Crowdsourcing MLB Broadcasters, Part 2: The Centralon November 24, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Crowdsourcing MLB Broadcasters, Part 2: The Central

Here at FanGraphs, we devote a lot of time to analyzing baseball. I flatter myself to think that our analysis, in some cases, helps shape the way you consume the sport. Measured in that way, however, we fall far short of the influence that your local broadcast of choice exerts. We may grace your brainwaves for a handful of minutes every day, but every time you watch a game on TV, the announcers are granted three hours to shape your view and enjoyment of the sport.

In fact, I would venture that no one group contributes more to your enjoyment and understanding of baseball than your most frequently-viewed broadcast crew. Despite that, it has been over four years since we last compiled a ranking of broadcast groups. Starting yesterday and continuing until tomorrow, we will post a series of surveys, one for each major league franchise. We will then use the results of these surveys to compile a comprehensive fan-based ranking of all television broadcast crews.

When you peruse the section for your team or teams of choice, you will find a link to a poll. That poll covers three categories, as well as an overall ranking. In addition, there is a separate space for any additional comments you would like to make. The eventual ranking of broadcast teams will be quantitative, but I will include relevant comments from this section in my writing of those rankings.

The “Analysis” score covers the frequency and quality of a broadcast team’s discussion of baseball. Of note, this doesn’t mean sabermetric or statistical analysis, though some broadcast teams certainly excel in that area. Rather, it covers all the ways in which a broadcast team attempts to inform viewers about the players on the field and the game situation they find themselves in.

Is a color commentator particularly adept at breaking down a hitter’s adjustments? That’s excellent analysis. Does a broadcaster mention a player’s DRS, then use that number without context to explain why someone is a good or bad defender? That’s bad analysis, despite its use of advanced metrics. This category’s score should represent how much you feel you learn about baseball while you watch the game.

The “Charisma” score covers the amount of enjoyment you derive from listening to the announcers. Does the booth’s camaraderie make you feel like you’re listening to a game with friends? Does an announcer’s wistful recounting of his playing days leave you in stitches? Do you find yourself just downright having fun listening to their stories? All of that is contained in this category.

The “Coherence” score was the most difficult category to name. It covers how well the broadcast explains the action on the field as it happens. Is the play-by-play crisp and informative? Do the announcers keep viewers abreast of the count and game situation in discussing team strategy? When a strange situation comes up, do they convey what happened and what it means for the two teams effectively?

The “Overall” score does not need to be an even weighting of each of the three categories above. It is simply a measure of how much you enjoy watching a broadcast. Some broadcasts excel at emphasizing their strengths, focusing on whichever qualities their viewers most enjoy. Others mistakenly emphasize weak points. All of this, and any other factors that influence your experience while watching a broadcast booth, apply here. One note: please do try to separate any feelings you have about the team itself from this rating. A club can have an excellent broadcast even if the product on the field often disappoints, and vice versa.

The second set of 10 surveys covers the teams of the NL and AL Central divisions. The West will follow tomorrow. Please feel free to respond to as many surveys you like, so long as you feel you have watched enough of the broadcast in the past two years to have an informed opinion about it.

One final note: the unique challenges of broadcasting during the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the composition of several booths. I have endeavored to list the most current information available for each broadcast team, but in some cases the personnel mix for 2021 may still be in flux, or I may have otherwise erred in compiling the list of contributors. If your enjoyment of a team is particularly contingent on a single broadcaster whose status for next year is as of yet unknown, please mention that in the space provided for additional comments in the survey.

AL CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians

  • Matt Underwood handles play-by-play duties.
  • Rick Manning provides color commentary.
  • Andre Knott provides field-level reporting.

Click here to rate Cleveland’s television broadcast team.

Kansas City Royals

  • Steve Physioc and Ryan Lefebvre share play-by-play duties.
  • Rex Hudler provides color commentary.
  • Jeff Montgomery occasionally provides additional color commentary.
  • Joel Goldberg provides field-level reporting.

Click here to rate Kansas City’s television broadcast team.

Detroit Tigers

  • Matt Shepard handles play-by-play duties.
  • Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris provide color commentary.
  • Craig Monroe occasionally provides additional color commentary.

Click here to rate Detroit’s television broadcast team.

Minnesota Twins

  • Dick Bremer handles play-by-play duties.
  • Justin Morneau is the chief color commentator.
  • Bert Blyleven also provides color commentary.
  • Roy Smalley and Jack Morris occasionally provide additional color commentary.
  • Marnie Gellner, Audra Martin, and Annie Sabo provide field-level reporting.

Click here to rate Minnesota’s television broadcast team.

Chicago White Sox

  • Jason Benetti handles play-by-play duties.
  • Steve Stone provides color commentary.
  • Bill Walton and Mike Schur will hopefully provide occasional color commentary.

Click here to rate Chicago’s television broadcast team.

NL CENTRAL

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Brian Anderson and Matt Lepay both contribute play-by-play.
  • Jeff Levering and Craig Coshun provide occasional play-by-play coverage.
  • Bill Schroder provides color commentary.
  • Bob Uecker may provide occasional Bob Uecker commentary.
  • Sophia Minnaert provides field-level reporting.

Click here to rate Milwaukee’s television broadcast team.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • Dan McLaughlin handles play-by-play duties.
  • Ricky Horton, Jim Edmonds, Brad Thompson, and Tim McCarver all provide color commentary at various times.
  • Jim Hayes provides field-level reporting.

Click here to rate St. Louis’s television broadcast team.

Chicago Cubs

  • Len Kasper handles play-by-play duties.
  • Jim Deshaies provides color commentary.
  • A dizzying array of guest color analysts includes Ryan Dempster, Mark DeRosa, Lou Piniella, Dan Plesac, Doug Glanville, Jason Hammel, Carlos Pena, Rick Sutcliffe, and Chris Myers
    Myers also provides occasional play-by-play coverage.
  • Taylor McGregor provides field-level reporting.

Click here to rate Chicago’s television broadcast team.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Greg Brown and Joe Block handle play-by-play duties.
  • Bob Walk and John Wehner provide color commentary.
  • Michael McKenry, Kevin Young, and Matt Capps may provide additional color commentary.

Click here to rate Pittsburgh’s television broadcast team.

Cincinnati Reds

  • Jim Day handles play-by-play duties.
  • Chris Welsh and Jeff Brantley provide color commentary.
  • Further broadcasting changes are expected this winter.

Click here to rate Cincinnati’s television broadcast team.

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