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Out of Nowhere

Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

So there's this guy, let's call him "O". O is a professional baseball player, but he's a nobody. A long time ago he was a big name, but nowadays there aren't even that many casual fans who remember that. There were a bunch of times when O looked like he was ready to be a productive big-leaguer, and he got his chances, but he could never make them stick.

A couple of years ago, O got busted for using performance-enhancers. He got through that, but kept plodding along way below anybody's radar. Today O is in a playoff race and is a productive starting baseball player, all seemingly out of complete nowhere.

Now, am I talking about Omar Quintanilla...or am I talking about the Baltimore Orioles?

Last night, Quintanilla hit his third home run as an Oriole, and his fourth on the year. That brings his career total to six home runs, despite having played 227 games as a Colorado Rockie or a Texas Ranger. Playing for those notorious power-heavy teams, he slugged .284, which is less than what 50 different batting title-qualified players are hitting this season. Heck, it's less than what Quintanilla is hitting this season.

There are two different ways you can look at what Quintanilla is doing this season. You can say that finally getting some regular playing time has made everything easier for him. He's settled in, and can start being the productive player that he was always meant to be. He was a first round draft pick after all. The talent's there, always has been. Now he can let it out.

The other way to look at it is that this is all unsustainable. When the New York Mets traded him to the Orioles, he had a .350 on base percentage which must have been of interest to the Warehouse. The Sun's Dan Connolly brought it up as his fourth question in his "Interview with the Newest Oriole" when Quintanilla was acquired:

Why do you think your .350 OBP this year is so much higher than your career .278 mark?

"I think it’s just the repetition. Playing every day helps a lot. Whereas in the past I was pinch-hitting here and there and that was a little tougher for me. So getting out there, the repetition, seeing different pitches, helps you a lot."

There's that consistency reasoning, but what do you expect he himself to say? The truth in New York was that Quintanilla was extremely hot for two weeks, but from June 10 onwards he went back to being a journeyman backup utility guy. He hit .184 with just one extra base hit (a double) over his last 18 games as a Met, and they finally gave up on him.

Now he's in Baltimore, and he's been hitting again. He has a .851 OPS as an Oriole. It's not sustainable, just like it wasn't sustainable in New York, because this isn't who Omar Quintanilla is. His success has been unexpected but it's also fleeting. But this has really been the absolute best case scenario for the Orioles and Quintanilla. In that sense, he's been one of the best pick-ups of the Dan Duquette Era.

Now, the only trick is to stop playing him at exactly the moment he turns back into that sub-replacement level journeyman backup middle infielder.