Pirates Should Demote Charlie Morton

This has probably reached the point where it's obvious to most of you that Charlie Morton should be demoted, but I'll spell out the reasons anyway.

I'm probably more tolerant than most of young players who don't produce right away, because I'm trying to take a long view of things. Most fans make too much of small sample sizes and aren't too concerned with anything other than whether their team is winning. The fact is that for a team in the Pirates' position, major league playing time is a very valuable resource. It can help players who have nothing left to learn in the minors to keep learning, and it can also help front offices learn about players. So we shouldn't be in any rush to demote a young player just because he has a few bad games.

There comes, however, a point at which a player is so bad he crosses a threshold, past which 1) it's unclear what he's learning in getting destroyed over and over, 2) in the interest of basic decency, the fans just shouldn't be made to watch him. Morton is past that threshold. A 9.68 ERA in eight starts is just ridiculous; he's in John Van Benschoten territory here.

Plainly, Morton has great stuff, so much so that it's become a cliche to even point that out. But his command (particularly of his breaking stuff) is bad, or at least intermittently bad, and he pitches horribly with men on base. In the past, I hadn't wanted to send him with the minors, because of sample-size issues and because we needed to see him a few times before we even knew why to send him there. Now we know. Morton can work on those things in the minors, so it isn't like the Pirates would just be banishing him there for no reason other than being awful.

Even before a ten-strikeout performance for Indianapolis yesterday, Brad Lincoln had been making a credible case for a look in the big-league rotation. Not an overwhelming case, but a credible one. He has a 3.83 ERA now, to go with 39 strikeouts and 12 walks in 49.1 innings. He has allowed seven homers, which is a bunch, and five of those were against lefties, who have hit him pretty hard all year. His changeup probably still needs some work for him to really be functional against big-league lefties, and there's no guarantee that he wouldn't come to the majors and get rocked like Daniel McCutchen, who's similarly flyball-prone.

In short, Lincoln isn't perfect, and he isn't a finished product, and I still don't see a ton of upside there in the long haul. (Describing him as part of a "big three" with Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata is kind of ridiculous; Alvarez and Tabata are much better prospects.) I do, however, think Lincoln has a decent shot at pitching competently for a while, which would give the Pirates and their fans a break while giving Morton a chance to work out the kinks in the minors.

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