Yes, there really is a surge in talented young baseball players now

Seems like the last 3 or 4 years there have been a lot of very excellent, very young baseball players in the major leagues.

Seems like, in that time, there has been a lot of talk about all the very excellent young baseball players in the majors, with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper leading the way. But our impressions are sometimes wrong, as analysis of the relevant data can reveal. So, to see if these impressions are right or wrong, I looked at the data.

The data agree, overwhelmingly.

Using Baseball-Reference.com, I looked at the highest-WAR seasons for players 22 and under from the last 40 years. Though rather than using WAR numbers outright, I scaled WAR to 150 games, to adjust for differences in playing time.  Because WAR behaves more like a cumulative statistic, like hits, than a rate statistic, like batting average, this effectively converts it to a rate statistic.  Because rate statistics are untrustworthy over small sample sizes, I only looked at seasons in which the player played in most of the games, so, at least 82 games.

Here are the top 40 such seasons from the last 40 years:

Year Player Lg Tm Age G WAR WAR/150
2012 Mike Trout AL LAA 20 139 10.8 11.7
2015 Bryce Harper NL WSN 22 153 9.9 9.7
1996 Alex Rodriguez AL SEA 20 146 9.4 9.7
1981 Rickey Henderson AL OAK 22 108 6.6 9.2
2013 Mike Trout AL LAA 21 157 8.9 8.5
1980 Rickey Henderson AL OAK 21 158 8.8 8.4
1998 Alex Rodriguez AL SEA 22 161 8.5 7.9
1983 Cal Ripken AL BAL 22 162 8.2 7.6
2014 Mike Trout AL LAA 22 157 7.9 7.5
2013 Yasiel Puig NL LAD 22 104 4.9 7.1
1998 Andruw Jones NL ATL 21 159 7.4 7.0
2015 Francisco Lindor AL CLE 21 99 4.6 7.0
1991 Ken Griffey AL SEA 21 154 7.1 6.9
2010 Jason Heyward NL ATL 20 142 6.4 6.8
2003 Hank Blalock AL TEX 22 143 6.4 6.7
2012 Giancarlo Stanton NL MIA 22 123 5.5 6.7
1982 Tom Brunansky AL MIN 21 127 5.6 6.6
2007 Troy Tulowitzki NL COL 22 155 6.8 6.6
2015 Manny Machado AL BAL 22 162 7.1 6.6
1999 Andruw Jones NL ATL 22 162 7.1 6.6
2005 Grady Sizemore AL CLE 22 158 6.6 6.3
2015 Carlos Correa AL HOU 20 99 4.1 6.2
2015 Mookie Betts AL BOS 22 145 6 6.2
2013 Manny Machado AL BAL 20 156 6.4 6.2
2001 Albert Pujols NL STL 21 161 6.6 6.1
1992 Ken Griffey AL SEA 22 142 5.8 6.1
1979 Paul Molitor AL MIL 22 140 5.6 6.0
1976 Willie Randolph AL NYY 21 125 5 6.0
1981 Tim Raines NL MON 21 88 3.5 6.0
1997 Alex Rodriguez AL SEA 21 141 5.6 6.0
1978 Robin Yount AL MIL 22 127 5 5.9
2008 Evan Longoria AL TBR 22 122 4.8 5.9
1987 Barry Bonds NL PIT 22 150 5.8 5.8
1977 Chet Lemon AL CHW 22 150 5.8 5.8
2002 Austin Kearns NL CIN 22 107 4.1 5.7
1978 Jack Clark NL SFG 22 156 5.9 5.7
2012 Jason Heyward NL ATL 22 158 5.8 5.5
2012 Bryce Harper NL WSN 19 139 5.1 5.5
2012 Brett Lawrie AL TOR 22 125 4.5 5.4
1979 Lou Whitaker AL DET 22 127 4.5 5.3

I then grouped these into 10 groups of 4 years. As it turns out, the period from 2012 to 2015 contains 5 of the top 10, 8 of the top 20, and 14 of the top 40 of these seasons, as shown by these charts. This, when the average group has 1 in the top 10, 2 in the top 20, and 4 in the top 40.

