Jeff Karstens has now made four starts for the Pirates since Ross Ohlendorf went on the DL. Karstens has given the team exactly what most people expected and roughly what his career numbers suggested he would. He has pitched 21 innings, not getting out of the fifth on two occasions. He has a solid 17:5 K/BB ratio, but opposing batters have a .907 OPS against him. The team is 2-2 in the four games.
Ohlendorf threw some batting practice yesterday, but he is likely to miss at least three more turns in the rotation. I don't see the point in continuing to run Karstens out there. It's time to recall Brad Lincoln and give him these next few turns in the rotation.
I realize Lincoln has not been great in Indianapolis thus far. But his 1-3 record and 6.49 ERA mask some very good underlying peripherals. In 26.1 innings he has only given up 28 hits and 3 BBs for a WHIP of 1.177. His 24:3 K:BB ratio is outstanding. I haven't seen Lincoln pitch in Indy so I don't know how his stuff has looked, but he had his best outing in terms of runs allowed earlier this week.
Lincoln turns 26 this month. He had a rough debut season in the majors last year, but he looked good this spring before he got hit with a batted ball and had to miss time. Now that he's made five starts in Indy it's time to figure out if he is part of the plan going forward. Using Karstens doesn't give the team a better chance of winning and it doesn't help in figuring out where Lincoln stands. The data points gained over three or four starts can be valuable in this evaluation. It's time to make the move.
If the team were to recall Lincoln they would need to make a corresponding roster move. Ten days ago the obvious move would have been to send down Daniel McCutchen. Jeff Karstens would return to the long-man role, and Cutch would be superfluous. However, McCutchen has actually been pretty good and is now unscored-upon in nine outings and 12 innings of work. Maybe the team would like to find out if he could be the guy who fills that long man role going forward. (Birthday note No. 1: McCutchen and Karstens were born two days apart in 1982. McCutchen is older.)
The two other options are to send down either Daniel Moskos or Mike Crotta. The Moskos decision is straightforward. You either want two lefties in the pen or you don't care. If you want two, he stays. If you don't care, he goes. I was a little surprised he didn't work the ninth inning of the 7-2 game yesterday in San Diego.
Mike Crotta is the third option to be sent down. Crotta has had some command issues lately but has also been a bit unlucky. Being a sinkerballer, he brings a different look out of the pen, but I'm not sure Clint Hurdle will continue to use him in high-leverage situations. Crotta had three clean outings to start the season, but he has given up at least one hit in all ten outings since then and is now sporting a WHIP of 1.900 and .919 OPS against.
As good as the bullpen has been, the two stories no one is talking about are how solid Dan McCutchen has been and how bad Mike Crotta has been after his early success. (Birthday note No. 2: Crotta and Karstens were born on the same day. Karstens is two years older.)
I don't think this decision is as clear-cut as it might first appear. I'm probably not in the consensus on this one, but I would send down Crotta and get him regular work in Indy. His sinker is a nice alternative, but he hasn't been effective (edit by Charlie: although inconsistent ball and strike calls by the umpires haven't helped him) and McCutchen has looked good. I'd also prefer two lefties in the pen.
But the first move needs to be made. Recall Brad Lincoln.