Retiring the Side vs. Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez

On Opening Day, the Yankees formidable trio of right-handed sluggers—Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez—batted 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the lineup. Combined, they went 6-14 with two mammoth blasts from Stanton, three doubles, and a walk.

Quite simply, they performed exactly as expected. Judge had a pretty good day. Sanchez added just the one RBI double. Stanton carried the load and was the indisputable offensive star of the game. Rarely will all three of them be outstanding at the same time, but with three hitters as gifted as they are, one of them will probably do something special on any given night. Sometimes, the simple act of getting on base is special enough. In 2017, their OBP were as follows:

2017 OBP
Judge 0.422
Stanton 0.376
Sanchez 0.345

Each is pretty impressive individually, but collectively they become insurmountable. The opposing pitcher has a greater than 50% chance of getting any one of them out, but when they bat consecutively, the pitcher has to retire all three. The chances of getting past them completely unscathed are only 23.6%. Roughly 3 out of 4 times, at least one of them will get on base.

That’s daunting enough as is, but a starting pitcher usually has to get through the batting order more than once. The pitcher has just a 5.6% chance of facing Judge/Stanton/Sanchez twice and recording 6 outs. If the pitcher is having a particularly good day, he might have to face them a third time. In that case, he’s only got a 1.3% chance of retiring them three times each!

Against a right-handed starter, manager Aaron Boone will probably split them up in the lineup. However, Opening Day was a special case. J. A. Happ, the Blue Jays starting pitcher, is a lefty. Assuming the trio will bat consecutively mostly against lefties, we should use their OBP vs. LHP to determine their odds of success:

2017 OBP vs LHP
Judge 0.439
Stanton 0.452
Sanchez 0.350

As expected, all of them were even better against southpaws last season. Judge and Sanchez saw a minor jump in OBP, but Stanton improved 76 points!

Using their OBP vs. LHP, the opposing pitcher has a 20.0% chance of getting them all out one time, a 4.0% chance of doing it twice, and just a 0.8% chance of getting them to go 0-9!

Out of the 162 games the Yankees will play in any given season, they’ll face a lefty starting pitcher probably 30-40 times. Those pitchers will each have less than 1/100 odds of retiring the side against Judge/Stanton/Sanchez three times in a game. At that rate, it might happen just once between now and the end of the 2020 season. Judge and Sanchez won’t become free agents until at least 2023 and Stanton’s contract is guaranteed through 2027. Barring trades or injuries, opposing LHP will have plenty more chances to face them, but their odds of success are insanely long.

Photo credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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