July 21, 2024

The Cardinals are ecstatic that Lars Nootbaar has returned!
On May 31st, outfielder Lars Nootbaar went on the injured list for the second time this season, just when the St. Louis Cardinals were getting hot. St. Louis had just won 17 of their previous 30 games and was finally back to.500 after a disastrous stretch of baseball at the start of May.

The Cardinals activated Nootbaar on Monday, and luckily for them, the vibes have remained positive during his absence.

It’s incredible to imagine that the Cardinals have gone 32-18 in their last 50 games, with the most of that time spent without both Nootbaar and Willson Contreras, two of their finest hitters, and coinciding with the prolonged troubles of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. The Cardinals have the best National League record since May 12th, and Nootbaar’s return further adds to their momentum.

Lars Nootbaar’s return is a massive boost to an ascending Cardinals team

Nootbaar’s season slash line is.234/.337/.404 with 5 home runs and 19 RBI in 164 plate appearances, good for a 114 wRC+ and 1.0 fWAR. In his absence, the Cardinals have increasingly leaned on Matt Carpenter, Dylan Carlson, and Jose Fermin to fill in, thus Nootbaar is a significant boost over any of those players in the lineup.

Nootbaar missed the Cardinals’ first 13 games of the season due to a rib ailment sustained in Spring Training, but after settling in, he lit up the month of May. Nootbaar had a.275/.370/.475 slash line in 22 games that month before being placed on the injured list, good for an.845 OPS and a 143 wRC+.

While Nootbaar has a 42 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching this year, his 148 wRC+ against right-handed pitching adds to the lineup’s depth. Contreras’ return has been significant for this lineup, and Arenado appears to be improving at the plate this week.

Another important aspect of Nootbaar’s game that cannot be neglected is his ability to produce when runners are in scoring position. So far in 2024, Nootbar has an.894 OPS and 155 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, while his career numbers are.841 OPS and 132 wRC+ in those circumstances. The Cardinals are 29th in both OPS (.644) and wRC+ (83) in those circumstances.

Now that Nootbaar has returned, expect him to hit near the bottom of the order when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound, and then in their primary lineup against right-handers, he could hit second or anywhere from fourth to sixth, depending on how manager Oliver Marmol wants the order structured.

 

Lars Nootbaar is For Real. Stop Worrying About Him. - Viva El Birdos

 

Defensively. Nootbaar’s comeback also indicates that the Cardinals can make more adjustments to their outfield configuration. Michael Siani has been the greatest defensive center fielder in baseball this year, and Brendan Donovan is making his own case for a Gold Glove in left field, so moving Burleson to more of a DH role and allowing Nootbaar to play far above-average defense in right field is a significant advantage. Burleson has improved defensively this season, but Nootbaar is a definite upgrade.

The Cardinals could use a good finish leading up to the All-Star break to increase their advantage in the Wild Card race and gain ground on the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. Nootbaar’s comeback should only strengthen that push.

Welcome back, Noot; you’ve been missed!

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