There are two second basemen on the American League All-Star roster, plus another on the list of candidates that fans will vote upon for the final spot. None of them are the Tampa Bay Rays’ starter at the keystone, Logan Forsythe, and we can’t say that is much of a surprise. Forsythe doesn’t play for a big-market team and didn’t break out until this season. That being said, let’s look at the second basemen in the American League from as unbiased of a perspective of possible and see where Forsythe fits in. Should he have made the cut?
Jose Altuve and Jason Kipnis were the two that made the All-Star team while Brian Dozier is on the list for the final vote. A pair of players with several All-Star appearances on their resume, Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano, have struggled through disappointing seasons, although another such player, Dustin Pedroia, is worthy of consideration. Altuve, Kipnis, Dozier, and Pedroia are Forsythe’s opposition in the discussion of best second basemen in the American League this season.
There is no chance that Forsythe is the best in the league because Kipnis has delivered a ridiculous season. He has hit to a .336/.414/.498 line, leading the league in hits and doubles while also showing solid defense. However, Forsythe is right there with the other three, and let’s go category by category to see where he stacks up.
Dozier finishes last in the average and OBP categories, but he is far and away the best power hitter in this group. OPS and OPS+ both place him first and he received more plate appearances than anyone, and there is no good reason to argue with that. However, a case can be made for Forsythe as the second-best in this group. Pedroia beats him in OPS, but only in fewer plate appearances. The difference is big enough that the two are in a dead heat according to Baseball-Reference’s offensive WAR (2.4) and Forsythe beats Pedroia in Fangraphs’ “Off” statistic, 10.9 to 9.4. Let’s put Forsythe second.
It can’t be a surprise that Altuve, who leads the league in stolen bases, wins this category. However, the race is much closer than you would think because he also leads the league in caught stealings and has been picked off 4 times. Forsythe has the best stolen base success rate, the second-best extra base taken rate (XBT%), and the second-fewest outs on base (OOB), but he is still graded as a below-average baserunner by Fangraphs’ BsR stat. That is likely because he hasn’t always done a great job reading hits off the bat and hasn’t advanced as much as he could have.
It is still a shock that Forsythe is considered worse than Pedroia, so the optimists can certainly disagree with the BsR stat and put Forsythe third in this category. Even so, Altuve and Dozier are far ahead of him.
Look at UZR, and Forsythe is the best defender of the bunch. The issue for him this season, however, is that he also played second base less than any of the other three because of the injury to James Loney. He has a low FRAA while being fine in the other stats because that stat doesn’t divide by position and factors in his poor defense at first base. If Forsythe plays second base the rest of the season, he has a chance to win a Gold Glove, but it’s hard to say that he was a better defender than Altuve while playing so much at less demanding positions and not even looking great at them. Let’s rank him second.
Finally, we have the lazy way of making our decision for us, WAR. Altuve is at 2.4 according to Baseball-Reference and 2.2 per Fangraphs, Dozier is at 3.0 and 3.1 , Forsythe is at 2.7 and 2.6, and Pedroia is at 2.0 and 2.2. That has Forsythe ranking second in this group behind only Dozier and third when we factor in Kipnis. If we were just going to look at average ranking among our three categories above, Dozier and Altuve would have tied for second with Forsythe placing third. That would miss the point, though, because Altuve isn’t just the worst hitter of these four–he’s the worst by a wide margin.
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Something that may be an issue for Forsythe moving forward in the All-Star voting, even if he can keep his current level of performance up, is that he isn’t a particularly exciting player. He doesn’t hit a ton home runs, he doesn’t steal many bases, and he makes great plays in the field with his arm rather than his glove, making them less impressive for whatever reason. He also has versatility, a factor that made people throughout baseball love Ben Zobrist, but he doesn’t play the positions higher than second base on the defensive spectrum and would be better suited sticking at second.
However, what Forsythe has done this season is go out and be consistently great. He leads the Rays in OPS and OPS+, constantly working good at-bats and doing everything he can to help this already run-deprived team stay within the range of respectability. Where would the Tampa Bay Rays be without Logan Forsythe? That isn’t a question that the team even wants to think about.
If fans had been able to ignore Jose Altuve’s short stature, stolen bases, and presence on a first-place team to look at how far he is below Jason Kipnis, Brian Dozier, and Logan Forsythe offensively, Kipnis would be starting the All-Star Game, Dozier would be on the AL team as a reserve, and Forsythe would be one of the Final Vote candidates. Even if we were as optimistic as possible, he didn’t deserve to make the team outright, but we also know how little that means in terms of how valuable he has been to the Rays this season.