7/22/2013 11:34 P.M. ET
Mauer advances Beat the Streak mark to 42 games
BTS leader proving it's not just who you pick to get a hit, but when you pick him
By Zachary Finkelstein / MLB.com
Trivia question: Which active Major Leaguer owns the highest career batting average?
Take your time … there's no rush to respond.
Maybe you guessed Miguel Cabrera, the owner of back-to-back American League batting crowns.
Perhaps you went with Albert Pujols. Sure, his Anaheim tenure hasn't always been peachy, but his stats across 11 seasons with St. Louis can compete with almost anyone's in baseball history.
Derek Jeter, the lone active player with more than 3,000 hits? Ichiro Suzuki, perhaps?
Nope, nope, nope and nope. None of the aforementioned answers is correct. The right reply would have been Twins catcher Joe Mauer, the career .323 hitter who on Monday helped 21-year-old Joe Catarelli advance one step closer to the Beat the Streak $5.6 million grand prize.
A resident of Commack, N.Y., and an aspiring police officer, Catarelli had a great deal riding on Mauer's bat Monday night, which he entered 71.9 percent of the way (41 picks out of 57) to millionaire status. The Minnesota catcher wasted no time helping Catarelli reach 42 consecutive correct picks, as he lined a single to right in his first at-bat of the night. The matchup looked good entering the contest, for sure, with the Minnesota star facing Angels starter Joe Blanton, against whom he entered play with a lifetime .360 average (9-for-25).
"My decision tonight on picking Joe Mauer was I felt he has a great track record against Joe Blanton," Catarelli said after the catcher collected the streak-extending single. "I also looked at it where Blanton has a high ERA, and [the] righty-lefty matchup was a good fit. Not only that, but I looked at Mauer's game from Sunday and [saw] that he was 0-for-4. The whole month of July, Joe Mauer never went back-to-back games with no hits."
That Mauer was the trivia answer and Catarelli's pick shouldn't come as a surprise, not with the 2009 AL MVP having three batting titles on his résumé. No catcher in baseball history has as many, in case you were curious.
Although Mauer appears to be a sound BTS selection for any given game, Catarelli chose him Monday in lieu of his typical go-to guys.
"During my current streak, I had a strategy going into it that I would pick Miguel Cabrera and [Angels outfielder] Mike Trout, mostly because I feel like you can never go wrong with both of those guys," Catarelli said.
One would struggle to find a flaw with that plan, not with Cabrera leading the Major Leagues with a .359 average heading into Monday's action. Trout, whose .321 average ranks in the top 10, has been hitting in Cabrera fashion, batting .358 since the start of June.
But his success aside, Catarelli didn't get an article penned about him simply by picking top players. No, the ardent Mets fan deserves more credit than that. Because to excel in BTS, it's not just about whom you pick, but when you pick them.
"If I saw Cabrera go 0-for-4 [on a day] when I picked a guy like [Yankees second baseman Robinson] Cano, I would make sure I'd pick [Cabrera the following day because] you never really see Cabrera go 0-fer in two days," Catarelli said.
A look at last year's AL Triple Crown winner's game logs buttresses Catarelli's logic a great deal; Cabrera has gone hitless in just 17 of 97 games this season, with back-to-back 0-fers occurring just twice.
Coincidentally, Catarelli called on Cabrera during the first half of the third baseman's initial mini-skid, way back on June 12, when his current BTS run was just five picks old. The streak was saved, however, by a Mulligan Feature that was added to the BTS rules in 2012. The Mulligan Feature is a one-time streak savior that can be used early on, specifically on runs that are between five and nine picks long.
Beat the Streak participants try to establish a virtual hitting streak by picking one or two big leaguers per day, with their streaks continuing as long as their selections collect at least one hit that day. In 13-plus seasons of BTS play, no one has matched Joe DiMaggio's magic hitting streak of 56, set in 1941. To win the $5.6 million grand prize, one must surpass Joe D.'s record streak.
Although he is still 15 successful selections away from earning a life-changing payday, Catarelli told MLB.com that his BTS experience "feels great."
"I'm a little nervous, as well, because I could really use the money," he added. "When I decided to play, I felt like this is going to be a tough thing to do, but now that I'm actually at 42, I'm getting anxious."
So as you see, fans this year have been chasing the 57 mark in a more aggressive fashion than ever. You can, too -- for free, no less. And best of all, participating takes just seconds a day. Not a bad deal considering the millions of reasons to play.
Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.