USA! USA! USA!

• Mike Petriello, who is not prone to link bait or exaggerations for attention, writes for ESPN that Anthony Rizzo is becoming a superstar, and is budding into one of the best first basemen in baseball. Indeed, he might already be the best. After another great game last night, Rizzo’s line is up to .291/.403/.531 with a .403 wOBA, a 156 wRC+, and he’s already accumulated 3.0 WAR (think about that – the season isn’t even half over!). Among first basemen, Rizzo has the second best wRC+ and wOBA (behind only Edwin Encarnacion (yes, ahead of Miguel Cabrera)), and is tied with Cabrera for tops in WAR. Rizzo’s defense has been far superior to Encarnacion’s. Consider this: it is not a crazy statement to say that, so far this year (and perhaps going forward), Rizzo has been the best first baseman in baseball. That may not last all year, but Rizzo is just 24. He could get better.
• Interesting and related discussion from Patrick Mooney: the version of Starlin Castro we’ve seen this year, where does he hit in a good lineup? Instinctually, he doesn’t feel like a cleanup hitter, but .287/.332/.476 with a .352 wOBA isn’t too bad for that spot. I probably still see him as a 6/7 guy (in a very good lineup), but his offensive production is reaching the point where you almost don’t care where he hits – because he’s just hitting, man.
• FanGraphs has a new method of calculating expected team runs scored and allowed (and, thus, expected record), the deep math of which you can dig into here if you’re so inclined. The method uses “BaseRuns” as opposed to wOBA as its starting point. Long story short, it’s a much deeper calculation of expected performance, and, as we’ve seen before with more simplistic calculations of expected record, the Cubs should be just about a .500 team, based on how they’ve performed. Now here’s where you say all kinds of things about clutch, and bullpen, and offense, and whatever. I’m just telling you what the numbers say the other numbers should say about the other numbers.

• Manny Ramirez finally joined the Iowa Cubs yesterday, and played as part of a doubleheader. Here’s a fun read on his experience, including the fact that when a ball came his way in left field, it was the first time he’d seen a ball coming at him in the outfield since 2010. It’s OK, Manny. You’re not there to win any minor league Gold Gloves. Javy Baez went 4-8 on the day with two doubles (and two strikeouts), so clearly Ramirez is working.
• I joke about the immediacy of the impact, but, over time, helping Baez refine his approach at the plate is absolutely a big part of the reason Ramirez is there in Iowa. Patrick Mooney writes about that, with some very interesting quotes from John Baker. Example quote: “Somebody like Manny is the best thing you can put near somebody like Javy Baez. Because you look at what those two guys have in common. They both have freakish power, an uncanny amount of hand-eye coordination and they’re both kind of different personalities. For somebody like Javy, it’s incredible. Somebody who’s young, can show signs of immaturity at times, and has a freakish amount of upside, [will now] have somebody there that can help him out.” (Aside about what Baker said: Obviously, there’s some, eh hem, candor built in there, but it comes from a positive/developmental place. Looks like something a coach would say. Wonder if Baker’s got that in his future.)
• In case you missed it in Luke’s Minor League Daily today, Jorge Soler was back playing for the AZL Cubs yesterday. He DH’d after missing the last two game, and he went 1-2 with two walks. That one hit was a homer. Despite all the injuries (which we don’t know for sure that that’s what these last couple days off were about), Soler’s bat still hasn’t seemed to miss a beat.