I mean, probably not.
The first images of Anthony Ranaudo Wednesday night were infuriating. Here’s a guy who has spent the last few seasons bouncing around between increasingly slim opportunities to stick, and finally found some traction in Triple-A Charlotte by filling up the zone with his middling stuff, and here he is in a nationally televised showdown against the Cubs, and he’s nibbling.
Ranaudo has a low-90s fastball, and unremarkable life on his 80 mph curve as well as his slider, and he started off Wednesday trying to stay outside with his heater to Kris Bryant and hoping he’ll be generous enough to chase on one for him. An image of Ranaudo as a highly ineffective pitcher who would be hard-pressed to endure four innings like his predecessor Jacob Turner was not hard to make out.
Confidence is something that gets touted as an important element in professional sports by those in it, but seems laughable on the outside, on the other side of a vast talent gap that seems so much more relevant. But in the world of guys finding a foothold on the margins of the league like Ranaudo, overcoming the anxiety of mediocre stuff, and pitching without the fear that a brutal Cubs lineup was going to crush everything he threw–even though they eventually began to–allowed the game to flow for him.
As important as escaping two walks and total disaster in the first inning was to allowing him to survive, the quick frame he gave himself when he started three-straight Cubs hitters 0-1, and got routine in-play outs from Addison Russell, Jason Heyward and Javier Baez, set him on his way to a deep trip through the game where he reducd his workload by starting his fastball in the zone and seeing where it got him. After that was established, the little bite on his curve started to play up, and he even set down Anthony Rizzo by climbing the ladder with heat (90 mph of it, at least) after he proved he could hit the lower quadrant of the zone.
We’re not talking about a great start, or even a good start–Ranaudo had four walks to three strikeouts, and one of those strikeouts was Jason Hammel–but we’re talking about a spot starter with marginal stuff putting himself in the position to have one those outings where he stumbles into success because the opposition just isn’t squaring things up; the types of outing that happen just enough for fans of every team to be convinced it happens to them constantly.
A more locked-in Cubs team can still probably jump all over him, and make every inning look like the seventh when Ranaudo was hanging curveballs and seemingly losing pounds of sweat by the minute. And there’s some sourness to the fact that his six innings of relative success was suddenly conflated with him being someone to task with high-leverage plate appearances when he’s fatigued.
But this was the type of spot start that earns others, and for a guy who has bounced around as much as Ranaudo, it was fun to see him string along some magic, and dream a bit about an absurd accomplishment that we all almost wound up witnessing. And while it was never going to happen, even if his opposite-field home run off Hammel stirred up notion that it was just his night, he got as far as he could by putting himself out there, eventually.
Lead Image Credit: Patrick Gorski // USA Today Sports Images