Radio Broadcast Crowdsourcing Results, Part 1: 30-21

In January, we at FanGraphs put out a call for radio broadcast ratings. The votes are now all in, and over the following days, we’ll be releasing a compilation of those rankings, as well as selected commentary from each team’s responses.

As a refresher, our survey asked for scores in four areas. If you’d like a thorough explanation of them, you can read the introductory article, but I’ll also recap them briefly here before starting off with the bottom third of the league.

The “Analysis” score covers the frequency and quality of a broadcast team’s discussion of baseball. This isn’t limited to statistical analysis, and many of the booths that scored best excelled at explaining technical details of playing. This score represents how much listeners feel they learn about baseball by listening.

“Charisma” covers the amount of enjoyment voters derive from listening to the broadcasters fill space, which takes on many forms. The booths that scored best on charisma varied wildly, from former players recounting stories of their glory days to unintentional comedy and playful banter between long-term broadcast partners.

“Coherence” focuses on play-by-play, but it also covers how well broadcasters stay in tune with the game. The most coherent broadcasts strike a balance between telling stories and informing listeners of the current state of the game. That’s a tough balance to strike without the benefit of television, and many broadcasts that scored well on charisma did worse in terms of coherence.

Lastly, an overall score simply answers the question: on a scale from 1-10, how much do you enjoy this broadcast? It’s not an average of the other scores or anything other than how the broadcast makes you feel overall. It also covers anything else: sound quality, annoying or enjoyable ads, and any other features that can affect overall enjoyment.

A few notes: the comments I’m presenting alongside each team’s ratings have been lightly edited for clarity and aren’t meant to be exhaustive. The ratings do a better job of conveying the overall reader view of each broadcast team, but I’ve highlighted what each fanbase found to be the high points of their television crew so that prospective listeners can go in with an idea of what to expect. They will hopefully provide extra information without detracting from the ratings.

Some voters submitted comments that led me to believe they were rating their chosen team’s television broadcast. To the greatest extent possible. I’ve removed those votes. One team was the subject of, shall we say, suspicious voting patterns. I’ve attempted to remove the suspicious votes (a huge block of across-the-board 10s), but please do take the Marlins’ ratings with a grain of salt. Lastly, the Blue Jays have discontinued their radio broadcast for this year, as RJ McDaniel wrote about here. I’ve included their rating for posterity, but you won’t be able to hear that team this year. Without further ado, let’s get started.

30. Yankees

New York Yankees Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Yankees 3.7 5.7 4.0 4.6

Selected Comments

  • For a team that purportedly has one of the better analytical departments in the game, I have never heard a set of announcers more openly disparage their existence or application.
  • Sterling, at his best, is sharp and perceptive in a way all his clownishness sometimes hides.
  • It’s really hard to tell the difference between a home run and a routine fly ball, but it’s hard to imagine games without them.
  • John and Suzyn are part of the fabric of the Yankees. I just wish I knew what was going on in-game more than half the time.

29. Rockies

Colorado Rockies Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Rockies 4.6 4.3 5.6 4.9

Selected Comments

  • In addition to being terrible “homers,” these guys are boring. They constantly ignore horrible play, overpraise the players and managers, and never have a bad word to say about the abysmal front office. Perhaps worse, they praise each other constantly. I find them so hard to stomach, that I routinely listen to the opposing team’s announcers.
  • I’ve lived here for a long time, and their calls just don’t draw me in.

28. Angels

Los Angeles Angels Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Angels 5.5 4.9 5.6 5.3

Selected Comments

  • Terry is a nice guy whose play-by-play calls often are in the past tense. You’ll hear crowd reaction then … one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi … “That…ball…is…outta…here!
  • Calling the action on the field is hit or miss, with me often filling in the gaps based on what they seem to have omitted.
  • The “It is Troutta here!” call is the only redeeming quality.

27. Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Dodgers 5.8 6.1 5.7 5.8

Selected Comments

  • There isn’t necessarily bad analysis – there is just a lack of analysis, period.
  • They can be fun but rarely do they give you a full sense of what’s happening in the game. Good for a random interleague game in August, not so much for Game 7 of the NLCS.
  • Classic baseball on the radio feel, guys have good chemistry.
  • So tired of fly outs being called as home runs.

26. Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Pirates 5.9 6.0 6.3 6.0

Selected Comments

  • The sound quality is very good and the announcers did a nice job of talking baseball while handling a bad team with no fans in the pandemic.
  • A very mixed group: Brown has great charisma/enthusiasm and is excellent at play-by-play, but is a caveman analytically; Block is smart and pretty good at play-by-play, but has zero charisma (unless you like dad jokes that his partners ignore).
  • Walk is the best member of the team — he generally keeps the focus on the field, and is a little old-school without constantly saying “back in my day.”
  • Brown used to be my favorite, but his usually upbeat mood has curdled somewhat over the past few years as the team has bottomed out.

25. Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Cardinals 5.9 7.0 5.1 6.4

Selected Comments

  • Mike Shannon, God love him, is almost impossible to understand but gosh is he funny at times to listen to. He’s a legend, and I thoroughly enjoy listening to a fixture of Cardinals history.
  • Usually when an announcer continually butchers a player’s name it’s cringeworthy, but hearing Mike Shannon do it is somehow endearing. Paul Goldsmith is a standard now. It takes me back to being a kid in the 80s listening to Harry Caray. Mike refuses to conform and I love him for it.
  • Analysis is weak, but (for hometown fans) there is a fun chemistry. Rooney is a decent play-by-play announcers. I like Horton more than most. Shannon is an institution for better and for worse.
  • Used to think Ricky Horton was annoying but he’s grown on me, on both radio and TV.

24. Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Orioles 6.4 6.5 6.9 6.6

Selected Comments

  • Geoff Arnold is outstanding. It’s clear how much his co-workers love working with him.
  • Arnold and Hollander are solid. Really enjoy McDonald. Bordick is boring.
  • On the play-by-play side, they have too many rotating people. It would be better to have just a full time team doing the broadcasts.

23. Reds

Cincinnati Reds Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Reds 6.5 7.0 6.9 6.7

Selected Comments

  • Tommy Thrall is a competent, if a little boring, play-by-play guy. Brantley is at his best providing color; his play-by-play innings are tough to listen to. The broadcast would improve by letting Thrall call all nine.
  • Danny Graves is the best at analysis of the three but Thrall and Brantley have the best rapport with each other.
  • Analysis provided is decent from Thrall. Brantley is borderline-great and incisive with pitching, less so with hitting and strategy and the “just wanted it more” kind of stuff, in the same way almost all ex-players are.

22. Royals

Kansas City Royals Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Royals 6.4 6.6 6.3 6.8

Selected Comments

  • Denny has long-time been a local favorite in the radio booth. His numerous anecdotes about games from decades past makes you feel like you’re listening to a game with your grandpa or uncle. Lefebvre sometimes feels like a spiritual successor to Matthews and is very solid in his own right. Would be rated higher overall if not for Physioc, who sometimes lacks coherence during broadcasts.
  • Denny is as solid a broadcaster as they come. His stories are wonderful. Denny and Ryan together is an absolute joy for baseball fans.
  • Denny is a KC legend and very underrated nationally. Been with the team since its inception in 1969. He’s dry and simple in his calls, but it’s become what I’m most used to and I love his demeanor.

21. Braves

Atlanta Braves Radio Broadcast Ratings
Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
Braves 6.4 7.0 7.3 6.9

Selected Comments

  • Joe Simpson has lost his fastball, but can be entertaining. Don Sutton can be a little too “good ol’ boy” at times but has strong analysis. Jim Powell is one of the best in the business.
    Give me Jim Powell. The color guy doesn’t matter if I’ve got Jim Powell.
  • Feels like these broadcasts are better when Powell or Ingram works with Simpson or Sutton. The duo of Ingram and Powell seems to lack chemistry and while both are great broadcasters, the broadcast feels like something is missing without a true analyst.

If there’s anything that the bottom 10 teams share, it’s that analysis is a weak point. That’s something that will be repeated throughout the entire list, however; radio is simply a harder medium for analysis, because it’s important to keep the play-by-play going with no other way to convey action. Television broadcasters can go on tangents and let the video carry them, while radio announcers have to return to the action frequently or risk losing the audience.

On the other hand, even this bottom 10 receives high marks for charisma, another trend we’ll see repeated. Radio favors people you simply enjoy listening to; it isn’t like TV, where a bore of an announcer can be solved with a mute button and some music. Even the relatively weak booths have personalities worth coming back for.

Finally, here are the bottom ten teams in list form, for you list-hungry sorts:

Radio Broadcast Ratings
Rank Team Analysis Charisma Coherence Overall
30 Yankees 3.7 5.7 4.0 4.6
29 Rockies 4.6 4.3 5.6 4.9
28 Angels 5.5 4.9 5.6 5.3
27 Dodgers 5.8 6.1 5.7 5.8
26 Pirates 5.9 6.0 6.3 6.0
25 Cardinals 5.9 7.0 5.1 6.4
24 Orioles 6.4 6.5 6.9 6.6
23 Reds 6.5 7.0 6.9 6.7
22 Royals 6.4 6.6 6.3 6.8
21 Braves 6.4 7.0 7.3 6.9

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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3 years ago

I’ve listened to a lot of radio broadcasts, i can’t take this seriously anymore, the yankees are no where near the bottom in any category here. even if you hate john and suzyn, they still aren’t as bad as half of the other broadcasters out there. the amount of dead air in most games amazes me.

3 years ago
Reply to  workermonkey

It seems from the ratings that they are incredibly poor in analysis. Could it be that you do not factor that into your personal ratings?

3 years ago
Reply to  workermonkey

I will agree that you are completely entitled to your opinion. I mean, a lot of people like pineapples on pizza and I hate it, but I can recognize that it is a top pizza topping based on CROWDSOURCING.

I have probably listened to at least 25 of the radio broadcast teams over the last 2 years, if not more. The Yankees team is, in my opinion, the worst of them all.

For me, it’s silly calls and voice inflections, almost a lack of attention to large swaths of the game at times and relaying a view of baseball that is at worst, incorrect and at best, antiquated.

So you may give them a 9 overall but I would give them a 1.

3 years ago
Reply to  workermonkey

I looooove the Yankees, but listen to the Mets when I’m in the car. that’s how awful their radio broadcasts are

3 years ago
Reply to  workermonkey

What I appreciate about them is they are not afraid to criticize a Yankee. Or second guess Boone’s in game moves. Most of the other broadcast teams are too homerish to do that.

3 years ago
Reply to  workermonkey

I definitely agree, big Met fan here, but I appreciate who they are and what they do. Also, lets not forget, love or hate them, BOTH of them are shoo-in’s for the broadcaster wing of the Hall of Fame. That alone should put them higher.