As the Padres were getting manhandled by Ubaldo last night, their broadcast team regaled us with how San Diego "is using the classic recipe for success, good pitching and timely hitting." They pointed out that while the Padres are batting only .249, which is below the NL average (.258), they are hitting .295 with runners in scoring position. The splits are even more spectacular when you look at OPS:
Padres Overall: 715
Padres RISP: 928
The Padres broadcasters were clearly indicating that their team had the ability to step up their game in the clutch, but unknowingly they were providing me with the evidence that San Diego's unexpectedly strong start is patently unsustainable.
This material has been covered by better men than me, but basically, there is no such thing as a team which is better in clutch situations. Over the long haul, the Padres performance in critical situations will look much like their overall performance, which isn't very good. We can demonstrate this by looking at last year's playoff teams. If "timely hitting" is really a key ingredient in the "recipe for success," presumably the best teams will have splits something like the Padres, as they dramatically rise to the occasion in run-scoring situations. Here's the data:
Eight playoff teams and none of them displayed more than a 5% improvement in their hitting rates with runners in scoring position. Several, in fact, got a little worse (again, by no more than 5%).
In all likelihood, by the end of 2010, the Padres splits with runners on are also going to be fairly close to their splits in all other situations. The Padres current OPS in all other situations, by the way, is 642. Even if we assume it goes up slightly, it is evident that the run-scoring could be significantly scarcer in San Diego as the remainder of the season unfolds.