Exit Interview 2023: Lars Nootbaar

This season didn’t go like most seasons.  The Cardinals were terrible.  I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary.  However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series!  Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals.  We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same.  As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!

Player: Lars Nootbaar

Stats: 117 G, 503 PA, 74 R, 23 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 11 SB, 1 CS, .261/.367/.418, 3.3 bWAR

Statcast: 8.8% barrel, 30.8% sweet spot, 112.2 max exit velocity, .344 wOBA, .357 xwOBA, 19.7% K, 14.3% BB

Grade: A

Got a hold on you
(A Noot sensation, a Noot sensation)
Right now
It’s going to take you over
(A Noot sensation, a Noot sensation)

With apologies to INXS, there was no sensation like a Noot sensation when Lars reached Japan to play for the national team in the World Baseball Classic.  Within days, his infectious personality had rocketed him to the top of the nation’s conscious, his celebrations had started a run on a basic kitchen item, and his moves were copied by the Prime Minister.  Nootbaar was a legend in the land of his mother, making commercials (well, the commercials were in St. Louis but for Japanese TV) and almost even overshadowing Shohei Ohtani as Team Japan took home the title.

Following that up in the major leagues was going to be a tough task and Noot got off to a slow start, with a .240 average and two homers at the end of April.  He had a four-hit game on Star Wars Day, however, and went .296/.375/.418 until going on the injured list at the end of the month with a back issue.  He hit the IL again in mid-August and struggled after his return, hitting just .186 in September.  Still, he played a solid outfield (including more and more time in center with Tommy Edman covering second in the absence of Nolan Gorman) and his walk rate remained high.

Nothing that happened in 2023 dimmed Nootbaar’s star with the organization.  The 3.3 bWAR put him just short of leading the team in the category.  All sorts of teams are asking about him, including apparently the Blue Jays last winter when talking about their catchers, but there’s no indication that the club would even think about moving on from Noot.  Even with a free agent market light on hitters, meaning players like Nootbaar would fetch a premium, it seems much more likely that the club will try to buy out his arbitration years with an extension rather than deal him off.

Besides, he could be the ace in the hole in their Yoshinobu Yamamoto.  A Noot sensation, indeed.

What’s in store for 2024: Nootbaar will be in the Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup (probably in left) and most likely will be the first person to see a pitch for the club on the season.  That walk rate screams leadoff guy and Oli Marmol did slot him in there some, though not often enough.  That may change next season.

Series Navigation<< Exit Interview 2023: Packy NaughtonExit Interview 2023: Tyler O’Neill >>

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