New York Mets: Why Johan Santana Could Be NL's Top Pitcher in 2012

Ted Lee@@RealLedTeeCorrespondent IJune 18, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 08: Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch in the second-inning during the game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 8, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City.Yankees defeated the Rays 7-0.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Johan Santana, coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined him the whole season in 2011, is doing great things for the New York Mets this year, and it's not even halfway into the season.

Currently 4-3 with a 3.23 ERA, Santana became the first Mets pitcher to pitch a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals, the defending World Series champions, to say the least. 

While he's in a slump right now, it should not take away from the fact that he's in line for another great season. 

With 2012 being "The Year of the Pitcher", already with three no-hitters and a pair of perfect games, and only three months into the season, Santana could easily be the National League's top pitcher in 2012, provided that everything goes right for him, like on the night of June 1, when he threw the no-no against the Cardinals. The Mets and Santana will be dependent on each other and will only be successful if the other is doing their part. 

Santana can easily be the top pitcher in the National League.

Based off what I said earlier about the Mets and Santana going hand in hand, every year the top pitchers more than likely are on contenders. This may be because the playoff chase brings the best out of the team and pitcher, with the pitcher being dominant while the team provides run support.

The Mets this year are making noise in the NL East, having set their sights on the playoffs. With a playoff chase possible, Santana will only pitch better, which is a scary thought for opponents. Every playoff contender has an ace in their rotation every year, from the Giants and Tim Lincecum, to the Rangers and C.J. Wilson. Santana is still clearly the ace, no matter how well R.A. Dickey is pitching, and will pitch like one if the Mets are making a push to the playoffs. 

The Mets' problem with Santana is the lack of run support given when he is on the mound, which has been difficult to provide since the signing of the star lefty. If the Mets give Santana the run support, he can receive more wins, an important stat when evaluating a pitcher's season performance. 

The best has yet to come from Santana, regardless of his no-hitter. Compared with his best seasons in Minnesota, this 2012 season is not nearly as good as his Cy Young winning seasons in 2004 or 2006, when he also won the major league pitching Triple Crown. While he has put up great numbers this season, they haven't come consistently yet. Not taking account his last two starts, Santana has a 2.38 ERA. Once he goes into midseason form however, his consistency and accuracy will only get better. 

How do you follow up a no-hitter in the season? By becoming the best pitcher in the National League, something Johan Santana is capable of. He'll need help from his team, but as 2012 has shown the Mets are up to the challenge.