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Don't look now, but Logan Forsythe is the best player on the Rays

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How did this happen?

Cliff McBride/Getty Images

Logan Forsythe has been Tampa Bay's best player in 2015. You know, just like we all predicted back in March.

Following Wednesday's game against the New York Yankees, Forsythe leads the team in the following offensive categories:

Category


Doubles

10

Extra-Base Hits

14

Batting Average

.304

On-Base Percentage

.375

Slugging Percentage

.487

OPS

.862

wRC+

148

fWAR

1.4

Forsythe has been something of a revelation through the season's first quarter, appearing in 34 of 35 games due to the oblique injury of Nick Franklin.

Just how important has he been? Tied for the team lead in RBI (15), Forsythe is fourth on the team in plate appearances, but of the six players with more than 100 plate appearances Forsythe had the lowest strikeout percentage (14.1%). He's an incredibly difficult out.

While he has ridden a few hot streaks (10-25 in a six game stretch from April 28 - May 4), Forsythe's consistency has been remarkable on both sides of the ball. He has reached base in 28 of 33 games in which he received a plate appearance, and has been held hit-less in consecutive games only twice.

For the time being, Forsythe has solidified the second base job, while also appearing in multiple games at three other positions, as his role was expected to be this season.

In addition to his positional flexibility, Forsythe's ability to produce anywhere in the lineup has made him extremely valuable. While 68% of Forsythe's plate appearances have come from the sixth or seventh spots, he has continued to produce when moved to the three and four spots in the middle of the order, going for 8-for-23 with a walk and three extra-base hits in the small sample size of batting near Longoria.

Put simply, Forsythe's team-leading production has been a welcomed surprise.

If you did not see this coming, you are hardly alone. PECOTA was not particularly bullish on Forsythe's 2015, projecting just a line of .239/.316/.360 and 0.8 WARP.

After all, in 2013-2014, Forsythe hit a combined .219/285/.330 with just 32 extra-base hits.

What's changed?

Perhaps Forsythe's drastically improved production can be attributed to his drastically improved performance against four-seam fastballs, the pitch he has seen most frequently in 2015 (40.6%) and his career overall (35.2%).

Entering 2015, Forsythe had struggled when facing four-seamers from both right-handed and left-handed pitchers:


AVG

OBP

SLP

K%

BB%

2011-2014

.231

.314

.336

19.6%

10.8%

In 2015, however, his strikeouts against four-seamers have decreased, while his other numbers have increased:


AVG

OBP

SLP

K%

BB%

2015

.326

.396

.558

12.5%

10.4%

Another significant improvement, albeit in just one-fifth of the season, has been Forsythe's handling of pitches on the middle and lower inner-half of the strike zone. Again, prior to the season, these pitches tended to handcuff Forsythe:

In the small sample size of 2015, he is hitting .500 against these same pitches:

Looking Ahead

Will this continue? That is, can he continue his current pace and  be a 7-win player who produces 65 extra-base hits?

As of this writing, Forsythe is on pace for more than 600 plate appearances. His previous career high is 315, set in 2012 with the San Diego Padres. Forsythe's track record indicates he will begin to regress to his mean the more he plays, and that mean is that 2011-2014 box mentioned above.

What is intriguing, though, is that his BABIP (while elevated at .340), is not outrageously or unsustainably high for just a single season. Similarly, his walk percentage (9.4% in 2015, 7.8% in his career) and strikeout percentage (14.1% in 2015, 19.0% in his career), are dramatically different from his career percentages. Those could be real changes.

Also worth noting are his batted ball numbers, which have remained completely in-line with his career averages:


Line-Drive %

Groundball %

Flyball %

HR/FB %

Career

24.0% 39.7% 36.4% 6.6%

2015

19.6%

37.1%

43.3% 7.1%

Forsythe's production might not sustainable if he remains an everyday player. At roughly the quarter point in the season, though, he has been Tampa Bay's best and most versatile player.

Baseball is so predictable.