Ranking MLB's Top 25 Pitchers at the One-Quarter Mark of the 2012 Season

Pete Schauer@@Pete_SchauerCorrespondent IMay 21, 2012

Ranking MLB's Top 25 Pitchers at the One-Quarter Mark of the 2012 Season

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    Now one quarter of the way through the 2012 MLB season, the top pitchers are starting to show themselves.

    This season has already seen one perfect game and two no-hitters. 

    It's seen starters return from Tommy Johns and veteran hurlers return to old form.

    Here they are; the top 25 starters so far this season.

25. CC Sabathia

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-2 

    ERA: 3.78 

    Strikeouts: 65

    New York Yankees fans will tell you that CC Sabathia hasn't been the pitcher they're accustomed to seeing.

    He ranks No. 2 in the MLB in strikeouts, but his 3.78 ERA is unfavorable by most who know Sabathia's standards.

    He has a solid 1.21 WHIP and has the offense behind him to bail him out when he's struggling, but Sabathia will need to improve if the Yankees are going to catch up in the AL East.

    Regardless, Sabathia is still one of the best in the game.

24. Felix Hernandez

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 3-3

    ERA: 3.02 

    Strikeouts: 61

    The lack of run support is the reason why Felix Hernandez has only three wins on the season.

    In his three losses, the Mariners offense has scored just three, two and zero runs for King Felix.

    Aside from that, Hernandez ranks No. 5 in all of baseball in strikeouts and posts a respectable 1.20 WHIP.

23. Madison Bumgarner

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-3  

    ERA: 3.10 

    Strikeouts: 30

    After a solid 2011 campaign, San Francisco Giants southpaw Madison Bumgarner has been good again so far in 2012.

    He leads the Giants staff in wins, has a 1.11 WHIP and has walked just 10 batters so far this season.

    His strikeout numbers aren't high as of yet, but he did strike out 191 hitters last season, showing he has the potential to get hitters out.

22. Jason Hammel

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1  

    ERA: 3.12 

    Strikeouts: 46

    Jason Hammel has been one of the many bright spots for the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles at this point of the season.

    He leads the staff in wins and ERA—impressive for a guy who has just two winning seasons in his six-year career.

    Hammel's 1.14 WHIP also leads the Orioles squad and ranks No. 11 in the AL.

21. Roy Halladay

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 4-3  

    ERA: 3.22 

    Strikeouts: 50 

    It would appear that Roy Halladay has not pitched nearly as well as what we're accustomed to, but that's not exactly the whole truth.

    In all three of Doc's losses this season, the Philadelphia Phillies offense has scored just one run to help out their ace.

    He still ranks in the top 10 in the NL in strikeouts and posts a 1.06 WHIP.

    Aside from the marathon game against the Atlanta Braves on May 2, Halladay hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his starts, further solidifying him as one of the best in the game.

20. Matt Cain

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 3-2  

    ERA: 2.67  

    Strikeouts: 54 

    Despite just a 3-2 record, Matt Cain has probably been the most consistent starter in San Francisco.

    Sporting the second-lowest WHIP in all of baseball only to Justin Verlander, Cain has walked just 10 batters in 57.1 innings of work.

    In both of Cain's losses this season, the Giants offense has failed to score more than two runs, including just one run scored against Ricky Nolasco and the Miami Marlins on May 1.

19. Brandon Morrow

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-2   

    ERA: 2.63  

    Strikeouts: 54 

    Brandon Morrow is a big reason why the Toronto Blue Jays have been able to contend in the AL East so far, as he leads the Jays staff in wins and strikeouts and is just 0.1 points shy of tying for the best ERA on the team.

    Morrow's 0.96 WHIP ranks him No. 8 in baseball while his 54 strikeouts are good for a top 10 placement among all MLB hurlers.

    A career 4.18 ERA pitcher, Morrow appears to be on his way to setting career highs in 2012.

18. Wade Miley

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1  

    ERA: 2.14 ERA 

    Strikeouts: 30

    In his first full season as an MLB starter, Wade Miley has been impressive for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Becoming a starting pitcher in the MLB is never easy, but Miley has made it look fairly easy thus far.