When the top 20 WAR seasons under 23 over last 40 years occurred

When the top 40 WAR seasons under 23 over last 40 years occurred

Of course, sometimes a single player produced more than one of these seasons. But these past four years also dominate in terms of the number of different young players on these lists. Here are all the players having top 40 seasons, listed under their 4-year groups, with their overall placements on the list next to their names. I’ve bolded those with top-20 seasons.

1976 – 1979 1980 – 1983 1984 – 1987
Paul Molitor (27) Rickey Henderson (4, 6) Barry Bonds (33)
Willie Randolph (28) Cal Ripken (8)
Robin Yount (31) Tom Brunansky (17)
Chet Lemon (34) Tim Raines (29)
Jack Clark (36)
Lou Whitaker (40)
1988 – 1991 1992 – 1995 1996 – 1999
Ken Griffey (13) Ken Griffey (26) Alex Rodriguez (3, 7, 30)
Andruw Jones (11, 20)
2000 – 2003 2004 – 2007 2008 – 2011
Hank Blalock (15) Troy Tulowitzki (18) Jason Heyward (14)
Albert Pujols (25) Grady Sizemore (21) Evan Longoria (32)
Austin Kearns (35)
2012 – 2015
Mike Trout (1, 5, 9)
Bryce Harper (2, 38)
Yasiel Puig (10)
Francisco Lindor (12)
Giancarlo Stanton (16)
Manny Machado (19, 24)
Carlos Correa (22)
Mookie Betts (23)
Jason Heyward (37)
Brett Lawrie (39)

Again, these past 4 years dominate.

Now that we know for certain that we’re experiencing a very special surge of young talent, the next thing to ask is, why? Has the surge in the amount of free analysis available (on the web and in ESPN in-depth commentary) over the last decade or so allowed parents to self-coach their youngsters more effectively? And is this finally coming to fruition? Or is this just a fluke? Is it a Cuban invasion? Or something else?

Xander Bogaerts back on pace to reach 200 hits, win AL batting title

Back on Wednesday morning, I showed that Xander Bogaerts and Miguel Cabrera were hitting at paces that would cause Bogaerts to (most likely) surpass Cabrera for the AL batting title. Though I didn’t mention it at the time, these projections also showed that he’d reach 200 hits even if he sat out a couple of games, and a few more than that if he played all the remaining games. After a pair of low-hit games knocked Bogaerts off that pace, his 3-for-4 performance last night has put him right back on it.

In trying to project future totals using “the pace at which a player is producing right now”, how many games do you use to determine what that pace is? The last 5? The last 10? 20?

I circumvent that question by using all of them … I calculate his pace of production over his last 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. games, then use that pace applied over the remaining number of games to be played to see what final numbers he’s headed for. This gives a big collection of possible final numbers; you then choose one in the middle.

On Wednesday I did that for Cabrera and Bogaerts using their paces of production as established by their last 8, 9, 10, etc. up to their last 20 games. That gave 13 paces of production for each player. I then applied these to their remaining games assuming they’d not sit out any games, and then again assuming they’d each sit out two games. I got these results:

If playing all remaining games
Bogaerts Cabrera
Low 0.327 0.324
Median 0.329 0.326
High 0.332 0.331
If sitting out two games
Bogaerts Cabrera
Low 0.327 0.326
Median 0.329 0.328
High 0.331 0.332

In all but one of these 26 projections, Bogaerts would end up with at least 200 hits.

I just updated these numbers, and now they look like this:

If playing all remaining games
Bogaerts Cabrera
Low 0.327 0.325
Median 0.329 0.326
High 0.330 0.332
If sitting out two games
Bogaerts Cabrera
Low 0.327 0.327
Median 0.328 0.328
High 0.329 0.332

Here are Bogaerts’ projected numbers of hits:

Bogaerts projected 2015 hits
# of recent games used If playing all games If sitting two games
20 204.0 200.8
19 203.3 200.2
18 203.0 200.0
17 203.3 200.2
16 203.6 200.5
15 204.0 200.8
14 205.1 201.7
13 204.9 201.5
12 203.8 200.7
11 204.4 201.1
10 204.0 200.8
9 204.7 201.3
8 204.3 201.0

Longer term projections (based on his last 40 or more games) almost all have him finishing with 200 hits exactly if he sits out 2 games, 203 hits if he plays all remaining games, and a .327 average.

