If there was ever one aspect of Mike Trout's game that came under scrutiny, it was his throwing ability. His arm strength was considered below average, the one chink in the armor that kept Trout from consideration as a true five-tool player.
"He knows it, too," said Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, who works with the outfielders. "It's a pretty big chip on his shoulder."
Arm strength is widely considered the toughest aspect in baseball to improve upon, but somehow, Trout has done it.
Through long toss, better mechanics and the additional strength that comes with settling into your 20s and growing into your body, Trout has turned himself into a better, more accurate thrower. He didn't record any outfield assists in 2013, but picked up four in '14 and entered Sunday with five this year.
His average arm strength is 67.2 mph, according to Statcast™, sixth-highest among the 29 center fielders who entered Sunday with at least 20 chances.
One of those throws, on May 13 against the Rockies, saved a game. It came in the top of the 11th, immediately after a shoestring catch, when Trout fired a perfect strike home to complete an inning-ending double play.
Three weeks earlier, Trout began a long-toss regimen with Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun, who boasts the strongest arm in the organization. And after every session -- usually at the start of every home series -- the two would try to throw the ball over the center-field fence from the left-field foul line.
For the first couple of weeks, Trout came up short.
The week before that play, he got his first one over -- and hardly ever came up short again.
"He's been working his tail off to improve that thing," Calhoun said. "It's pretty special to see him work on something many people overlook."