The St. Louis Cardinals have begun using platoons in their lineup to maximize results. Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar form a great one.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been playing a mix and match game with their outfield all year long, but may discover an elite outfielder in their everyday lineup if they play the splits right.
No, it’s not one single player, but rather the combined efforts of outfielders Lars Nootbaar and Dylan Carlson. Manager Oli Marmol has been deploying platoon lineups all year, matching the trend that has made other ballclubs so successful. The true beauty of a platoon comes when you find two players who are really good at hitting different handed pitchers, and together create a force at the plate.
Carlson has struggled throughout the 2022 season against right handed pitching, hitting just .207/.289/.338 in 312 PA. Because of the elite defense Carlson provides and the promise that the club sees in him, he has continued to get opportunities against right handed pitching. Now that it is almost playoff time, the club needs their best lineup out there each day, and Carlson does not make the cut against right handed pitching.
The 23-year old does provide elite production against left-handed pitching though. On the season, he is slashing .319/.384/.504 in 125 PA, and has a 148 sOPS+, which means he is 48 points above the league average splits against left handing pitching.
Like Carlson, Nootbaar has struggled against one side of the plate more than the other, but in his case, he cannot hit left-handed pitching. Nootbaar does have a 121 sOPS+ against right handed pitching, and provides great defense like Carlson in the outfield. If you pair the two together as one of your outfield spots, you are consistently having a well-above average to potentially elite outfielder in your lineup.
Nootbaar may see that OPS+ rise as the season finishes out if he can get out of his current funk. Regardless, the Cardinals need to see this pair as a duo at this point, especially if Tyler O’Neill returns to the lineup and Brendan Donovan snags one of those outfield spots. I recently re-ranked the ceilings of the Cardinals outfielders, and that story can be found here.