Welcome to the first in a series of Report Card postings for individual members of the 2022 Cardinals.

I’m doing this a little differently than what you may see elsewhere. I’ll break down the positive and weaker areas of each Redbird, just so readers can see the good and the bad instead of having the writer issue a snap judgment that doesn’t really offer a complete – and fair – look. If I’m going to do this the right way, I have to consider more than, say, batting average and ERA. There’s a lot of excellent information out there, and I enjoy learning from it and applying it.

I’ll do these Report Cards one at a time to avoid posting a monster-sized piece that will take too long to read. I promise to keep ‘em short.

First Up: Outfielder Lars Nootbaar

Opening Thoughts: I have an open mind, but I go into this thinking his grade should be in the range of B plus to B minus. I’d rather not do the compromise thing by going with a B.

The Case for B minus: Had limited opportunities early on and batted .111 with a .311 OPS and no extra-base hits in his first 30 plate appearances of the season. It wasn’t a fair trial, but that’s baseball. Much later on, Lars went through an extreme slump in September, batting .075 with a .342 OPS and 25.5% strikeout rate in 47 plate appearances over 17 games (13 starts.) Nootbaar has outstanding speed, but finished with a below-average baserunning gain of minus 5. He’ll have to work on that to become a more astute presence on the basepaths. I’m confident he’ll improve.

The Case for B plus: Once Nootbaar was given regular playing time, his performance kicked in. He turned into an impressive all-around player who played a significant role in STL’s second-half charge to the division title. From the start of July to the end of the regular season, here’s how Nootbaar rated among 220 MLB hitters, any position, that had at least 200 plate appearances over that time:

–  5th in walk rate 16.3 percent
–  20th in OPS, .881
–  21st in wRC+ at 49% above average offensively.
–  21st in onbase percentage, .374
–  23rd in slugging percentage, .507

For the entire regular season — even with the cold-bat phases mixed in – Nootbaar had 16 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, 40 RBI, 42 runs scored and a 14.7% walk rate. All of that was delivered in 347 plate appearances. He was 26 percent above league average for the season with a 126+ OPS; among Cardinals only Paul Goldschmidt (180+), Nolan Arenado (154+) and Albert Pujols (154+) had a higher OPS+ than Noot. He finished with a .340 onbase percentage, .448 slug and .788 OPS.

Defensively, Nootbaar ranked ninth among MLB right fielders in runs saved. His throwing arm was rated among the top 6 percent of MLB outfielders. He was in the top 20% in hard-hit rate, and he had one of the lowest “chase” rates in the majors. Which is why he struck out only 17 percent of the time over the final three months of the regular season.

In the Cardinals’ dreadful two-game defeat to the Phillies in the wild-card playoff round, Nootbaar was both confident and effective – which made him a rare bird in a collapsing offense. Batting leadoff, Nootbaar went 2 for 6 with a double and two walks for a .333 batting average and .500 onbase percentage.

Grade: B+. If you’re basically a Top-20 MLB hitter over the second half of the season as your team is scoring a bunch of runs to win the NL Central, and you are playing impactful defense to save runs for your pitchers, the performance value carries extra weight with me. After the All-Star break, among MLB outfielders that had at least 200 plate appearances, Nootbaar ranked 9th on a list of 57 with his 2.3 WAR. Nootbaar was an ignitor and energizer; the Cardinals had a 53-29 record (.646) when his name was written into the starting lineup. Nootbaar has only 471 big-league plate appearances and should improve as he gains experience.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Stats used in my baseball columns were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

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.