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40 in 25: Joey Gerber

Seattle’s most eligible bachelor

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers
If you break this man’s heart, I will come for you.
Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

This Gerber ain’t no baby. He’s a babe. And he is, for reasons passing understanding, apparently single:

Single women who like men of the Pacific Northwest, I ask, what is wrong with you? I can’t believe anybody would need it explained to them, but since we value service journalism here at Lookout Landing, I guess we’re going to have to spend his 40 in 25 going through all the reasons that you, yes you, should want to win a date with Joey Gerber.

We’re all shallow, so I won’t delay answering the first question you have about a potential romance: he’s very physical. I have never seen him dance, but surely he can. Look at how he can move his body.

Oh, he’s got the funk, alright. To understand Joey Gerber as a pitcher, you have to start with his delivery. Unfortunately, video doesn’t quite capture how big he is. But it’s an uncomfortable at bat; those are a 6’4” man’s limbs flying around like that. For as weird as it is, though, he says he developed this delivery naturally, that it’s just how his body arranged itself while he was working on adding velocity after struggling in his freshman year of college. Sometimes it gets so wild that his clothes come off.

You want brains to go with your brawn? Gerber’s your man. The 2018 eighth rounder didn’t spend long in the Minor Leagues, but he was at the top of his class at each stop. He has a 36.7% strikeout rate for his Minor-League career, and at no level was it under 30%. And he only allowed two home runs against more than 300 batters faced. That’s well below the point at which home-run rate stabilizes, but it’s an encouraging sign that he’s able to keep hitters off balance. It was enough to earn him a spot in the 2020 60-player pool and a 17-game trial in the show.

For the literal-minded, he’s also genuinely well educated, drafted out of the University of Illinois, where he graduated in three years with a degree in accounting. In interviews, he’ll casually drop references to Bach and 19th-Century French priests.

All he wants for Christmas is you

He’s also the kind of guy you can count on to stick it out during tough times. For instance, he’s had to persevere after his drunk-man’s-yoga delivery derailed his career. I’ll let him tell the story:

One day in April, when we were at the alternate training site in Seattle, I woke up from a nap and my back was completely locked up. Turns out I had a herniated disc, and getting a little extra sleep was the straw that broke my back. Having made very little progress after a couple of epidural shots and a few months of conservative rehab, I opted to get a microdiscectomy. Surgery was successful (praise the Lord!), and I’m looking forward to being back for next season.

TL;DR: Tried to put the team on my back, did not end well

A microdiscectomy involves shaving down part of your bone that’s putting pressure on a nerve in your back. I’m cringing just writing that. But Joey Gerber is tough. Sadly, this injury prevented him from pitching for the whole 2021 season. He actually connects his back problem with his whacky delivery, saying, “My motion needed to be smoother. I need to focus more on how I am moving for each of my throws rather than just on their intended outcome.”

But if his delivery really is how he developed his 95 mph fastball, he’ll need to figure out how to straighten out his motion without losing any velocity.

That’s an extra challenge he doesn’t need since his big problem during his 2020 run had to do with his other pitch. Unable to keep his slider on or near enough to the edges of the zone, MLB hitters, who aren’t as thrown off by funky deliveries as MiLB hitters, started hitting the ones in the zone and laying off the ones outside it. He had a measly 7.6% swinging strike rate with the pitch. This just isn’t what you want to see:

Speaking of sliders, why don’t you slide into his DMs?
via Pitcher List

Yet despite the issues with his slider, his callup went OK, pitching his way to a 4.40 FIP. It didn’t put him in the Rookie of the Year conversation or anything, but it’s a short list of pitchers whose first 15 MLB innings were better than OK.

And, fighter that he is, he got it together. He went on to look sharp in Spring Training 2021, but that’s when the injury hit. He made it back from the herniated disc, but before making a Spring Training appearance in 2022, he was shut down with a forearm strain. They say it’s a mild strain and he may be ready shortly after Tacoma’s opening day, but once he’s there, he’ll have to scratch and claw his way into a 2022 bullpen that’s a lot more stacked than the setup-man-Bryan-Shaw version of 2020.

My heart, it weeps for Casey Sadler’s shoulder
via Fangraphs Closer Depth Charts

But if he does manage to secure a spot on the roster, he’s sure to be a fan favorite. And although you might wish you were a better person, deep down, you know you want to date someone popular. Between his weird delivery and weirder sense of humor, all the pieces are in place for him to become a local folk hero.

About that weird sense of humor, let’s talk about his personality. Joey Gerber is a man who is serious about the things he takes seriously and decidedly unserious about everything else.

On the serious side, he is sober, though joyous, about his faith. Gerber converted to Catholicism at 15, a fact his parents weren’t thrilled about at the time. What’s more attractive than a man who will stand up for his beliefs? And just like you do, he takes baseball pretty seriously too. When he appeared on the Lookout Landing podcast, he talked about how, when he’s on the mound, he zones out everything going on around him other than the batter and catcher, to the point that he didn’t even register that he was playing in a big league stadium during his first times there.

And then there’s the things he doesn’t take seriously. If you’ve read anything about Joey Gerber before, you’ve read about his Twitter account. Just like you go to a Mariah Carey concert to hear “Always Be My Baby,” and you go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, you click on a Joey Gerber article to see some good tweets. Let’s start with the one that lives in my head rent-free:

Don’t love that one as much as I do? Try these:

You get the idea. He’s a jock who’s smart; he’s a silly guy with a serious side; he’s a fighter and a winner. Hit him up.