The Angels could easily be labeled the most disappointing team in the majors this season. That being said, can they still salvage their season and make the postseason?
1. Are the Angels cooked? Does 4½ games out of the wild-card race mean they're out of the race?
Mark Saxon (@markasaxon), ESPN Los Angeles: Far from it. We saw last year how foolish it can be to think we know the shape of a race in mid-September, much less late August. If the Angels get their pitching together and play like their talent suggests, I think they have an excellent shot at earning a wild-card spot.
Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl), ESPN.com: Of course they aren't cooked, but the biggest source of concern from my perspective isn't their bullpen -- narrow margins put every bullpen on the spot, good and bad. Instead, the Angels' biggest problem is the lack of results from their rotation. The dearth of walks on offense doesn't help make the damage their big boppers do mean as much, either. They have had just two games in the past three weeks with more than three free passes.
Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers), ESPN.com: I don't think so, but they have six games left against the A's and three games left with the Tigers -- two teams among their main competition for the wild card -- and I can't see them making up 4½ games unless they go 6-3 in those games.
2. Should Angels GM Jerry Dipoto try to make a late waiver move? Can manager Mike Scioscia change anything? What are the problems that need to be addressed, and can they be?
Saxon: The Angels' last waiver trade was when they acquired Scott Kazmir. That move didn't work out well for former Angels GM Tony Reagins, who is no longer working in baseball. They could take on an overpaid, declining player, but I think they're better off hoping some of their players can at least approach their career norms in terms of performance. It's all on the pitching. If Zack Greinke and Dan Haren are OK, the Angels will be OK.
Kahrl: Scioscia's reputation as a consummate handler of a staff is at risk, and like I said, not just because of the bullpen's struggles -- it's the rotation that collectively really isn't coming through right now, and seeing Jered Weaver get belted around on Tuesday night isn't a good sign. Zack Greinke and Dan Haren have one quality start apiece this month, while C.J. Wilson has been crushed for six or more runs in his five August starts. Angels may have wings, but that sort of work won't fly on a purported contender.
Meyers: The Angels' bullpen ERA is 4.13, which is the second worst in the AL. If they can find a reliever to take on, they should do it. That said, I'm not sure who that guy might be.
3. If the Angels don't pull off a comeback, what do they have to do this winter to mount a serious challenge against the AL-leading Rangers (besides celebrate the arrival of the Astros as a division patsy)?
Saxon: This is evading the question, but the Angels' main problem is their lack of depth in the minor leagues. It keeps them from being able to replace injured players and from making more impact trades. Some younger prospects should be ready in a year or two, at which point they'll have a better chance to compete with Texas without propping up the major league team with free agents. They owe it to their fans to build something around Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Jered Weaver by developing young players.
Kahrl: They're going to have to come to terms with the fact that they need people on base to maximize the damage that Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo can do. Peter Bourjos is an underutilized defensive asset as a fourth outfielder, and he doesn't offer the power or on-base percentage you want to get from an outfield corner; even with Torii Hunter headed for free agency, they need to be open to using Bourjos as trade bait to get a thumper to play right field or third base.
Meyers: The Angels don't need to do much except hope that Dan Haren pitches better, and find some bullpen upgrades. They should probably just let Vernon Wells go and give his roster spot to someone who will do more with it. Other than that, the Angels' top six players (Mike Trout, Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, C.J. Wilson and Haren) are as good as any other team's, and I'm not even assuming Zack Greinke will be back. I think they are a playoff team with a few minor upgrades.