If they play it out, and stay on pace, Bogaerts probably will win the batting title and will get to 200 hits.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for the gamelog data I used for this article.

Xander Bogaerts on pace to surpass Miguel Cabrera for batting title

I’m a little frustrated with this article. I don’t think it gets me any closer to knowing how much of a shot Xander Bogaerts has at 2015 American League batting title. It just says, “it will be difficult”.

So I did some projections, to see what the numbers say. Of course, things have changed a bit since this article was published – the gap is now just 12 points instead of 18. There are 11 games left on the Tigers’ schedule, and 12 games left on the Red Sox’. I did two sets of projections. One assumes each player plays in all his team’s remaining games. The other assumes each player sits out two games.

In each case, I used the numbers of at bats and hits of each player in his last 8, 9, 10, etc. games, up to his last 20 games, as the basis for projecting his number of at bats and hits to come in his remaining games. I scaled these samples to the number of remaining games, added them to the current season totals, and calculated batting averages. So that made for 13 separate projections in each case.  The results:

Bogaerts projected 2015 AVG
# of recent games used If playing all games If sitting two games
20 0.330 0.329
19 0.329 0.329
18 0.330 0.329
17 0.329 0.328
16 0.328 0.327
15 0.327 0.327
14 0.328 0.327
13 0.328 0.328
12 0.330 0.329
11 0.332 0.331
10 0.331 0.330
9 0.329 0.328
8 0.330 0.329
Cabrera projected 2015 AVG
# of recent games used If playing all games If sitting two games
20 0.328 0.329
19 0.327 0.328
18 0.326 0.328
17 0.324 0.326
16 0.324 0.326
15 0.325 0.327
14 0.326 0.328
13 0.328 0.329
12 0.326 0.328
11 0.324 0.326
10 0.325 0.327
9 0.327 0.329
8 0.331 0.332

In both cases, because Bogaerts is hitting well right now and Cabrera is hitting poorly, the projections show that Bogaerts will probably surpass Cabrera and win the batting title. The charts pictured below show the lowest, highest, and median projections among the 13 projections produced for each case.

If playing all remaining games
Bogaerts Cabrera
Low 0.327 0.324
Median 0.329 0.326
High 0.332 0.331
If sitting out two games
Bogaerts Cabrera
Low 0.327 0.326
Median 0.329 0.328
High 0.331 0.332

If both players hit at their current paces the rest of the way, Xander Bogaerts will surpass Miguel Cabrera for the 2015 AL batting title.

Who should AL Player of the Month be, Encarnacion or Bradley?

To think about who should be the American League player of the Month for August, we could start by looking at those with the highest OPS on the month (and at least 50 plate appearances):

Player Team Pos G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS▼
 Encarnacion, E TOR 1B 23 86 23 35 11 0 11 35 9 15 0 0 0.407 0.460 0.919 1.379
 Ortiz, D BOS DH 26 91 17 32 8 0 9 22 16 17 0 0 0.352 0.432 0.736 1.169
 Bradley, J BOS CF 26 79 23 28 9 3 5 23 11 24 3 0 0.354 0.429 0.734 1.163
 Donaldson, J TOR 3B 27 105 29 34 7 1 11 35 16 25 2 0 0.324 0.408 0.724 1.132
 Gutierrez, F SEA LF 19 62 12 21 4 0 7 20 4 19 0 0 0.339 0.388 0.742 1.130

Based on offense alone, you have to pick Encarnacion, though Ortiz, Bradley, and Donaldson all show very well here. But can defense close the gap? Not for Ortiz, the DH, but maybe for Jackie Bradley Jr., the defensive wiz in the outfield. Now I haven’t seen Encarnacion’s defense this month, but I have to wonder, how likely is he to have made plays at first base in August like this catch:

Bradley Jr.’s incredible catch

or this catch:

Statcast: Bradley’s great grab

or this throw:

Statcast: Bradley Jr. gets Bird

or this catch:

Must C: Bradley Jr.’s great grab

or this throw:

Bradley Jr. nabs Sanchez

or this catch:

Bradley runs in for catch

or this throw:

Bradley Jr.’s throw nabs Infante

or this catch and throw:

Bradley’s running catch

Given the game-changing, run-saving nature of Bradley’s defense so many times in August, that has to propel him squarely into a two-person discussion for who should be AL player of the Month for August.

