The reigning world champion suffered off-track moments in all three segments of qualifying, was on the brink of being eliminated in Q2, ran wide on his first Q3 lap, and then clouted the barriers at Turn 11 on his final flyer, triggering the red flags.
"I had a fantastic rhythm yesterday, and zero today," reflected Hamilton. "Sometimes it happens. It was a rough session, one of those you just don't need.
Having dominated practice, and seen team mate Nico Rosberg secure pole by an emphatic margin, Hamilton admitted he simply wasn't able to get the best from his Mercedes when it mattered on Saturday.
"The car was good,” he added. “It was me - I just wasn't on it. I wasn't hitting apexes; wasn't hitting the right braking zones. These kinds of days come and go, and you just have to take the rough with the smooth."
Due to line up 10th on the grid, Hamilton said his job now was simply to try and limit the damage to his championship aspirations.
"I just have to get as high as possible," he said. "I'll do what I can. I highly doubt I can win the race; my job is just to try and get through the big tangle of cars I have in front of me."
Mercedes-Benz's head of motorsport Toto Wolff felt Hamilton had missed an opportunity given the team’s apparent supremacy in Baku, saying: "The car was good enough for pole or the front row. We were looking to be more than 1s ahead, and we came out with Lewis in P10 - certainly not what we expected.
"Clearly he has lost an opportunity. On a street circuit like this if you're not in the rhythm it's very difficult to get the lap out. It's the first time we've seen that [with Hamilton] this year; he has always delivered."
Polesitter Rosberg, meanwhile, refused to rule Hamilton out of victory contention, saying the Briton's previous fightbacks - he finished seventh from 22nd on the grid in China, and second from 10th on the grid in Russia - prove he will still be a threat.
"Lewis, never forget him. He can always come back from tenth," Rosberg said. "I'm sure the race will be very exciting - it's one of the easiest circuits to overtake on, so there is going to be a lot of changing places…"