These Pittsburgh Pirates hurlers must start 30 games or more

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A.J. Burnett has started 30 or more games for seven straight seasons.

I wanted to lead with that because that is flat-out incredible.  Burnett is now 38 years old, and for a pitcher who throws as hard as he does to maintain that level of dependability from his early 30s to his now-late 30s is almost unfathomable.  In 2014, A.J. started 34 games, good enough to tie with nine others for the major league lead.  Not bad for a guy in the twilight of his career who also happened to be dealing with a gruesome groin injury.  The question looms large:  Can we rely on Batman to do the same in 2015?  I can’t find a reason why not.  A highly-motivated A.J. Burnett is going to be a difference-maker.  If we look on the surface at his stats from 2014, they are less than desirable.  An ERA of 4.59, a WHIP of 1.41, and a league-leading total in earned runs allowed overall cannot be dressed up, not matter how much I try.  Only A.J. can truly know how much the groin injury played a part in that, but what’s more troubling than any of those numbers is the cliff that his strikeout-to-walk ratio fell off of in 2014.  After a very good 3.12 in 2013, A.J. limped to a 1.98 SO/W ratio for 2014.  Despite those bad numbers, Burnett still gave the Phillies 6.3 innings per start on average, the exact same as Gerrit Cole did for the Bucs.  A.J. was brought here to eat innings.  30 or more starts is old hat for him, and that’s all that’s fair to ask of him at this point in his career.

There is but one more pitcher on my list of essential Pittsburgh Pirates starters for 2015.

Next: The biggest surprise on this list really isn't a surprise at all