I'm not sure if anyone has taken notice of this, but the Toronto Blue Jays have demoted two of their best starting pitchers to the minor leagues at different points this season. Most teams allow pitchers some time to let pitchers right themselves in the bigs, but the Blue Jays have shown little patience with their starters and have instead opted for them to work in the minors.
Starting pitcher Jesse Litsch was demoted on July 24 after a few bad starts, but had been one of the Blue Jays better starting pitchers. When he was demoted, Litsch had a 4.46 ERA and maintained an ERA in the 3's for a good portion of the season. Litsch will never be confused for Roger Clemens, but he could still be a very good #4 or #5 starter in the bigs.
Starting pitcher Shawn Marcum is a different story. Marcum was one of the best starting pitchers in the bigs for the first three months of the season before he went down with a right elbow injury. Marcum had an unreal 2.60 ERA before he got hurt, but his ERA has jumped a full point since he returned to 3.60. In 3 of his last 4 starts in the bigs, Marcum has given up 2 or fewer runs, but his strikeout numbers have fallen dramatically. Toronto management claimed that the team could not afford prolonged slumps while the Jays try to track down the Red Sox for the wild card. I don't know about you, but I have more faith in Shawn Marcum than journeyman John Parrish.
These decisions simply come down to which pitchers give the Blue Jays the best chance to win. While most teams show loyalty to guys who have performed well in the past, the Blue Jays going forward with the idea that you better perform, or else will ship you to AAA. The Blue Jays decision making is odd to me because these guys have performed well this season, so its not like they haven't performed well in years. The one thing I do like about this is that it shows organizational commitment to a certain degree. By shipping Litsch and Marcum to AAA, management is showing them that they are a big part of the team's future and that they need to get themselves right so they can be effective in the future.
I can't remember the last time a team demoted two of their best starters in the middle of the season, but who knows, maybe this will become the norm in baseball. It simply comes down to how teams want to handle their pitching investments when they struggle: let them figure it out in the bigs because they are better than any replacement, or ship them off to AAA so they can fix themselves without the hounding pressure.