2016 Broadcaster Rankings (TV): #10 – #1

Introduction and #31-32
#30 – #21
#20 – #11

Roughly four years ago now, the present author facilitated a crowdsourcing project designed to place a “grade” on each of the league’s television and radio broadcast teams. The results weren’t intended to represent the objective quality or skill of the relevant announcers, but rather to provide a clue as to which broadcast teams are likely to appeal most (or least) to the readers of this site.

The results of that original exercise have been useful as a complement to the dumb NERD scores published by the author in these pages. Four years later, however, they’ve become much less useful. In the meantime, a number of the broadcast teams cited in that original effort have changed personnel. It’s possible that the tastes of this site’s readers have changed, also.

About a month ago, the present author began the process of reproducing that original crowdsourcing effort, facilitating a ballots for this site’s readers. This post represents the final installment of the corresponding results for the television side of things.

Below are the 10th- through 1st-ranked television broadcast teams, per the FanGraphs readership.

But first, three notes:

  • Teams are ranked in ascending order of Overall rating. Overall ratings are not merely averages of Charisma and Analysis.
  • The author has attempted to choose reader comments that are either (a) illustrative of the team’s place in the rankings or (b) conspicuously amusing.
  • A complete table of ratings cast will appear in these pages Friday.


10. San Diego Padres
Main Broadcasters: Dick Enberg/Don Orsillo and Mark Grant
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.8, 3.1, 3.5

Three Reader Comments
• “Enberg is the best broadcaster no one talks about.”
• “Mark Grant… is funny and brings the knowledge and humor of a journeyman player.”
• “I want everyone to understand just how good Don Orsillo is at calling a game. Very. Very good, is the amount of good he is.”

A number of respondents cite similarities between Enberg in San Diego and Vin Scully up the coast in Los Angeles — not necessarily for the length of their tenure or prominence in the game (by which criteria Scully is unparalleled) but for their affability and comfort with the leisurely pace at which a baseball game is played. Grant, for his part, has the bearing of a “typical ex-player,” but does seem to offer a measure of playfulness and good humor to which readers respond well. As for Orsillo, he was largely adored by Boston fans.


9. Los Angeles Angels
Main Broadcasters: Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.7, 3.2, 3.6

Three Reader Comments
• “Year to year, the two consistently improve chemistry.”
• “Gubicza is a good fit for Orange County.”
• “These TV broadcasts have the feel of a teacher’s lounge.”

It’s difficult to conceive of a scenario in which the phrase “a good fit for Orange County” is employed as a compliment — and yet, that appears to be the intention here. Otherwise, a number of respondents praise Rojas, in particular — both for his skills as a play-by-play commentator and also willingness to critique the Angels themselves.


8. Oakland Athletics
Main Broadcasters: Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.5, 3.4, 3.6

Three Reader Comments
• “Easy to settle into a game with these guys, though they don’t particularly stand out in one particular facet.”
• “I wish Rickey Henderson would get in that booth.”
• “Greencollar AF.”

One of the virtues to which respondents point on multiple occasions is the restraint exhibited by Kuiper and Fosse. Which, as other comments and ratings here suggest, that’s a valuable skill for a broadcaster. In marriage, it’s a challenge to remain even tolerable to one’s spouse. The broadcaster faces a similar obstacle when dealing with the same viewing public day after day.


7. Tampa Bay Rays
Main Broadcasters: Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.6, 3.6, 3.8

Three Reader Comments
• “Dewayne and BA appreciate the game and complement the action on the field instead of bombarding us with their every thought.”
• “[I] watch Tampa games for about six weeks every year. The announcers wear well, know the game well, and know the team well.”
• “A very well-produced broadcast with tons of replays and timely analysis.”

When this exercise was conducted four years ago, the mixed reviews for the Rays’ booth didn’t seem to support the relatively strong score. Strangely, that remains the case this time, as well. How does one explain this course of events? Perhaps this way: in the Tampa area, it is only those who are dissatisfied who endeavor to spread their opinions around.


6. Milwaukee Brewers
Main Broadcasters: Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.9, 3.3, 3.9

Three Reader Comments
• “Brian Anderson is an excellent play-by-play man who has clearly developed his skill to the point he understands big moments and the right level of enthusiasm for what the game merits. This is a very underrated crew thanks to Anderson’s lead.”
• “Bill Schroeder is definitely an old-school baseball guy… but he always seems to have great chemistry no matter who they pair him with.”
• “Sophia Minnaert is good at eliciting stories from players, particularly from the Latin American-born players on the team who often don’t get to speak as naturally as they otherwise could.”

Readers will likely recognize Anderson from his work with TBS during the postseason — and, over the past couple years, as one of the voices for the NBA playoffs, as well. Respondents are nearly unanimous in their praise both for his narrative skills and temperament. Color analyst Bill Schroeder is a former member of the Brewers. For whatever he lacks in white-hot analysis, he seems to compensate for it by means of an easy affability. Sophia Minnaert, also cited a couple times by respondents, speaks Spanish!


