Mike Trout became an everyday MLB player in 2012.
He’s since racked up seven All-Star selections, five Silver Slugger Awards, and two AL MVPs. Trout, soon to turn 27, is already a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame. His abilities are borderline mythical. He’s a five-tool player, and every tool is exceptional.
Yet one pitch seems to turn Trout momentarily mortal—the high fastball. Per Brooks Baseball, here are Trout’s batting averages against different pitch locations so far in 2018:
Obviously, pitching Trout high, particularly high and outside, seems to be a pitcher’s best option. Four-seam fastballs located in that region really give him fits.
In a recent segment prior to ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, Alex Rodriguez spent time with Trout inside the cage. Eventually, the topic turned to Trout’s struggles against high fastballs. Using two different tees—one with the ball low and inside, and one with the ball high and outside—Trout walks Rodriguez through the dilemma (skip to 8:58 for the conversation):
“My swing path, it’s just straight down to the ball, inside out. And the balls up—a few years ago they started pitching me up—it’s tough, because the ball looks so good. And you just swing through it, because my swing is inside out,” Trout says. “It’s hard for me to get on top of that (high) ball and still hit that pitch down low…and that’s just my swing. It’s been my swing since I was a little kid, I haven’t changed it. To try to get better at that pitch, (I use) the High Tee Drill.”
To combat this issue, Trout is utilizing a High Tee Drill with the ball located high and outside on a tee. He has a natural tendency to “chicken wing” his swing against this pitch, meaning his lead elbow lifts up too much and his back shoulder dips. This creates a swing path that leads him to pop-up or swing underneath most high pitches.
“It’s trying to stay on top of (that pitch) as opposed to chicken winging it and fouling it off. The biggest thing I do a lot too, some days I’ll mix it in with my flips, is high ball (throws). They’ll throw it literally—I almost have to jump for it,” Trout says as he displays the exaggerated tomahawk motion he’ll utilize during the drill to ensure he’s swinging down on the ball. “Pitchers nowadays, they’re throwing me up. Everybody’s throwing that four-seam fast ball up. It’s a tough pitch.”
Trout, of course, doesn’t swing like that during the game, but utilizing an exaggerated motion during drills builds muscle memory that can help him swing down on high heat when it counts.
Trout may be the best player in baseball, but no player is perfect. His obsession with addressing every weakness of his game is a big reason why he’s become so good, and it’s also why he we likely won’t see him fall off anytime soon. If Trout is able to start making good contact against those high and outside heaters, he’ll be an even bigger menace inside the batter’s box.
Photo Credit: Brooks Baseball, ESPN, Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images