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MLB San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres’ Carlos Quentin Begins Slow Trek Back To MLB Relevance

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Now, I’m no member of the San Diego Padres brass, but I think it’d be safe to assume that they didn’t pay Carlos Quentin $27 million over three years just so he can break Zach Greinke‘s collarbone.

Unfortunately for the Friars, that’s pretty much all that their slugger has been known for in 2013.

It’s not like he’s helping matters much, really. Batting with a .181/.300/.386 triple-slash right now, Quentin’s contributions to the plate have essentially be negligible, and his -0.2 fWAR should tell you that, in fact, the Padres might even be better off playing someone like Kyle Blanks every day for now.

Of course, the money will keep that from happening, so the team really has little choice other than to hope for their investment to turn it around.

Well, don’t look now, but he might just be starting to take his first baby steps in doing so. Considering that he started out the month of May on a wicked 0-for-19 slump, any hit might be considered a sign of life for the 30-year-old these days; but, the outfielder is finding himself in a position that he hasn’t seen in some time — being in the midst of a hitting streak.

By adding a single in the Padres’ 8-4 interleague victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, Quentin now has hits in three straight games, and has gotten on base by either a hit or a walk in five straight. That’s the longest such streak he’s experienced this season, and sure, you’ll have to ignore the fact that he went just 1-for-5 from the cleanup spot when the team had a whopping 17 hits … but baby steps, right?

Not to mention, two of those hits in the streak have been of the out-of-the-park variety, so perhaps it’s a good omen for his batted ball profile to normalize in some key areas.

In essence, Quentin’s struggles can be chalked up to a couple of things: whiffs and poor contact. In many cases, a hitter’s struggles can be explained by one or the other, but the seven-year veteran is being hit by a double-whammy of ineptitude here.

For one, he’s swinging and missing a 12.3 percent rate (a six-year high), leading him to strike out 20 percent of the time (yep, also a six-year high). His poor contact rate (73.4 in 2013, 77.8 career) only compounds the problems that, well, not much is happening when he hits the ball.

Quentin is lofting the ball in the air a little bit more than usual (50.8 percent in 2013, 46.8 career), but the real probably is that he’s popping it up (24.2 percent infield flies, a career-high) or unable to get the ball out of the infield (13.6 percent infield hits, also a career-high).

Yeah, that .180 BABIP isn’t all bad luck or anything.

The good news is that the 12.1 percent HR/FB rate suggests that if he was just hitting fly balls, that things would be okay for the rest of the season … but until he is able to get back to simply getting hits and making contact, that’d almost be looking too far ahead.

So while a three-game hitting streak might not mean much for most, it’s just what Quentin needs to keep going to make himself a relevant hitter again.