Cooper, Brinson shine in Marlins' loss to Rox

August 18th, 2019

DENVER -- On an otherwise forgettable night in the Mile High City, the Marlins got an impressive performance at the plate from and one in the field by .

Cooper doubled and homered to drive in two runs in an 11-4 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Brinson made a pair of sparkling defensive plays in center field.

These are games the Marlins have become accustomed to: The results are not what they want, but in the process of arriving at them, they see growth and growing pains in key young players. Cooper and Brinson are Saturday’s case studies.

For Cooper, it’s about getting his legs under him after missing most of last season due to injury. For Brinson, it’s taking things to the next level as he continues to make subtle adjustments in his game.

“[Cooper] getting used to playing every day has been a little bit of a battle,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s had a bunch of nagging injuries, missed a lot of time last year. So, the season’s probably feeling a little bit long for him. But we’ll see how he finishes up.”

Cooper was red-hot in June, slashing .372/.427/.564 with four home runs. But from July 1 through his last game played prior to Saturday, which was Thursday against the Dodgers, he hit .242/.322/.371 with four homers.

“Not playing really at all last year is a big thing,” Cooper said. “Just getting back to playing every day, when you miss a whole year, after playing 130 or so games in the Minors every year, it definitely takes a toll on your body that you’re not used to after missing all that time.”

Cooper’s double came in the third inning off Colorado starter German Marquez and drove in Brian Anderson, who had singled ahead of him. The ball came off Cooper’s bat with an exit velocity of 104.4 mph, according to Statcast. 

In the sixth, Cooper smashed a solo homer on a line drive over the left-field wall with an exit velocity of 113.5 mph, his highest career exit velocity per Statcast.

While the results haven’t been there over the past six weeks -- Saturday’s performance notwithstanding -- there are signs that Cooper is continuing to progress at the plate. Prior to July 1, his barrel rate, according to Statcast, was 7.3 percent of batted balls. Since then, it’s been 12.6 percent.

The numbers line up with what Cooper has felt while trying to work his way out of his slump.

“That’s the crazy thing,” Cooper said. “You get your soggy hits [when you’re going good], and then you go through a stretch of hitting the ball hard and you get nothing. It’s the ups and downs of baseball.”

No one experienced the ups and downs of Saturday’s contest more than Brinson.

In the second, Brinson made his second great defensive play in two nights when he sprinted 93 feet into right-center field to make a leaping catch near the wall, robbing Tony Wolters of a hit.

In the fourth, Brinson barreled a Marquez slider, launching it deep to straightaway center field, only to see Raimel Tapia make a tremendous leaping catch to pull back what would have been a home run.

In the seventh, roles were reversed as Brinson threw out Tapia trying to stretch a single into a double.

Brinson needed just a little extra distance on his would-have-been homer. But there’s not much you can do there after crushing a baseball 416 feet. And his play on Tapia was a good one, as was the catch he made to rob Wolters.

But Brinson knows he could’ve gotten a better jump on the Wolters play. It’s the one element he said he’s trying to refine the most defensively.

The data backs that up. His jump, according to Statcast, was -1.6 feet, which is the sum of three components -- his immediate reaction, his burst toward the ball and his route direction -- compared to the Major League average. For that particular play, his jump would be considered slow.

“To be honest, I could always get better jumps to where I don’t have to make those plays look so hard,” Brinson said. “I could get there more easily.”

Brinson and Cooper know it’s a process. The Marlins know it’s a process. Saturday night’s loss was just the latest example.