    His ERA ranks him No. 7 in the National League while his 1.17 WHIP is favorable as well.

17. Zack Greinke

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1  

    ERA: 2.70 

    Strikeouts: 59

    The 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke is back to his old ways in 2012.

    His 59 strikeouts are good for seventh-best in the MLB while he leads the Milwaukee Brewers in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and he has allowed just one home run this season.

    His 1.11 WHIP is below his career average and he's been pitching the lights out so far in 2012.

16. Jake Peavy

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1  

    ERA: 2.39  

    Strikeouts: 55

    Is this the Jake Peavy of 2007 that won the NL Cy Young award?

    Peavy looks like his old self again, sporting a 0.91 WHIP that ranks No. 7 in baseball.

    He leads the Chicago White Sox in wins, ERA and strikeouts, something he was accustomed to in San Diego.

    If he keeps pitching at this level, he may earn himself a big payday very soon.

15. Kyle Lohse

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1 

    ERA: 2.91

    Strikeouts: 36

    Like Lance Lynn, Kyle Lohse has also been a pleasant surprise for the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals.

    With just five winning seasons to his credit in 11 years, Lohse is pitching admirably in 2012, showing a 1.17 WHIP to go with his 5-1 record and 2.91 ERA.

    Lohse has walked just nine batters so far this season and is pitching well above his career 4.58 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.

14. Chris Capuano

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1 

    ERA: 2.34 

    Strikeouts: 45

    Chris Capuano is arguably off to his best start in his seven-year career.

    Aside from going 18-12 with a 3.99 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005, Capuano has never had a season like this.

    Granted, he has the benefit of a good offense behind him, but Capuano is sporting a 1.08 WHIP—quite impressive when you put it next to his career 1.34 WHIP and 4.29 ERA.

13. David Price

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 6-3 

    ERA: 2.88 

    Strikeouts: 52 

    David Price leads a Tampa Bay Rays staff that includes James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson in wins, while posting a 1.21 WHIP.

    Price's 2.88 ERA ranks No. 8 in the AL, an impressive mark pitching in the AL East.

    His performance on May 4 is further proof of his dominance, when he went eight innings and allowed just one run on three hits while fanning 12 against Oakland.

12. Gio Gonzalez

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1  

    ERA: 2.22  

    Strikeouts: 60

    The acquisition of Gio Gonzalez by the Washington Nationals is paying dividends so far this season in the nation's capital.

    Gonzalez has been great all season, collecting five wins, which ranks No. 1 on the Nationals, even better than Stephen Strasburg.

    Gonzalez ranks No. 6 in the MLB in strikeouts and No. 11 in WHIP.

11. Yu Darvish

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 6-1

    ERA: 2.60

    Strikeouts: 58

    Yu Darvish has certainly lived up to all of the hype surrounding him entering the 2012 season.

    After somewhat of a rocky start—five earned runs on 5.1 IP in his first MLB start—Darvish has recovered nicely, leading the Rangers staff in wins, ERA and strikeouts while posting a respectable 1.33 WHIP.

    He's been a strikeout machine, tying for fifth best in the MLB, but if he's going to be elite, he needs to cut down on his walks (26 BB in 52.0 IP).  

10. Johnny Cueto

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1  

    ERA: 1.97 

    Strikeouts: 38

    Johnny Cueto has been the ace of the Cincinnati Reds staff in the early going, leading the team in wins and ERA—an ERA that ranks him No. 5 in all of baseball.

    He's not a strikeout machine by any means, but Cueto has allowed just 12 walks in 59.1 IP, leading to an impressive 1.13 WHIP.

    With five victories already, Cueto appears to be on pace to set a career high in wins, previously set in 2010 with the Reds.

9. Stephen Strasburg

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 4-1  

    ERA: 2.21 

    Strikeouts: 64

    Returning from Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg has been absolutely filthy this season.

