Part of what makes baseball great is how quickly smart teams can turn their fortunes around. Last spring the Texas Rangers lost Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery, started the season 8-16, and remained under .500 through August 3rd. It was fair to assume that the glory days of back to back pennants in 2010 and 2011 had disappeared and that a lengthy rebuilding process would begin. However, the Rangers had other plans and became buyers at the trade deadline. The acquisition of Cole Hamels enabled Texas to win 38 of their final 59 games to finish as AL West champions.
The addition of the second wild card in 2012 has led more teams to become buyers at the trade deadline but the Hamels deal was much more than a three month rental. After the 2015 season Hamels was signed for a reasonable three years and $70.5 million plus a club option. It would have been impossible for the Rangers to acquire someone of his caliber at that salary via free agency so Texas did their offseason shopping early. Since mid August of last season Hamels is 12-1 with a 3.27 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 146 innings pitched.
Another unexpected addition to this first place team has been rookie sensation Nomar Mazara. Entering 2016 the now 21-year-old outfielder had played just 20 games above AA so figured to be nothing more than a late season call up. Forced into playing time from the injuries to Shin-Shoo Choo and Josh Hamilton, Mazara has batted .318 with a .367 OBP, 10 home runs, and 27 RBI. He is currently the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year.
The final pieces to this team have the been the return from injuries of Yu Darivsh and Jurickson Profar. Darvish has pitched just twice since his memorial weekend debut, going 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10.2 innings. With a career strikeout rate of 11.2 per nine innings Darvish gives Texas the luxury of two potential aces, something none of the Red Sox, Orioles, White Sox or other American League teams can match.
Profar, meanwhile, had not played any baseball since 2013 due to a couple of terrible shoulder injuries. He entered that season ranked as the number one prospect in all of baseball and was called up two weeks ago to replace the suspended Rougned Odor at second base. Now at 23 years old he has gotten a hit in all 11 of his games this season while batting .380 with two home runs.
So that's pretty much how Texas got here. A trade, a call up, and two return for injuries have supplemented strong seasons from Adrian Beltre and Ian Desmond. What makes the Rangers so dangerous is their balance. Currently the offense ranks third in the AL in runs per game and the pitching ranks fifth in ERA. No other team in the American League has that type of offense combined with a deep pitching staff. It's what has led them to win 14 of their last 17 games and to having the second best record in all of baseball.