Do you think the pick should be Encarnacion, Bradley, or someone else?

Red Sox almost accomplish unusual feat

Over their last four games, the Boston Red Sox have posted scores of 15, 22, 8, and 2.  Had it not been for a late rally last night, they would have finished the last of these games with just one run instead of two, and this would have made for what must be an uncommon if not unprecedented oddity.  They’d have had four consecutive different scores, each one exactly 7 runs apart from the closest of the other scores.

What they did accomplish is probably also quite rare: four consecutive games in which no two scores are within 6 runs of each other. To see if any other team has ever accomplished this feat, I might look through Baseball-Reference.com’s play index for games with 18 runs scored or more and then look through game logs to see the scores of the adjacent games, but with over 300 results to look through, that’s more work than I can finish on my lunch break.  So I leave it to you, baseball community:  can you find any team that has done this before?

Closure for Lester (he finally gets a hit)

As the season opened I reported on Jon Lester’s potential to break the record for most hitless at bats to start a career this season, now that he’s batting regularly as a National League pitcher.  Later, I reported on his breaking that record.  Now, at last, there is closure.  On Monday Jon Lester got his first career hit, and it was off former teammate John Lackey (literally – it ricocheted off Lackey).  He tallied 30 AB and 30 plate appearances this season before getting that hit, adding to his prior career totals of 43 PA and 36 AB without a hit.

Here is the new top 10 list:

Name Team(s) Pos PA AB First hitless game Last hitless game Hitless Games RBI SO BB HBP SH SF
Jon Lester BOS-OAK P 73 66 6/16/2006 7/1/2015 30 1 37 1 0 5 1
Joey Hamilton SDP P 66 57 5/24/1994 6/3/1995 24 1 34 2 0 6 1
Ron Herbel SFG P 63 55 5/6/1964 5/11/1965 27 0 36 2 0 6 0
Marv Breuer NYY P 57 to 60 47 to 49 4/27/1940 9/4/1940 20 1 22 or 23 4 or 5 0 6
Luke Walker PIT P 56 48 4/18/1966 4/18/1970 27 2 29 2 0 6 0
Don Carman PHI P 53 48 9/13/1984 5/11/1987 28 0 21 0 0 5 0
Fred Gladding DET-HOU P 49 47 7/1/1961 7/5/1969 40 0 27 0 0 2 0
Chris Short PHI P 45 44 4/19/1959 6/24/1961 26 0 19 0 0 1 0
Randy Tate NYM P 47 41 4/14/1975 9/18/1975 23 0 22 1 0 5 0
Pat Jarvis ATL P 45 41 8/13/1966 6/12/1967 18 1 24 2 0 2 0

Congratulations, Jon. You’ve hit some balls pretty hard to this point in your career, and streak records like this one always involve some luck, either bad or good. Now forget about hitting, because you’ve got more important concerns.

Mookie Betts challenge to a Red Sox record may have been ruined by a bad call

Mookie Betts is closing in on a Red Sox team record.  Or at least he should be.  The record would be for consecutive multi hit games, and Mookie should now have 7 of these in a row, two shy of the team record of 9.  However on June 17 in Atlanta, Mookie was called out on a bunt hit in the second inning that replays clearly show was an unmistakably bad call.  The Red Sox had blown their challenge in the first inning, however, so the call stood, despite manager John Farrell’s pleadings to the umpire to review the call.  The play went as a sacrifice, so it didn’t cost him an at bat; Betts would finish the game with one official hit.  Officially, his multihit streak now stands at 4 instead of 7 because of this. Here are his official stats over these 7 games:

Name

Dates

Year

Games

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Mookie Betts

6/15-6/21

2015

7

31

8

18

3

2

2

7

1

1

0.581

0.594

1.000

1.594

Where would he be on the Red Sox all time list had this call been corrected?  The chart below shows all Red Sox multiple-hit game streaks of 7 or more since 1914, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.  Betts’ numbers as they would have been are added in here.  (Though there are likely a few more from before 1914 that should be added to this list, we know none of those missing streaks exceed 9 games, thanks to this SABR article.)