5. Baltimore Orioles
Main Broadcasters: Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick/Jim Palmer
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.9, 3.5, 3.9

Three Reader Comments
• “Orioles commentators are set apart from the rest due in large part to a lack of partisanship…. [C]riticism, praise, and optimism are shared evenly and never unrealistically.”
• “[Thorne’s]… taped pieces with Showalter stand out because Showalter is visibly engaged by the questions Thorne asks, and gives thoughtful replies.”
• “Palmer is great with on-field analysis and his favorite subject, Jim Palmer.”

Probably no other set of reader comments features the sort of uniformity as those regarding the Orioles’ television crew, whose virtues and vices appear to be bywords. Thorne receives considerable praise for his voice and playfulness; less praise for his facility with Spanish surnames. Respondents profit from Jim Palmer’s insights into pitching, even if they’re sometimes accompanied by insights into Jim Palmer. As for Bordick, the sense is that he might revert too often to unsubstantiated wisdom — at least for the tastes of this site’s readers, that is.


4. Chicago Cubs
Main Broadcasters: Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.1, 4.4, 4.4

Three Reader Comments
• “Both [Kasper] and JD are quite analytically curious, and they find unique ways to incorporate it into the broadcast without alienating the more tradtional and/or casual fans.”
• “It often just sounds like two laid-back pals having fun at the ballpark. They don’t know everything, nor do they claim to know everything. If they want to learn something, they will immediately look to Twitter for fan response during the broadcast.”
• “JD keeps giving material to @DeshaiesQuotes on Twitter. And God said it was good.”

Yesterday, the author noted the decline of interest among FanGraphs readers in the Houston television broadcast, now ranked 16th after having occupied fourth place when this same exercise was conducted four years ago. The difference for the Astros in the meantime? The departure of Jim Deshaies. Deshaies is now employed by the Cubs, joining Len Kasper, himself having already exhibited a real comfort with advanced metrics before Deshaies’ arrival. As a pair, they’re particularly well-equipped to comment on a club that has become excellent largely on the strength of progressive ideas.


3. New York Mets
Main Broadcasters: Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.7, 4.5, 4.7

Three Reader Comments
• “A subtle but important part of the broadcast is that the three know their limits…. What’s more, [they] seem to genuinely like each other. Letting the others speak isn’t a chore and comes out of a genuine curiousity of what the others have to say.”
• “Their analysis doesn’t get too deep into sabermetrics, but they do provide rational scouting and mechanical explanations for things that happen in the game.”
• “They don’t spout old-school nonsense about complete games, clogging bases, or unwritten rules of conduct, nor do they glorify the ‘back-in-my-day’ approaches to the game.”

The ratings for the final three broadcast teams were mostly interchangeable when this same exercise was conducted four years ago. They remain that same way now. A number of respondents suggest that one of the defining characteritics of the Mets triuvirate has been their capacity to render the club’s games tolerable even during lean years. Which, that seems like a fair litmus test. Certain telecasts are almost certainly improved by a strong on-field team. It speaks to the skills of the broadcasters, however, when they’re able to remain palatable even under miserable conditions.


2. San Francisco Giants
Main Broadcasters: Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.8, 4.6, 4.8

Three Reader Comments
• “Absolute best, bar none. I will fight you about it.”
• “Kruk, Kuip, (Dave Flemming), and (Jon Miller) are as woven into the Bay Area experience as seagulls, redwoods, and gentrification.”
• “When this foursome ends a part of me will die. The life part.”

A curiously high percentage of respondents refer to Kuiper and Krukow as the “best in the business” — using that precise phrase. Is this a central part of every San Franciscan’s lexicon? Is it some manner of password to a local speakeasy? In any case, apart from that liguistic oddity, it’s obvious that Giants fans possess real affection not only for Kuiper and Krukow, but also radio broadcasters Jon Miller and Dave Flemming, who make occasional appearances on the television side, as well.


1. Los Angeles Dodgers (Home)
Main Broadcasters: Vin Scully
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.8, 4.2, 4.8

Three Reader Comments
• “What Vin lacks in comfort and familiarity with analytics, he makes up for in literally everything else. Anything less than a 5 would be a damn travesty.”
• “I recently found myself totally riveted by a story [he told] regarding Madison Bumgarner saving some partially-digested rabbits found inside of a snake on MadBum’s ranch.”
• “”I’m only half-way serious when I say this, but is there anyway we could all throw in a buck and get his mind/head transplanted to a younger body?”

Scully receives the highest overall score among broadcasters: a mark of 4.7975, compared to the 4.7874 figure earned by the Giants’ booth. The support for Scully among respondents isn’t unanimous, but it’s pretty close. There are some who don’t care for the relatively slow pace at which he speaks; others suggest that maybe age has dulled his sharpest edges. Regardless, the majority of reader comments reveal the sort of profound emotion one typically reserves for family. And not even everyone in the family, just the best members of it.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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7 years ago

This high of a placement for the Orioles TV crew makes me sad for the state of baseball broadcasting. But they should get credit for keeping us up to date on everyone’s batting average with runners in scoring position every…single…time a runner is on second or third.