One of the hallmarks of the World Series Texas Rangers teams was their defense -- the Rangers took a big step forward defensively between 2008 and 2009 and from 2009-12 were consistently a very good defensive team. For a variety of reasons, however, the defense hasn't been quite so good the last couple of years, and that's been a problem.
So far this year, however, we've seen significant improvement, both with the eye test and with the stats...Mark Simon of ESPN notes:
Most Defensive Runs Saved by Team— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) May 5, 2016
Blue Jays 21
The DRS numbers at Fangraphs are, I believe updated either weekly or bi-weekly, so their data is likely lagging behind Simon's numbers, but it something similar...Texas is first among MLB teams in DRS, at +19, as well as being first in UZR, at +16.9. That helps explain why Ranger starting pitchers have such sparkling ERAs, despite their peripherals being mediocre.
On an individual level, DRS and UZR both agree that a lot of the credit for the team's sterling defensive performance goes to Adrian Beltre, Nomar Mazara and Ian Desmond. DRS has Beltre at +6 at third base, while UZR has him at +3.8. Mazara, meanwhile, is at +3/+5.7, while Desmond is at +3/+3.3. The only individual that has a negative DRS for the Rangers is Shin-Soo Choo, at -1 (-0.6 UZR), while Elvis Andrus (+1 on DRS) is the only other player with a materially negative UZR (-2.2). Even Delino DeShields, who many (including myself) have criticized as a poor defensive outfielder, is at even on DRS and +2.5 in UZR.
We do have the normal caveats that it is early, and advanced defensive statistics need more time than most stats to stabilize and normalize...however, this is, at a minimum, a very encouraging sign, a little more than a month into the season. The fact that the Rangers, as a team, appear to be playing defense at a higher level, both based on the eye test and with the statistical information that we have available, is a lot better than the alternative.