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Another year, another second-half slump for Lance Lynn

Dilip Vishwanat

It's still very early, but Lance Lynn's career has been both strangely consistent and consistently strange.

Strangely consistent? In both of his full seasons in the majors, he's made 29 starts. He's pitched almost exactly the same number of innings, and given up almost exactly the same number of hits, walks, and home runs. His strikeouts are almost exactly the same. He has hit exactly 10 batters with pitches in both seasons. He has been the same.

But so bloody strangely. Last season, Lynn pitched in the All-Star Game. But after a string of sub-par starts in August, the All-Star headed to the bullpen for a few weeks. This season, Lynn just missed another All-Star berth -- he started the season 10-1, before dropping to 11-4 with a 4.00 ERA at the break -- and now he's once more in danger of losing his job in the rotation.

In his last five starts, Lynn's gone 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA. Leading yet again to calls for his hide. Friday morning, Bernie Micklasz presented Lynn's ouster as a fait accompli (video); the question's not if, but who ... as in, who's going to take over when Lynn gets bumped? This is actually sort of an important question, since the Cardinals don't want to play the Pirates or the Reds in the Bud Selig Memorial Playoff Game next month.

Miklasz thinks Jake Westbrook will get the nod. But as Derrick Goold reported Friday, the Cardinals are merely considering Westbrook. Considering he's got more walks than strikeouts, they should do a lot of considering before making some rash decision. Because, you know. The Selig Game.

Miklasz has a different favorite candidate: 21-year-old rookie Carlos Martinez, who's started just once for the Cardinals this season. Before the season, he was a Top 40 prospect, and before joining the Cardinals he pitched impressively (if not brilliantly) in Class AAA. I don't know ... I'm usually a big fan of giving the kids a chance, but starting pitchers? I don't know, man. His 2.3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio with Memphis becomes what in the majors? Less than 2-to-1, I should think.

Another option: 25-year-old rookie Tyler Lyons, who's been decent with St. Louis and was brilliant with Memphis. Lyons doesn't have Martinez's stuff or Martinez's youth, but at this moment he might be the slightly better pitcher. I think I would go with Lyons over Martinez and Westbrook. Knowing what little I know.

I'm just not sure I'd give up on Lynn yet. He's struggled, but five starts is only five starts. He's throwing as hard as ever. Overall, he's been the same pitcher this year as last year, and last year he was considered good enough to start twice in the National League Championship Series. In the absence of a particularly attractive option, I think I'd give Lynn at least one more start, and probably more unless he's hurt or hammered.

For more about this momentous decision, please visit SB Nation's Viva El Birdos.