One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Lars Nootbaar
Season stats: 108 G, 347 PA, 53 R, 16 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 40 RBI, 4 SB, 1 CS, 51 BB, 71 K, .228/.340/.448, 126 OPS+, 2.2 bWAR, 2.7 fWAR
Statcast: .346 xwOBA, 12.1 barrel %, 91.7 exit velocity, 46.0 hard hit %, 20.5 K %, 14.7 BB %
Best Statcast category: BB % (98th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: xBA (49th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 2
Positives: Forced his way into the outfield picture with a strong season….had three different three-hit games, all after August 2….13 of his homers came off of righties, but in fewer at bats actually hit better (.273) against lefties….had a .935 OPS away from home….10 of his home runs came in the second half….hit .317 with a 1.030 OPS in July….had an .879 OPS leading off a game and a .905 OPS leading off an inning….five of his homers came when he was batting first….had a 1.244 OPS hitting seventh….hit .375 on the first pitch….had a 1.056 OPS if he was ahead in the count, though just a .222 batting average….six of his homers came with nobody out….had a .793 OPS with runners in scoring position….was 1-2 with two walks and a homer in extra innings….had a 1.023 OPS in the middle innings….had three homers against the Cubs….was in the top 10% of the league in average exit velocity and the top 2% of the league in walk percentage….hit .262 with nine homers off of fastballs.
Negatives: Hit .184 at Busch Stadium….hit .188 with a .693 OPS in September….batted .208 hitting leadoff (though with a .345 OBP)….had a .436 OPS if he swung at the first pitch of a plate appearance….hit .107 with a .571 OPS with two outs and RISP….hit .150 with no homers in high leverage situations….had a .716 OPS against power pitchers….hit .171 against the Brewers….had a .138/.146/.362 line against breaking pitches.
Overview: The cries of “Nooooot” rang out in almost every stadium the Cardinals played in down the stretch as Nootbaar became a huge fan favorite. There’s no doubt he stepped up big, especially in July and August as the offense was starting to click on all cylinders. The question is, of course, whether that was just a good stretch or it is something that he’s capable of producing on a regular basis. His surge played at least some role, you would think, in the swap of Harrison Bader for Jordan Montgomery. That said, he’s not as established as Tyler O’Neill or Dylan Carlson, so if the Cardinals do sign an outfield bat, Nootbaar could be the guy on the outside looking in.
Outlook: Nootbaar’s name is likely to be bandied about in trade talks this winter. There is a case to be made both for keeping the young man and for sending him out, depending on whether you think that he can take another step or if we’ve seen all he can do. My guess is that he’ll be in the starting outfield for the Cardinals come Opening Day, but his winter is a little more fluid than many others on the roster.