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Red Sox Series Preview: Who are the Red Sox?

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Its a very different team that won it all in 2013, with more change coming.

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The Red Sox won their seventh World Championship just 22 months ago, their third in less than a decade. Since then, they have finished in last place and are on pace for another last place finish, winning just 44% of their games over the last two years. The disappointing seasons have cost General Manager Ben Cherington his job and will likely lead to a lot of off-season movement by the organization.

Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are the only regulars from the 2013 championship club still with the team, with Clay Buchholz, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa the only regular pitchers that have remained. Pedroia, Bucholz, and Uehara all sit on the disabled list, leaving a roster full of promising young players and a few disappointing free agents.

The Red Sox created some fanfare last winter by bringing in big free agents Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but thus far the two have been a disaster. Ramirez's move from shortstop to left-field has been a train wreck, and Sandoval's defensive shortcomings have been exposed this year as well. Both are in the bottom six out of all defenders in baseball in Defensive Runs Saved, combining for -30 DRS. Their bats have not papered over their lead gloves either, with the two combining for just 2.1 oWAR.

The younger Red Sox players have actually carried the team much of the year, and the Red Sox have scored the third-most runs in the league overall. Boston is third in on-base percentage and seventh in slugging percentage. Utility-player Brock Holt was an All-Star this year, although he's hitting just .259/.309/.313 over his last 45 games. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts are living up to their high potential this year with Betts playing some of the best outfield defense in the league this yaer.

Aside from their two black holes on defense, the Red Sox are above-average defensively. Boston has the highest success rate in stealing bases at 78.8%, although they have the fourth-fewest attempts. They have been a much better hitting team at home this year, hitting .291/.350/.450 at home compared to .236/.300/.368 on the road.

Lefty Wade Miley, acquired last winter from the Diamondbacks, has pitched better than his ERA would indicate, but has still been an inconsistent disappointment. Henry Owens was a Top 50 pitching prospect before the season who brings a 95 mph fastball with a tough slider. The twenty-two year old southpaw struck out ten, but allowed seven runs in six innings his last time out. Matt Barnes is another former first round pick with a 95 mph fastball but suffered from command issues in the minor leagues. Eduardo Rodriguez was acquired last summer from the Orioles for Andrew Miller who gave up just one run over 6 1/3 innings against the Royals back on June 19. Since then he has struggled with a 5.27 ERA over his last ten starts. He can bring some heat as well and has a plus changeup that could give Royals hitters fits.

With regular closer Koji Uehara out with injury, save opportunities have gone to fellow countryman Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa doesn't walk many, with a 1.4 walks-per-nine innings, but he has given up eight runs in his last 14 1/3 innings pitched. Former Rangers pitcher Alexi Ogando flashes a 3.28 ERA but has the second-highest home rate among all relievers. As a bullpen, the Red Sox have the worst FIP in the league with the highest home run rate, and third-lowest strikeout rate.

The Red Sox took 6 out of 7 from the Royals last year and have taken two of the first three from them this year. They may be a decimated team, but the young players have the potential to surprise the Royals. Under interim manager Torey Lovullo, in for John Farrell who is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, the Red Sox could still be a dangerous team, even if its not the same cast of characters we are familiar with.