Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard Has A Wicked Knuckler But Needs Some Control

If this whole “rock and roll frontman” thing doesn’t work out, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard could totally find work in the bullpen for a major league team. This is because, by his own account, he’s got “a pretty good arm,” and has at least four pitches in his arsenal (and seriously, Mariano Rivera has been getting by on just one for more than a decade now).

And since we’ve already spoken to Gibbs about his love of the Seattle Mariners and his eternal quest to find a third baseman in fantasy baseball, we figured it was only appropriate if we rounded out our baseball-related coverage of the guy by giving him an unofficial scouting report. Here’s our take on where he’d fit in with the ’pen.

Arm Strength
“I’m not like a 90-mph fastball kind of guy, but I can hit 70 on radar gun,” Gibbard says. “I hit 70 one time on a radar guy at one of those pitch-and-throw kind of things. I have a pretty good arm for somebody who’s not a baseball player.”

That reminds us a lot of burly former reliever Ray King, who wouldn’t blow you away with his fastball, but pitched to contact. Also, current Milwaukee Brewers’ closer Trevor Hoffman, who tops out in the mid-80s with his heater. Or, as a starter, the ageless Jamie Moyer of the Philadelphia Phillies, who probably couldn’t knock over a bottle with his fastball (if you could even call it that) but gets by on guile and a devastating change-up.

Pitch Selection
“I [was] down in the catacombs of Safeco Field, and they got a ball girl out there, and I’m throwing curves, I’m throwing sh–y knucklers. I’m just smoking it in there,” Gibbard said, before adding that when he was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Mariners’ game last September, he toyed with the idea of tossing “a four-seamer, or maybe a two-seamer.”

With four pitches at his command, Gibbard definitely has the talent to be a reliever — or a Japanese pitcher, like New York Mets’ set-up man Hisanori Takahashi. He could also start, like Hideo Nomo or the Boston Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka, each of whom can throw, like, eight different pitches (though unlike Dice-K, we don’t think Gibbard would suck).

“[When I threw the opening pitch,] I threw to Ryan Rowland-Smith [a pitcher], and it was low and outside,” Gibbard laughs. “It just went to the backstop. I felt like such a dumbass. After, Ryan Rowland-Smith is signing the ball for me, and he’s like ’Throwing the heat, huh?’ And I was so embarrassed.”

Ah, control issues, the albatross of all relievers. Gibbard scouts out like the Detroit Tigers’ Joel Zumaya or former pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel — or really, any wild-eyed, flame-throwing Latin reliever, for that matter. Though, on the plus side, Gibbard’s wildness should prevent hitters from digging in against him.

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