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Red Sox Series Preview: The tables have turned

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The Royals are now the first place club, with the Red Sox sitting in the cellar.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox have alternated 90-win seasons with 90-loss seasons in each of the last four seasons, so they were due to have a good season after a 71-91 season last year. After they made a splash with big free agent signings like Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the Red Sox expected to be back in the post-season. However, the team has stumbled out to a 29-39 start, the second-worst record in the American League. The mood of Red Sox Nation seems to be summed up by Red Sox adviser Bill James, who said recently in a chat:

Bill, just a suggestion from a concerned fan: Please consider changing your Red Sox password to something tougher than "FenwayBill." Asked by: DanDanDodgerFan

At the moment we may not be the leading target of intellectual property thieves.

Despite the star power in their lineup, the Red Sox have scored the fourth-fewest runs in the league at 3.90 runs per game. The Red Sox have the seventh-best on base percentage and have drawn the fourth-most walks, but have the second-most strikeouts. They are hitting just .236/.313/.365 with runners in scoring position, the fourth-worst line in the league in those situations.

The Red Sox have the third-oldest lineup in the league, and many of their older veterans are regressing badly this season. Potential Hall of Famer David Ortiz is hitting the worst line of his career and is hitting just .123/.132/.164 against lefties this year. First baseman Mike Napoli was under the Mendoza Line earlier this week and is hitting just .192 in the month of June. Right fielder Shane Victorino has been on the disabled list since May 24 with a calf injury. Former All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia is has missed the last two games with a knee-injury and is considered day-to-day.

The Red Sox were counting on their touted farm system to produce young talent to supplement those older players. Twenty-two year old hitters Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts have held their own, but catcher Blake Swihart and older Cuban rookie outfielder Rusney Castillo have struggled this season. Once bright spot has been the play of utility player Brock Holt, who hit for the cycle earlier this week, and leads the team with a .876 OPS.

The Red Sox are an average baserunning team, but do not have many base-stealing threats. Mookie Betts has 10 of the team's 28 stolen bases, although the team has a high success rate of 75.6%. Betts is quite a ballhawk, and  his +7 Defensive Runs Saved is tied for fifth among all American League outfielders. However the Red Sox as a team are fourth-worst in Defensive Runs Saved in the league, with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval combining for a staggering -25 Defensive Runs Saved. Rookie catcher Blake Swihart has caught just 24% of would-be basestealers this season.

Most Red Sox starting pitchers have pitched better than their ERAs would suggest, with a FIP nearly a run lower in most cases, suggesting Boston's defense has hurt them significantly. Twenty-two year old rookie lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, acquired last summer from Baltimore for Andrew Miller, gave up just one run over his first three starts, but gave up nine runs his last time out. Rodriguez shows good velocity with a fastball that sits at 93, and a plus changeup with movement.

Rick Porcello was dealt from Detroit last year and signed a four-year $82.5 million contract extension with Boston this season. Porcello has seen his strikeout rate spike considerably from last year due to increased movement on his pitches, but his ERA and FIP have spiked as well. Lefty Wade Miley was also acquired last year in a trade with the Diamondbacks, but has seen a sharp drop in strikeouts from last year. The Royals rocked Miley for ten runs in less than five innings last year in Arizona.

Red Sox relievers have the second-worst FIP in the league at 4.25 with the fourth-worst home run rate and fourth-lowest strikeout rate. Closer Koji Uehara has a 2.86 ERA and has converted 14-of-16 saves this season with over ten strikeouts-per-nine innings. Junichi Tazawa has pitched well in middle relief with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.6, but the rest of the pen has had mixed results, with cast-offs like Tommy Layne, Alexi Ogando, and Robbie Ross.

The Red Sox were a lousy team last year, but still managed to take six out of seven from the Royals last year including the infamous Jonny Gomes game and the Daniel Nava game. Luckily, Scott Downs and Aaron Crow aren't around to blow games this year, but Ned Yost is still here, fresh off becoming the winningest manager in club history. The Red Sox are a team reeling, having dropped eight of their last ten, and fresh off the Pablo Sandoval/Instagram controversy. The stars are aligned for the Royals for this series, but they still need to take care of business against a vulnerable opponent.