Saturday, December 7, 2013

In the Cross Hairs: Logan Forsythe

Yesterday, our very own Twitterless Joe published a nice post where he sifted through seven different second base options for the Royals in 2014. After reading the post, I couldn't help but plow through the various Major League depth charts to search out some additional options. Upon arriving at the Padres page, I recalled a rumor from the summer in which Kansas City had been reported to be scouting San Diego middle infielders. We've talked about Logan Forsythe before but as I examined his Fangraphs page, I began to grow more and more intrigued.

Forsythe, who will be 27 on Opening Day 2014, came up as a solid prospect in the San Diego system. In his final year of prospect eligibility, Baseball America ranked him as the Padres 13th best prospect and said that the former 1st round pick showed plenty of range a strong arm. Baseball America also praised his eye and modest line drive approach even claiming that eventually he could hit 12-15 home runs annually. At the time of the report, Forsythe had hit .278/.407/.389 in 251 career minor league games. The following season Forsythe broke out and hit .326/.445/.528 in 46 AAA games before getting the big league call.

Since that time Forsythe has hit just .241/.310/.349 in 228 career games. At this point you are wondering why I was so eager to write a post about him for this blog. You see I don't believe that this line is an accurate reflection of how good a hitter Forsythe has been during his time in the Majors. So I will first point your attention to Forsythe's 2013 BABIP of .255.

Now let me make this perfectly clear. A low BABIP doesn't necessarily mean that a player has underperformed his expectations. It seems that all too often we look at BABIP as a one stop shop for an explanation on how lucky a player has been. What we should be doing is comparing a player's BABIP to his expected BABIP. When we do this, there might not have been an unluckier player in 2013 than Logan Forsythe.

Consider this, of second baseman with at least 240 plate appearances in 2013, Forsythe ranked second in line drive percentage at 28.5%. Despite this Forsythe ranked 39th out of 44 second basemen in BABIP. This is astounding. When we expand our sample to include all hitters with at least 240 plate appearances, Forsythe ranks fourth in LD % and 297th out of 325 in BABIP. Something isn't adding up.

This immediately attracted me to Forsythe as an excellent buy low option, but I wanted to continue this exercise. So the next question I asked was 'what would Forsythe's numbers be if we swapped his BABIP for his luck removed xBABIP?'  So after finding an xBABIP formula that I liked, I plugged in Forsythe's numbers. Here is what I got (the additional hits were then spread across singles, doubles, and triples in the same way his hits were spread in 2013):

  • 75 games, 220 at bats, .285/.352/.417 with a .337 wOBA and worth 1.69 WAR. 
This is a player that I would love to have manning second base for the Royals in 2014. But then I asked myself another question. What would happen if we utilized Fangraphs 2013 park factors to determine what Forsythe's luck removed line would have been had he played his home games at Kauffman Stadium instead of Petco Park. Here is what I came up with:
  • 75 games, 220 at bats, .287/.354/.430 with a .343 wOBA and worth 1.8 WAR. 
Getting even more excited about Logan Forsythe, this led me to another question. What would Forsythe's luck removed 2013 line have looked like if he received 500 plate appearances with his home park being Kauffman Stadium?
  • 453 at bats, .287/.354/.430 with 17 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs, and worth 3.4 WAR. 
Some people might read this post and only see number manipulation. It is true, I have utilized numbers to manipulate Forsythe's 2013 statistics. However, what I have actually attempted to do is apply what we know about baseball to paint a clearer picture of Forsythe's true talent level. I have applied the statistics that are known to be the most predictive to create this image. 

What I haven't done is say things like "what if Forsythe can regain his line drive stroke and square up more baseballs with a mechanical adjustment?" I don't need to do that. The data tells us that in 2013, Forsythe was one of the very best hitters in professional baseball in terms of hitting line drives. His BABIP should have been one of the best in baseball, instead it was one of the very worst. 

This is the type of perfect storm that an analytics department dreams about. You have a player who has developed exactly into what Baseball America predicted 3 years ago, but no one sees it because of the park he plays in and the hard luck that he has endured. Forsythe is entering the prime of his career. He is right in that sweet spot where a step forward is to be expected. The point I am making is that Forsythe can repeat his 2013, he'd be an fantastic addition for the Royals for 2014. 

Forsythe will make the league minimum in 2014 and then be arbitration eligible for the three following seasons. What would you give up for four years of Logan Forsythe?

Follow me @Landon_Adams


  1. Not better option that Colon

  2. Get Gyorko if you are going to get a San Diego infielder. Fits our needs way way more effectively.

  3. It would take more than we gave up for Shields to get Gyorko. Young, cheap, controllable power hitting 2b is right up there with a #1 pitcher and an offensive SS or C. It would start with 2 of Ventura/Zimmer/Duffy plus Bonifacio or Mondesi and a MLB-ready guy to replace him...