One of the reasons the National League East standings are so gridlocked is good starting pitching. The past few seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies have taken the divison crown on the strength of a great starting rotation. This season, however, due to some struggles from star Roy Halladay and Vance Worley, the Phils find themselves in last place.
Last place for the Phillies only means being five games back from the division-leading Washington Nationals. The next few days are big for this division, as there are two divisional matchups going on. The first place Nationals took the first game of the series against the New York Mets last night, and the Atlanta Braves took down the Miami Marlins in the first of a three-game tilt.
With the exception of the Phillies, every team in the NL East is playing above .500 baseball with starting pitching being a contributing factor to that success.
Here is a list of the 10 best starters in the NL East up to this point.
2012 Stats: 0-3, 2.92 ERA, 66 SO
Season Highlight: May 15 vs Houston: 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 10 SO, ND
Cliff Lee does not have a win to his record this season but is still pitching very well. He is taking the club deep enough into games, but they just have bad days offensively or in the bullpen on days Lee starts.
2012 Stats: 4-3, 2.81 ERA, 56 SO
Season Highlight: May 7 vs Houston: CG, SH, 9 SO
The reemergence of Carlos Zambrano can be thanks to finally playing with skipper Ozzie Guillen. The two have similar personalities, and Ozzie has found a way of controlling Big Z.
2012 Stats: 6-4, 3.71 ERA, 63 SO
Season Highlight: June 3 vs Washington 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 SO
Tommy Hanson has been rock solid for the Braves this season, leading the team in wins and strikeouts. He has lasted at least seven innings in four of his 12 appearances this season.
2012 Stats: 3-4, 3.19 ERA, 72 SO
Season Highlight: April 28 vs Arizona: 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 14 SO
The always dependable Anibal Sanchez is having himself another nice season in Miami. He has got a great strikeout total and always has the ability to go deep into games.
2012 Stats: 3-2, 2.38 ERA, 68 SO
Season Highlight: June 1 vs St. Louis: CG, No-Hitter, 9 SO
Johan Santana made history last Friday night when the 33-year-old lefty tossed the first no-no in the history of the Mets franchise. Santana has been excellent for the Mets all season but has that low win total because of some unreliable play from his teammates on games he started, a problem similar to that of Cliff Lee's.
2012 Stats: 6-1, 2.35 ERA, 79 SO
Season Highlight: June 2 vs Atlanta: 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 9 SO
Stephen Strasburg has been showing his first-pick talent this season for the first place Nationals. Strasburg's great ERA and strikeout total are some of the best in the big leagues. Considering how good he has been all year for Washington, six is a low win total for Strasburg.
2012 Stats: 8-2, 2.81 ERA, 80 SO
Season Highlight: May 23 vs Washington: 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 8 SO
Hamels' eight wins have him tied for the most in the majors, and he also leads his team in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He has been the true bright spot in the Phillies rotation this season while the rest of the starters struggle.
2012 Stats: 8-1, 2.69 ERA, 70 SO
Season Highlight: June 2 vs St. Louis: CG, 0 ER, 9 SO
How do you follow up the first no-hitter in your club's history? How about a complete game shutout where you notch your 30th strikeout in your last three starts. Dickey is tied for the major league lead in wins, and he leads the Mets in wins and strikeouts. The knuckleballer is having an amazing year and should get his first All-Star nod at the end of this month.
2012 Stats: 5-4, 1.87 ERA, 57 SO
Season Highlight: May 17 vs Miami: CG, 0 ER, 7 SO
Brandon Beachy's 1.87 ERA is tops in the major leagues so far this season. The young Beachy has stepped up nicely for Atlanta, sporting a sub 1.00 WHIP this season as well (0.95). Despite the fact that he took losses in his last three starts, he is still one of the better pitchers in the division.
2012 Stats: 7-2, 2.31 ERA, 84 SO
Season Highlight: May 27 vs Atlanta: 7 IP, 2 ER, 10 SO
Gio Gonzalez has been a strikeout machine and a solid ace of the first place Nationals. He and Stephen Strasburg are as good a 1-2 punch as any in the game. His 84 strikeouts are tops in the National League this season. His ERA may not be as low as Beachy's, but coming from the left side of the mound with three-plus pitches is going to make Gonzalez a feared pitcher in this league for many years to come.