Lars Nootbaar had a fine all-around day at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, going 2 for 6 with two walks and two doubles in starting both games of the doubleheader.
In his second major-league season, Nootbaar is truly doing well for the Cardinals. He walks a bunch, rips line drives, doesn’t strike out much, is a fast and astute baserunner and plays above-average defense in the outfield.
Noot didn’t receive much of a chance to play early on, getting only 30 total plate appearances in April-May. His opportunity increased with 47 plate appearances in June, but Nootbaar didn’t do much with it – batting .167 with a .591 OPS. His 2022 season was shaping up as a shuttle-riding passenger between St. Louis and Triple A Memphis.
His status has changed.
Substantially and dramatically.
Nootbaar was plugging along in early July – nothing special – but began cooking around July 9. In a matter of weeks, we watched him evolve from a struggling hitter, to a solid hitter, to a VIP-level hitter.
Nootbaar has churned high-level offense in a short period of time, and he enters Wednesday’s game at Wrigley Field with a .363 onbase percentage, .451 slug and .814 OPS on the season. His 134 OPS+ – meaning that he’s 34 percent above league average offensively – is an eye-catching metric.
Noooooooot is a really good hitter.
What would you say if I told you that Lars was right there with the best hitters in the game since July 9?
I got the numbahs. A small sample, yes. But still impressive as heck.
Here are some MLB rankings for hitters that have at least 100 plate appearances since July 9.
- OPS: Aaron Judge (1.221), Freddie Freeman (1.055), and Lars Nootbaar (1.041).
- wRC+, with 100 being league average: Aaron Judge (241), Freeman (193), Nootbaar (189.) That means Lars is 89 percent above the league average offensively since July 9.
Since July 9, Nootbaar is third overall in walk rate (19.5%), fifth overall in onbase percentage (.445), and sixth in slugging percentage (.596.) His production in his 128 plate appearances during this stretch includes seven doubles, three triples, five homers, 19 RBIs, 25 walks, and 25 runs scored. And he’s struck out only 15.6 percent of the time. These numbers are cuckoo good.
And it gets even better.
Since July 9 the left-swinging Nootbaar is flattening righthanded pitchers for a .364 average, a preposterous .511 OBP, a .742 slug and 1.254 OPS.
When batting leadoff since July 9, he has a ridiculously high 32.3 percent walk rate, .548 OBP, 1.298 OPS and has struck out at a low rate of 9.7%. I’m laughing as I type this. Lars apparently landed in St. Louis, courtesy of a UFO ride. Except that he is real, and of this world, and young player with obvious talent … more than we realize.
All he needed was a chance to play regularly. He would take care of the rest. Nootbaar made a positive impression as a rookie in 2021, especially when he returned from a stay in the minors. From Aug. 1 until the end of the season, Nootbaar had a .337 OBP and a .482 slug.
Nootbaar’s emergence as a catalyst has added considerable heft and dimension to the Cardinal lineup. And his rising stock made it much easier for the Cardinals to trade center fielder Harrison Bader to the Yankees for lefty starter Jordan Montgomery. (He’s been great, as you know.) Nootbaar gets bonus points for being an indirect but obvious factor in the “Monty” trade that has altered STL’s 2022 season.
As a hitter, Nootbaar has done his part, a large part, to increase the team’s onbase percentage. But he can also hit for power and drive in runs.
With Nootbaar and Albert Pujols jumping in as large-impact hitters to join Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals have a Big Four delegation that’s led the charge to STL’s best-in-MLB offense since the All-Star break.
Since July 1, the Cardinals have four of the top seven hitters in the majors in wRC+: Pujols 1st, Arenado 4th, Nootbaar 6th and Goldschmidt 7th.
The four Cardinals all rank in the top eight in the majors in OPS, and in the top eight in slugging, and have four of the top 11 onbase percentages in the game since the beginning of July. And Nootbaar’s walk rate since then — 20 percent – is second in MLB to Juan Soto’s 24.5%.
Since July 1 the foursome of Pujols, Goldschmidt, Arenado and Nootbaar have taken 599 plate appearances as a group. They’ve combined for a .336 batting average, 39 homers, 109 runs batted in, 37 doubles, 68 walks. Boom.
No wonder why the Cardinals are prospering offensively in the second half of the season. Nootbaar has taken his place among the most influential pieces of the St. Louis lineup.
And though some of Nootbaar’s numbers will come down, I don’t believe he’s a fluke. He’s significantly improved from his rookie rookie season in barrel rate, hard-hit rate and ability to smash fastballs. He also ranks in the 73rd percentile in sprint speed. And this is a very smart hitter. Just how he works the pitchers to draw all of those walks or how he waits for a pitch he can smoke for extra bases. He processes everything with the calmness of a savvy veteran. He knows what he’s doing out there there.
Welcome to the Big-Boy Club, Noot.
Thanks for reading …
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.