The defending American League Champion Texas Rangers aren't used to respect. They're not accustomed to status and certainly weren't brought up in an organization known as 'fearsome.' But times have changed, and there's good reason for the team to generate (and believe in) a certain degree of hype.
The Rangers currently hold a four-game lead in the AL West after running away to the tune of a nine-game victory last year. They boast the league's third-most prolific offense (.277 with a .335 on-base percentage and a .446 slugging percentage) despite sustaining injuries to key contributors Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre. They have the second-most efficient defense in the league (A topic I explored and explained last week). The Rangers have even managed to assemble an above-average pitching staff.
Other teams are better at certain aspects of the game. The Angels' top trio of starting pitchers is legitimately terrifying. The Phillies' trio is the work of some absurd legend. The Tampa Bay Rays are a better defensive team. The Yankees and the Red Sox are more potent offensively. But the case can be made that short of Boston, Texas trots out the most balanced, complete, well-constructed team in all of Major League Baseball.
Consider this: The 2011 Rangers have outscored their opponents by 114 runs. For context's sake, the Angels have outscored theirs by 11. Only three teams have outperformed the Rangers in this regard: The Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies. (Random tidbit: Those teams' payrolls add up to a combined $536,846,820.)
The next best team after the Rangers is the Braves, who have outscored their opponents by 56 runs. Here's some more context: For the Braves to catch up with the Rangers, the team's run differential would have to double.
Right now, the Rangers are the fourth-best team in Major League Baseball. The gap in the AL West doesn't yet show just how much better they are than the Angels, but that's the reality. And if they can keep playing at this level, they're well-poised to make serious noise in the playoffs.
Ladies and gentlemen, your Texas Rangers: Elite Baseball Team.