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Mike Trout still hasn't reached his ceiling

He started with a 111-mph line drive for a single.

Four innings later, he cut down a baserunner with a throw measured at 91.7 mph.

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An inning after that, he added a three-run homer that, for him at least, wasn't hit hard enough or long enough to be expressed in crazy numbers.

No, all it did was, essentially, seal victory for his team.

For some players, this might be a good week. For Mike Trout, it was a typical Sunday.

"What do you want me to say about him?" teammate Ian Kinsler asked. "He's built to play this game, man."

Remember Trout's awesome offseason? How he got married? How the Angels improved their roster? How the team he roots for — the Philadelphia Eagles — won the Super Bowl?

Well, he might now be having an even better onseason.

Trout began Monday leading the big leagues in WAR and on-base percentage and ranked among the top three in runs, homers, walks, slugging percentage, extra-base hits and OPS.

So, if you're the opposition, how do you slow him down? That's a tough question, one that requires detailed, multidimensional thinking.

It's highly unlikely, however, that the answer involves placing Trout in an environment where the atmospheric conditions are less conducive to slowing him down.

Folks, welcome to Denver, where the air is as thin as the margin of error for pitchers.

Two interleague games against the Colorado Rockies await the Angels starting Tuesday, and who knows what craziness a locked-in Trout might produce?

"Of course, always," he said when asked if he was looking forward to playing in Denver. "The ball goes pretty good."

In five games at Coors Field, Trout is 12 for 21 with three homers and seven RBIs. The Angels are 5-0 in those games. He also has walked twice, stolen four bases and his mile-high OPS is, in fact, a mile high: 1.688.

Sure, five games is hardly enough to make emphatic statements. But Trout, especially of late, has been overwhelmingly emphatic.

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"You combine a dude who's super talented and wants to be great and puts it all together … that's Mike Trout," Angels hitting coach Eric Hinske said. "He's just elite."

Trout is regularly called the best player in baseball. There is evidence the best is getting better.

So far this season, Trout is swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone and, when he does swing, making contact more frequently.

He's accomplishing this at a time when baseball players are striking out at a historic rate, a rate so alarming that some observers have taken to calling it a sport-wide epidemic.

"He just doesn't chase a lot of pitches," Hinske said. "He's probably the best in the league at it."

The key, the hitting coach explained, is that Trout keeps his weight back long enough that his eyes don't move much.

This allows him to more accurately identify pitches and, when he coordinates the landing of his front foot with the ball entering the heart of his hitting zone, the results can be loud and impressive.

"There were holes in his swing that the pitchers would try to exploit," Kinsler said, recalling Trout's early seasons. "Every year, the holes get smaller and smaller. He's chasing less. He just continues to get better."

Asked how he'd stop Trout, Kinsler laughed and said, "Walk him." That's what the Baltimore Orioles tried in a game last week. Four times they walked Trout, three times intentionally.

The Angels won anyway, Trout going hitless on a night during which he was on base at least twice as many times as any player on either team.

"He's able to recognize pitches early," Hinske said, "and spit on them if they're not strikes."

Defensively, Trout never has been a darling of those who favor advanced metrics. At best, he typically has been an average center fielder when it comes to measuring defenders to the decimal point.

But, even in the field, there has been noticeable improvement. One of the overall defensive components from Fangraphs currently ranks Trout fifth among center fielders.

"I don't know where those statistics come from, what the mathematic formula is," Kinsler said. "I just know he makes a lot of plays other guys don't."

Although all of this would be enough to celebrate the season Trout is putting together, there's one more thing: He has six stolen bases, and has yet to be caught.

This year, for the first time in his career, Trout is baseball's highest-paid player. Rather incredibly, given the number of zeroes in $34 million, the Angels are getting their money's worth.

"He's a special player, a special talent, no question," Hinske said. "It's an honor to just be around him."

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