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Rays' Forsythe reflects on season that exceeded expectations

PORT CHARLOTTE — The back yard of the house overlooking the hills outside Franklin, Tenn., provides Logan Forsythe the serene setting he likes to have to reflect during the offseason. The pair of rocking chairs on the front porch are a comfy place for he and his wife, Ally, to sit and chat about their lives.

It was there this winter that Forsythe was able, finally, to grasp all that had happened to him during the previous 12 months.

How he went from being a player who rarely got more than occasional regular duty over his first four seasons in the majors to an integral part of the Rays lineup. And how he was awarded team MVP honors by the writers, then rewarded with a new contract that over three years could be worth $20.25 million.

"My wife and I talked about it a lot, how crazy the season was," Forsythe said. "It went quick. We were talking about how I was able to be focused like I was in those two-, three-week stints I would get my whole career. Once I realized I was able to do that for the entire year, then I was like, 'That's what my mind-set is going to be.' … I just wanted to be consistent. And that was the repetitive term."

That sounds a bit nebulous as an explanation for how a guy who was a .235 hitter to that point with 18 career home runs had the season Forsythe did: a .281 average, 17 homers, an .804 on-base plus slugging percentage that led the team and defense worthy of at least discussion for a Gold Glove. His 5.1 WAR (wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com) was second best among all major-league second basemen.

"It was Logan's first opportunity as a Ray to get sustained playing time, and he took full advantage of it," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "He'd shown us glimpses, but until last year we hadn't seen all the components of his game come together."

Forsythe, 29, said there were some technical adjustments that factored in, such as taking a more aggressive approach at the plate and quickening his first step defensively. He also had to adjust to the physical toll of playing every day, creating more time for workouts and training room preventative care.

But if you are looking for cause and effect, Forsythe's success was the result of what was going on in his head as much as anything.

After a late spring oblique injury to Nick Franklin gave Forsythe the opportunity to play every day at second, he found a way to both narrow his focus to what he was doing each day individually rather than cumulatively; and to feed off the confidence his bosses were showing.

"Once I was able to get out there and I saw the support from them and the team," Forsythe said, "it was kind of calming: 'Okay, this is where I'm going to be playing every day. I'm going to be an everyday guy. And let's find a way to stay consistent.' "

Forsythe has always been a hard worker, something he no doubt got from his dad, John, who spent 20 years climbing poles for Memphis Light, Gas & Water, and mom, Dana, a longtime secretary in the school system. And from the competition growing up with younger brother Blake, a catcher who got to Triple A last year with the Phillies (but was then released), and sister Kelsey, who played competitive soccer.

He had already shown the Rays he could handle failure, persevering through a dreadful start in 2014 after being acquired in trade from the Padres.

But success was something different.

He found a key to staying focused by channeling his drive with the discipline to not get ahead of himself. If reporters asked about his bulging stat line, for example, he would insist he wasn't keeping track, hadn't thought where it could lead.

And the quiet confidence manifested to the point where when he did have a rough stretch, he eventually overcame the inclination to look at the lineup card on his way in or over his shoulder and just keep playing the same way.

Sitting on the porch after the season and the new deal, he and Ally had plenty to talk about.

"Anytime sometime big happens, it usually takes me a while for it to sink in because I never expect it," Forsythe said. "It shows what they did last year as an organization, they believed I could go out there and do it. And with the contract, they showed faith that I could continue to do what I'm doing."

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Logging it in

Logan Forsythe was voted team MVP after his breakout season and ranked as one of the best second basemen in the majors by wins above replacement, as calculated by baseball-reference.com:

Player, team WAR

Ian Kinsler, Tigers 6.0

Logan Forsythe, Rays 5.1

Dee Gordon, Marlins 4.9

Jason Kipnis, Indians 4.6

Jose Altuve, Astros 4.5

Rays' Forsythe reflects on season that exceeded expectations 03/09/16 [Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2016 12:23am]
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