    He's third in all of baseball in strikeouts—first in the NL—and sports a 1.02 WHIP, while his 2.21 ERA places him No. 7 in the NL.

    With Strasburg being removed from Sunday's game due to bicep tightness, Nats and baseball fans alike should be hoping for a speedy recovery.

    He leads the Nationals staff in ERA and strikeouts. 

8. Clayton Kershaw

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 4-1 

    ERA: 1.90 

    Strikeouts: 51 

    After somewhat of a slow start, he reigning NL Cy Young winner has turned it on as of late.

    He ranks within the top 10 in terms of strikeouts in the NL, sports the second-lowest WHIP (0.88) only to Matt Cain, and ranks No. 4 in baseball with his minuscule ERA.

    With a solid offense behind him, the 24-year-old lefty should be collecting a lot more wins this season while keeping his strikeout numbers high and his ERA low.

7. Derek Lowe

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 6-2

    ERA: 2.15

    Strikeouts: 15

    Derek Lowe knows how to win—172 times in his career—and he's doing it again in 2012.

    The Cleveland Indians hurler leads the staff in wins and ERA, an ERA that ranks No. 2 in the AL.

    He posts a higher WHIP (1.41), but that's due to the 18 free passes Lowe has allowed this season.

    If the sinker-baller can continue to keep it on the ground, he's in for a successful season in Cleveland.

6. Lance Lynn

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 6-1

    ERA: 2.31

    Strikeouts: 49

    Lance Lynn has been a pleasant surprise for the St. Louis Cardinals (and my fantasy team) this season.

    After serving most of last season as a reliever, Lynn has come back in 2012 to lead the Cardinals staff in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

    His 1.01 WHIP also makes him one of the most impressive pitchers this season.

5. Ted Lilly

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-0

    ERA: 1.79

    Strikeouts: 28

    Might I say that Ted Lilly has been better than Clayton Kershaw this season?

    He leads the Los Angeles Dodgers in wins and ERA while sporting a 0.90 WHIP.

    Lilly has been an integral piece to the Dodgers scorching start this season. Though he has just 28 strikeouts, Lilly has walked just 14 batters and surrendered a mere nine runs through 45.1 innings of work.

4. Brandon Beachy

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1

    ERA: 1.33

    Strikeouts: 39

    With the third-lowest WHIP (0.89) in all of baseball, the Atlanta Braves third-year man Brandon Beachy has been great so far this season.

    Beachy has allowed just eight earned runs in 54 innings of work after posting a 3.68 ERA in 2011.

    Oh, and he boasts the lowest ERA in the MLB.

3. Jered Weaver

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 6-1

    ERA: 2.80

    Strikeouts: 53

    Jered Weaver's no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins on May 2 only further cemented his status as one of the best pitchers in 2012.

    Without the right arm of Weaver, the Los Angeles Angels would find themselves further down in the standings in the AL West.

    He ranks No. 6 in strikeouts in the AL and No. 3 in WHIP and has been one of the most important hurlers to his squad in the early going of 2012. 

2. Cole Hamels

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 6-1

    ERA: 2.48

    Strikeouts: 58

    Even with missing a start due to suspension, Philadelphia Phillies southpaw Cole Hamels still ranks in the top five in the MLB in strikeouts.

    As the No. 3 starter in the Phillies rotation, Hamels has arguably been the most important pitcher on any squad to his team, given the lack of offense due to the injuries of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and the pitching staff's deficiency due to Cliff Lee's injury.

    With a pitching staff that includes Lee and Roy Halladay, Hamels leads Philadelphia in wins, ERA and strikeouts, making him easily one of the three best pitchers so far this season. 

1. Justin Verlander

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    Season Statistics

    Record: 5-1

    ERA: 2.14

    Strikeouts: 68

    After a near miss on a no-hitter on Friday night, Justin Verlander is still easily the best pitcher thus far in 2012.

    He leads the entire MLB in strikeouts and WHIP, at a minuscule 0.80.

    Through the first 40 games, no pitcher has been more exciting to watch than the reigning AL Cy Young winner and AL MVP.

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