I get that everyone's concerned about Ian Snell and his vanishing breaking ball, tendency to nibble, and general inconsistency. I don't like these things either. But what would be the point of replacing him in the rotation? The most obvious possible replacements, Jeff Karstens and Virgil Vasquez, are no better, and one of them will likely be in the rotation for at least one more start anyway, as Charlie Morton nurses his ailing hamstring. Snell's ERA after his poor start the other night is 5.36; Karstens' ERA as a starter is 5.30. Vasquez has little to recommend him other than good control. Tom Gorzelanny has pitched fairly well at Indianapolis, but with too many walks, and he had a 5.19 ERA in his brief relief stint in Pittsburgh in 2009 and a 6.66 ERA in 105 innings in 2008. Daniel McCutchen is another potential option, but he's been underwhelming (though far from outright bad) so far at Indianapolis and could stand to work on preventing homers. And Brad Lincoln pitched pretty well in his first Class AAA start, but it was his first Class AAA start.
In other words, the threat to remove Snell from the rotation right now strikes me as an unnecessary one. You shouldn't have Karstens or Vasquez in the rotation unless you have to, since both have less upside than Snell and probably wouldn't be much better than him anyway. Until Lincoln or McCutchen emerge as a clear option, or until someone can explain what Snell might learn in AAA or in the bullpen that he can't learn from the big league rotation, Snell should stay. He should stop nibbling, but he should stay.
UPDATE: Vasquez will be promoted, Jen Langosch reports. Dejan Kovacevic wrote a couple days ago that if this happened, it would be because of Morton's hamstring and not anything having to do with Snell, but we'll see. Langosch says that Vasquez has been told he will pitch either Friday (starting in place of Morton) or Sunday (starting in place of Snell). Thanks to Woobie for the link.
UPDATE: Rocco DeMaro writes that Snell has been sent to Indianapolis. No details or formal news reports yet. Thanks to UtesFan89.
UPDATE: Dejan Kovacevic confirms that Snell has been demoted. I already made my opinion clear above, but if the Pirates are going to replace him with Vasquez I'd really like a list of specific ways that playing in AAA can make Snell better. I suppose Vasquez is a serviceable replacement pitcher, but he has almost no upside. I guess there's an argument to be made that Snell was actually worse than his 5.36 ERA suggested--he was probably lucky to have only seven of his many fly balls go over the fence, and he struck out only a few more than he walked. But, painful as it might have been, I might have liked to see him prove he actually was that bad before sending him down, because I wouldn't bet on Vasquez having an ERA better than 5.36.
UPDATE: The Post-Gazette reports that Snell says he asked to be sent down, which certainly is a new one.
He sought a more positive environment: "Too much negativity. I want to be a positive person if I'm going to be here. I felt like I was going to be negative if I was going to be here, and I didn't want to ruin this team." He was asked to explain who actually made the call that he would go down: "I wasn't going to allow them to say what they want. I told them I wanted to go down. It's best for the team." I asked why he would do this, when three of his past four starts were quality starts. "There's a lot. I don't want to point fingers and make excuses. I just made a better decision for myself, my career and my life."
What does "I wasn't going to allow them to say what they want" mean? Was Snell upset about Neal Huntington's comments about him yesterday? And if so, why not just demand a trade? Wow, is this weird.
UPDATE: And here's an MP3 of Snell explaining himself. Does anyone understand the "I'm not your pal" bit in the middle? It sounds like he's angry at John Perrotto, who asked the question.