best part of any Gammon article. Something piqued my interest, when he said that

in the first 15 games after the Boston/Cubs/Twins/Expos trade, the batting average on balls put in play against the Cubs rose from .330 to .357, while the same average against the Red Sox declined from .336 to .308.

I decided to do a little research on Nomar Garciaparra and Orlando Cabrera, and how each of them had impacted their respective teams over the year. First, the Red Sox.
Before Nomar Garciaparra returned from injury, the Red Sox were 34-23. When Nomar was a member of the Boston Red Sox, the Sox went 22-22. From the July 31st game and on, the Red Sox have gone 13-7. A big part of this has to do with the departure of Nomar and installation of Orlando Cabrera at short. People might argue that Doug Mientkiewicz also has a large part to do with this. While I believe he had SOME part, it’s clear that Nomar impacts BABIP (Batting Average, Balls in Play) severely, as shown by Peter Gammons’ statistics. Mientkiewicz affects this, but not as much as the Cabrera/Garciaparra swap.
Nomar played 311.1 innings at short for the Red Sox, and logged a .957 fielding percentage, a 3.84 Range Factor, and abysmal .694 Zone Rating. Range Factor: ((PO + A) divided by innings) Zone Rating: The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive zone. Through August 20th, Cabrera had logged 159.0 IP, giving us a .949 fielding percentage, 4.19 RF, and .817 ZR. Also keep in mind Cabrera’s career fielding line has him playing below par for Boston, so he can only improve. The point is that Cabrera has taken away a lot more balls than Nomar did for the Red Sox.
Curiously (or maybe not so curiously), Nomar has played better for the Cubs. He has 144.0 IP logged for the Cubs through 8/20, giving us a .962 fielding percentage, 4.75 RF and .767 ZR. It must be noted, however, his zone rating is still way below what their normal shortstops gave the Cubs – Ramon Martinez had 489.1 IP, .975 FPCT, 4.29 RF, .856 ZR and Alex Gonzalez had a .967 FPCT, 4.45 RF, .846 ZR.
And how have the Cubs fared with Nomar? They have gone 10-7, as compared to 56-54 before Nomar. Only a recent three-game winning streak takes them from 7-7 to 10-7. Also, the Cubs ripped off four straight after getting Nomar, but are only 6-7 since then. The Red Sox went 2-3 after acquiring The OC, and are 11-4 since then. We have also won five straight. If you take that out of the equation and insert the 2-3 record, we are 8-7, which is obviously better than 6-7.
Offensively, Nomar has remained as consistent as he has for the Sox, hitting .333/.373/.565 for the Cubs (he hit .321/.367/.500 for the Red Sox). There is no doubt in my mind he is happier in Chicago, and he deserves to be happy.
Orlando has struggled, going .240/.266/.392 (before today’s game), but has been climbing the charts and making more clutch hits recently. In today’s Globe, Bob Hohler made note that:

…Cabrera, who entered the game batting .214 for the Sox … tried so hard to prove himself his first couple of weeks with the Sox that he fell flat, went 2 for 4 with a walk to improve to .400 (8 for 20) over his last five games.

In a nutshell? The Red Sox have dramatically improved, vaulting to first place in the wild card lead while starting to put a scare in the Yankees. The Yankees currently are in the 4th inning, losing 4-1. If the game ever proceeds, as is predicted it will, they are in danger of “slipping” to 6.5 ahead of the Red Sox, with six more games head-to-head with the Sox still waiting to happen. The Cubs? They’ve slipped to second in the wild card chase, as a hot San Francisco club (8-2 in previous 10) has turned the heat on.