Exit Interview 2021: Lars Nootbaar

As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning.  Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review.  Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season.  As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!

Player: Lars Nootbaar

Season stats: 58 G, 124 PA, 15 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, 1 CS, 13 BB, 28 K, .239/.317/.422, 105 OPS+, 0.7 bWAR, 0.6 fWAR

Statcast: .284 xwOBA, 4.8 barrel %, 89.1 exit velocity, 36.1 hard hit %, 22.6 K %, 10.5 BB %

Best Statcast category: Sprint Speed (84th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Max Exit Velocity (65th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 3, Goat 2

Grade: B

Positives: Made his major league debut on June 22, going 0-3 with a sacrifice fly….his first major league hit was a triple….had a two-homer game against the Cubs on September 24 in the second game of the doubleheader….made an outstanding catch in New York that was a highlight of the 17-game winning streak….had an .865 OPS against lefties in 25 plate appearances….had a 1.033 OPS on the road….hit .265 in the second half….slashed .318/.388/.591 in the month of August….got a hit the only time he led off a game….hit .429 in nine plate appearances hitting fifth….had a 1.100 OPS when he swung at the first pitch….hit .438 actually on the first pitch….hit .342 when the count was even….had an .899 OPS with runners in scoring position….that OPS went to 1.115 when there were two outs….hit .346 with an OPS over 1.000 in the first three innings of a game….hit .280 off of starting pitchers….put up a .467/.500/.867 line in seven games against the Cubs….hit .308 with six homers in 35 games with Memphis.

Negatives: Did not get his first hit in September until that two homer game, going 0-25 with three walks….hit .230 against right-handers….had a .575 OPS at Busch Stadium….was three for 19 as a pinch-hitter, though he did have a home run….hit .216 in the sixth spot….had a .156 average when ahead in the count….had a .540 OPS in late and close situations….hit .186 when the Cardinals were trailing….hit .140 with a .577 OPS in the last three innings of a game….hit .192 against power pitchers….had a .652 OPS against the Brewers.

Overview: Nootbaar, the league leader in last name double vowels, made a name for himself down the stretch.  Granted, he was always going to have a leg up being called “Lars Nootbaar” instead of “John Smith” but his overall body of work was intriguing.  He quickly erased any chance of Justin Williams making a return to the big leagues and he did enough that the Cardinals weren’t going to add Nick Plummer to the 40-man, sending him out into the free agent market (where he made good with a contract with the Mets).  Nootbaar proved to be a pretty capable fourth outfielder, doing enough in the time he got to not embarrass himself while not necessarily causing any sort of “who should be playing” controversy.  He also somehow fell into an odd couple/buddy comedy scenario with T.J. McFarland which hopefully, as McFarland is returning for 2022, we’ll find out more about.

Outlook: The part of me that has seen fun fan favorites come up, thrive, then fade away worries a bit about the next time around the league for Nootbaar (trademark pending).  That said, his strong second half is encouraging.  Given the relative strength of the outfield, he doesn’t have to be any sort of world beater, just a guy that can contribute when called upon.  I think he can do that and the front office is obviously very convinced he can, most likely due to the metrics and the proprietary information that they have.  It should be fun to see what Nootbaar can do in the coming years.

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