What's behind Mike Trout's early struggles?

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Though Bryce Harper is thriving, his young megastar counterpart Mike Trout is off to a rough start in 2016.

Trout went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as the Los Angeles Angels were shut out by the White Sox on Tuesday night.

Trout is carrying a .220/.333/.340 slash line to go along with four extra-base hits and one home run through 14 games, and he has been bad against both left- and right-handed pitching. The only other time he struggled like this to start a season was in his debut year, 2011, when he hit .163 with a .492 OPS through his first 14 games.

What's going on?

Trout can't cite being pitched around as the issue. He and Harper are seeing virtually identical percentages of pitches in the strike zone this season (46 percent), a rate that's not far below the major-league average.

And Trout is still seeing fastballs at a rate not far from the major-league average. He's hitting .381 against them, which is what you'd expect from someone of Trout's caliber.

But it's what he's doing (or rather not doing) with off-speed pitches that seems to be the issue.

Trout's 0-for-3 and two strikeouts on Tuesday all came on off-speed pitches.

He's now 3-for-25 against off-speed pitches this season.

Last season might have been a clue that there was something to exploit against Trout here.

After hitting .349, .290 and .320 against off-speed pitches from 2012 to 2014, his batting average against them dipped to .235 in 2015. He averaged 14 home runs and 30 extra-base hits a year against off-speed stuff from 2012 to 2014, but had only six homers and 21 extra-base hits last season

What's odd is that since most off-speed pitches are in Trout's usual hot spot, the lower half of the strike zone, it should play into his hands.

He entered the season with a .337 career batting average against lower-half pitches. He had 29 and 25 home runs against them in each of the past two seasons.

But he's 10-for-41 (.244) with one home run against lower-half pitches this season (including 0-for-2 with a walk on Tuesday night).

Looking ahead

On Wednesday, Trout faces Chris Sale, against whom he's 3-for-13 with a home run, double and walk in his last four plate appearances against him. Thursday's foe is John Danks, who has held Trout hitless in eight career at-bats. That matches the worst 0-for Trout has against a pitcher (he's also 0-for-8 against Todd Redmond).