Name

Dates

Year

Games

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Kevin Youkilis

5/20-5/29

2007

9

40

11

19

8

0

3

8

6

2

0.475

0.500

0.900

1.400

Jim Rice

5/1-5/9

1978

9

35

11

20

3

2

5

17

3

2

0.571

0.590

1.200

1.790

Roy Johnson

6/17-6/23

1934

9

39

11

22

7

0

0

11

0

2

0.564

0.585

0.744

1.329

Ted Williams

4/28-5/6

1940

8

34

12

18

5

2

1

11

1

3

0.529

0.568

0.882

1.450

Dale Alexander

6/19-6/25

1933

8

36

11

18

3

1

1

6

4

2

0.500

0.526

0.722

1.249

Dick Hoblitzell

8/3-8/19

1914

8

26

4

17

3

0

0

5

4

2

0.654

0.679

0.769

1.448

Mookie Betts

6/15-6/21

2015

7

32

8

19

3

2

2

7

1

1

0.594

0.606

1.000

1.606

Adrian Gonzalez

7/24-7/31

2011

7

32

7

17

2

0

1

10

3

2

0.531

0.556

0.688

1.243

Johnny Damon

7/3-7/10

2004

7

38

12

22

1

0

3

8

1

0

0.579

0.579

0.842

1.421

Mo Vaughn

5/15-5/22

1996

7

33

8

15

1

0

5

11

7

3

0.455

0.500

0.939

1.439

Billy Hatcher

5/22-5/29

1993

7

29

7

16

1

1

2

5

3

1

0.552

0.548

0.862

1.410

Marty Barrett

9/7-9/14

1987

7

28

5

16

2

0

1

3

0

1

0.571

0.567

0.750

1.317

Fred Lynn

8/10-8/17

1979

7

26

11

15

2

0

6

13

0

3

0.577

0.621

1.346

1.967

Carl Yastrzemski

6/22-6/27

1965

7

29

6

16

6

0

2

6

3

4

0.552

0.606

0.966

1.572

Billy Goodman

9/6-9/12

1954

7

33

5

14

0

0

0

1

0

1

0.424

0.441

0.424

0.865

Ted Williams

6/21-6/27

1951

7

28

11

16

5

1

0

10

0

5

0.571

0.636

0.821

1.458

Vern Stephens

5/2-5/7

1950

7

30

8

14

2

0

2

7

1

2

0.467

0.500

0.733

1.233

Johnny Pesky

9/5-9/12

1942

7

35

10

18

5

1

0

6

1

2

0.514

0.541

0.714

1.255

Doc Cramer

8/26-8/31

1939

7

32

6

16

1

0

0

3

1

1

0.500

0.515

0.531

1.046

Doc Cramer

6/16-6/24

1939

7

33

10

15

0

2

0

2

0

1

0.455

0.471

0.576

1.046

Ben Chapman

9/2-9/6

1938

7

27

8

17

1

1

1

7

2

6

0.630

0.697

0.852

1.549

Earl Webb

9/14-9/18

1931

7

29

6

15

6

0

1

8

1

1

0.517

0.533

0.828

1.361

Buddy Myer

6/27-7/1

1928

7

30

7

17

4

1

1

5

1

2

0.567

0.594

0.867

1.460

Del Pratt

7/4-7/10

1922

7

32

2

14

1

1

1

6

0

0

0.438

0.438

0.625

1.063

Larry Gardner

8/8-8/16

1916

7

29

4

16

1

1

0

1

1

5

0.552

0.618

0.655

1.273

Tied for 7th, and possibly still counting.

Especially interesting are his overall offensive totals during this run.  Only Jim Rice in 1978 (his best offensive year) and Fred Lynn in 1979 have higher OPS’s.  And this brings a note of consolation.  The best streaks on this list, going by OPS, came from players in the primes of their careers.  Mookie, on the other hand, is just starting his career.  In other words, he’s likely to get a few more shots at topping this list in the years to come.

His official streak of 4 is still going, and based on the above, Mookie Betts is about as hot a hitter right now as any Red Sox player has ever been.  I’ll be watching tonight.

