Most dominant pitches in baseball

Craig Kimbrel's slider, and the other hardest-to-hit pitches in MLB

Updated: May 26, 2012, 1:02 PM ET
By Ben Jedlovec | Baseball Info Solutions
KimbrelDaniel Shirey/US PresswireCraig Kimbrel's slider has been one of the most dominant pitches in baseball since last season.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the Atlanta Braves' bullpen has been led by two power arms -- the left arm of Jonny Venters and the right arm of Craig Kimbrel. Not coincidentally, the Braves' bullpen has been the most dominant in baseball in that span, striking out the most batters and allowing the fewest runs per inning.

Both pitchers have fastballs that run in the mid-to-upper 90s, but they do the most damage with their devastating sliders. These two off-speed pitches are among the most dominant pitches in all of baseball.

A swing-and-miss is the most telling sign that a hitter is overmatched. If the batter can't even make contact, the pitcher has already won the battle. When hitters decide to swing at a Kimbrel offering, for example, they miss the ball a league-leading 36 percent of the time -- nearly twice as often as the league average (20 percent). Venters is not far behind, at 34 percent, including an amazing 66 percent miss percentage on his slider. Kimbrel's slider has a miss percentage of 55 percent.

However, major league hitters are pretty good, so the pitcher can't rely solely on swings-and-misses to succeed. Batters can make at least occasional contact on even the toughest pitches if they're close enough to swing at, and every once in a while a hitter will make solid contact and drive the ball. A dominant pitcher will want to keep the damage to a minimum, of course. If he can induce frequent groundballs and pop-ups, opposing hitters aren't going to be able to cause much trouble.

By adding together miss percentage (swings-and-misses / total swings), groundball rate and infield fly rate, we can create a "dominance rating" that points us to baseball's most dominant pitches, as classified by Baseball Info Solutions' video scouts.