TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 30: Mike Napoli #25 and Joe Nathan #36 of the Texas Rangers celebrate the win against the Texas Rangers during MLB action at the Rogers Centre April 30, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Led by Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz, everyone knows the Texas Rangers have one of the best offenses in baseball. But baseball is a team game and their offense isn't the only reason the Rangers have the best record in baseball.
Very quietly, their bullpen is hotter than the Texas heat in May (it was 97 degrees in San Antonio when I was there is past weekend). The Rangers' bullpen leads all of baseball in WAR (1.8), BB/9 (0.80), and are second in ERA (2.17).
Let's take a look at how the Rangers' front office assembled this collection of talent in Arlington...
Joe Nathan: Signed as a free agent, 11/21/11 - Nathan got off to a rough start in Texas, but has settled down as of late. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 7.2 innings pitched and has struckout eight over that span. Perhaps most important for Nathan and the Rangers is that Nathan's velocity is back up over 93 mph, which is where it was prior to his Tommy John surgery.
Alexi Ogando: Drafted from the Oakland A's in the 2005 Rule 5 Draft - The Rangers have flipped-flopped Ogando between the starting rotation and bullpen, but Ogando has found himself a home in the Rangers' bullpen. Ogando has been lights out in 2012 and leads all relievers with a 0.8 WAR. The key Ogando's success has been his control. The 28-year-old hasn't walked a batter in 15.2 innings. Impressive.
Mike Adams: Acquired via trade from the San Diego Padres, 7/31/11 - A great acquisition by GM Jon Daniels at last year's trade deadline, Adams has been nothing short of spectacular for the Rangers. In 37.1 innings with the Rangers, Adams has allowed just 29 hits, while striking out 32. Like Ogando, Adams hasn't walked a batter in 2012.
Robbie Ross: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 June Draft - Ross, the lone lefty in the Rangers' pen, has been impressive so far in 2012. He has struckout 10 over 12.2 innings and has held lefties to a .607 OPS in 22 PA's.
Koji Uehara: Acquired via trade from the Baltimore Orioles, 7/30/11 - Uehara was the first reliever acquired by Daniels at last year's trade deadline and things didn't work out to well for Uehara in Texas. He was giving up HR's like it was his job, but he has settled down in 2012 and is slowly but surely returning to his Baltimore form. He has a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings and like Ogando and Adams, Uehara hasn't walked a batter in 2012.
Scott Feldman: Drafted in the 30th round of the 2003 June Draft - Feldman is like your old fashioned swing man for the Rangers. He can start and he can eat up innings in the middle of the game. He has a 4.35 ERA in 10.2 IP.
Mark Lowe: Acquired via trade from the Seattle Mariners, 7/9/2010 - Lowe was part of the big trade that saw Cliff Lee end up in a Rangers' uniform in 2010. Lowe has a 11.0 K/9 rate in nine innings for the Rangers in 2012.
To recap, that's three trades, three draft picks, and one free agent signing. The Rangers have proven there are many ways to build a bullpen and not one of them involves signing a high-priced free agent. The Rangers' bullpen will be a big reason why the Rangers will continue to dominate the American League.