You should be out if your broken bat interferes with fielding a ball in play

I have long been troubled by the sight of an infielder in baseball trying to field a ball when pieces of the hitter’s bat are flying out onto the baseball field. Usually things end up the way they should, with the routine outs becoming outs, and the hits becoming hits. But just the same I often see a fielder hesitating to approach the ball in these cases, and I don’t think they should have to. The fielder shouldn’t have to choose between assuring his safety from being injured by flying wooden shards and making the play. That’s why I’d like to see a rule change to prevent having to make that choice.

Some years ago in an online forum I suggested that in such situations, the batter should be called out for interference. Specifically, if the batter’s bat or any portion of his bat interferes with or impedes a fielder’s ability to field a ball batted in fair territory, this by the judgement of the umpires, then the batter is out. There are already interference rules in the books; this would just extend them in what I think is a sensible way, which in my view is consistent with the existing interference rules. I’m making the call for this change again. Hopefully it will not only help fielders stay safe, but may also reduce the brittleness of some bats in use, so that we see fewer broken bats in the first place. Right now, there really isn’t a deterrent to using bats that are prone to breaking; it’s time to create one.

Jon Lester breaks record for hitting futility

Until today, nobody had ever gone more than 57 at bats into their career without a hit (at least in the last 101 years).  Having gone 0 for 2 today, Jon Lester has now gone 59 at bats without a hit; he’s 0-for-59 on his career.

Here’s the new top 15 list, by at bats, of hitless streaks to begin a career since 1914.

Name Team(s) Pos PA AB First hitless game Last hitless game Hitless Games RBI SO BB HBP SH SF
Jon Lester BOS-OAK-CHC P 66 59 6/16/2006 5/27/2015 25 1 35 1 0 5 1
Joey Hamilton SDP P 66 57 5/24/1994 6/3/1995 24 1 34 2 0 6 1
Ron Herbel SFG P 63 55 5/6/1964 5/11/1965 27 0 36 2 0 6 0
Marv Breuer NYY P 57 to 60 47 to 49 4/27/1940 9/4/1940 20 1 22 or 23 4 or 5 0 6
Luke Walker PIT P 56 48 4/18/1966 4/18/1970 27 2 29 2 0 6 0
Don Carman PHI P 53 48 9/13/1984 5/11/1987 28 0 21 0 0 5 0
Fred Gladding DET-HOU P 49 47 7/1/1961 7/5/1969 40 0 27 0 0 2 0
Chris Short PHI P 45 44 4/19/1959 6/24/1961 26 0 19 0 0 1 0
Randy Tate NYM P 47 41 4/14/1975 9/18/1975 23 0 22 1 0 5 0
Pat Jarvis ATL P 45 41 8/13/1966 6/12/1967 18 1 24 2 0 2 0
Miguel Batista CHC-MON P 43 41 8/11/1997 9/25/1998 24 0 26 0 0 2 0
Steve Stone SFG P 50 40 4/8/1971 5/16/1972 24 2 22 6 0 4 0
Roberto Hernandez CLE-TBR-PHI P 47 40 6/12/2007 6/18/2014 22 0 21 0 0 7 0
Denny Neagle PIT P 47 40 4/21/1992 5/16/1994 25 0 11 0 0 7 0
Mike Cuellar CIN-STL-HOU P 42 40 4/18/1959 4/25/1966 21 0 20 1 0 1 0

I do have posts on things other than Jon Lester’s hitless streak in the works, I promise.

 

Jon Lester on verge of record for hitting futility

In a post I made on opening day, I showed that, going back as far as Baseball-Reference.com has records (1914), Jon Lester was tied for the 22nd longest string of at bats to start a career without a hit at 36 (and tied for 19th when going by plate appearances at 43).  Now in the national league, he has quickly ascended these lists, going 0-for-18 on the season to take sole possession of third place on the list.  His 54 at bats and 61 plate appearances without a hit are exceeded only by second-place Ron Herbel , at 55 AB and 63 PA (in 1964 and 1965), and first-place Joey Hamilton, at 57 AB and 66 PA (in 1994 and 1995).

Jon Lester pitches tonight for the Cubs.  A hitless performance tonight puts him in second place, and may tie him for first.  I’m sure it’s not a record he wants, but perhaps it speaks to his high value as a pitcher.

UPDATE:  Jon Lester went 0 for 3, tying the record for most at bats to start a career without a hit.