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Broadcaster Rankings (Radio): #10 – #1

#30 – #21
#20 – #11

At the beginning of March, we released the results of our television broadcaster rankings — itself the product of reader crowdsourcing that had started in late November. Since then, FanGraphs has asked readers to rate the radio broadcast teams (on a scale of 1-5 for charisma, analysis, and then overall) for all 30 major-league clubs — with the intention, ultimately, of determining which broadcasts might best reflect the sorts of inquiry and analysis performed here at the site.

Below are the 10th- through top-ranked radio 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.
• I’ve 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 and ballots cast will appear in these pages Friday.

10. Tampa Bay Rays
Broadcasters: Andy Freed and Dave Wills
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.1, 4.0, 4.2

Three Reader Comments
• Regarding a promotion on the White Sox feed for XM Radio: “[T]he flashback highlight would always be Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, thrown against the Tampa Bay Rays. However, the voice in the clip they play belongs to Dave Wills, not Ed Farmer (and the Rays were the visitors that day).”
• “They knew more about Twins players than the Twins broadcast team.”
• “Would like to hear these guys discretely split up calling the game while the other keeps quiet. They often sound so alike you can’t tell which is doing the talking.”

In the vein of that third note above, there are multiple comments to the effect that Freed and Wills have decidedly similar voices — to the point that even longtime listeners might have difficulty in distinguishing between them. Otherwise, most respondents regard the broadcast as technically competent and also personable.


9. St. Louis Cardinals
Broadcasters: Mike Shannon and John Rooney
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.6, 3.3, 4.3

Three Reader Comments
• “Listening to the KMOX feed [creates] sort of a Stockholm Syndrome for me. I know it’s terrible analysis and fully expect away audiences to pan them, but I like the reassurance that Mike doesn’t know the Padres’ names either. It’d almost feel empty listening to a game without calls like ‘swing and a miss as the ball is fouled back into the screen.'”
• “My favorite quote from Mike Shannon came after a newly rebranded Giancarlo Stanton dropped a fly ball in a spring-training game this March: ‘Mike Stanton would’ve caught that.'”
• “Popped up into foul territory and out of play… Oh, that ball landed right in that lady’s Busch.”

It’s likely that some listeners prefer a radio broadcast that privileges a clear narration of the events on the field, while others (i.e. other listeners) will prefer one that privileges entertainment value. If such a dichotomy exists, listeners in the second camp will be considerably more satisfied by Cardinals radio than those in the former. One’s feelings about the Cardinals radio team seem to depend largely on one’s feelings about Shannon, to whom no fewer than six respondents refer as a “drunk uncle.” The most bon of Shannon’s mots can be found here.


8. Atlanta Braves
Broadcasters: Jim Powell and Don Sutton
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.4, 4.1, 4.3

Three Reader Comments
• “A lot of good low-key humor in the Atlanta booth. My favorite 2012 moment so far [was] Jim Powell’s quick jab at the home plate umpire as the broadcast returned from commercials: ‘Top of the xxth inning in Atlanta, and the first pitch is right down the middle for ball one.'”
• “Frequent dispensary of homey wisdom. Just the other day Don Sutton referenced his grandfather’s moonshine still.”
• “I would listen to Jim Powell broadcast a wall being painted.”

A frequent sentiment among respondents is that Powell (who is younger and comfortable both with social media and sabermetric analysis) and Sutton (a good-natured former player) complement each other well, and that the former is adept — so far as FanGraphs readers, in particular, are concerned — is particularly adept at soliciting the best from the latter.


7. Philadelphia Phillies
Broadcasters: Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.5, 4.0, 4.4

Three Reader Comments
• “These guys have one of the most thankless tasks out there of trying to follow Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas. Amazingly, they’re succeeding.”
• “Scott Franzke is a solid play-by-play guy who does a great job of setting up Andersen. An example: By asking for his opinion on Bat Day at a visiting park a few years back, Franzke tees up L.A. for his retirement story, in which a hungover, minor league rehabbing Andersen circa 1994 is told by his manager to get loose for mop up duty. Apparently the fans had been banging their bats on the metal bleachers, leading an inebriated/irritated L.A. to respond to his manager, ‘Skip — I just retired,’ and walk back to the clubhouse. ‘So to get back to your question, Scott, I hate Bat Day.'”
• “Larry Andersen: ‘Do you believe in the superstition of jinxing a player by talking about something on the broadcast?’ Scott Franzke: ‘No, they do the playing on the field, I just sit here and eat hot dogs.'”

It appears as though at least some of the goodwill directed towards the current Phillies radio team — as noted in the first comment above, for example — is a result of the fact that Franzke and Andersen have actually served as passable replacements for Ashburn and Kalas, both beloved figures in Philadelphia broadcasting history. If something like a recurring criticism exists here, it’s Andersen’s treatment of umpires.


6. Washington Nationals
Broadcasters: Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.4, 4.3, 4.4

Three Reader Comments
• “They made 100-loss seasons bearable; I look forward to hearing them announce less embarrassing games.”
• “I would listen to their radio broadcasts and mute the television if I could, but unfortunately, we here in the DC market have this special ‘delay’ bestowed by Satan which makes that impossible.”
• “My favorite listening experience was the Nook Logan debacle (watch)… They also have a fan site with some of their funny interactions (link).”

Among respondents, there are fewer comments regarding Slowes or Jageler individually, but almost uniform praise for the rapport between Slowes and Jageler as a team. To their credit — and to the pleasure of the present author — Nats fans seem particularly enthusiastic about recording for posterity the best calls of their broadcast team. (Note: that Nook Logan call above is particularly amusing.)


5. Toronto Blue Jays
Broadcasters: Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.3, 4.2, 4.4

Three Reader Comments
• “Jerry is like the grandfather you always wished you had, but never had, because your real grandfather never loved you.”
• “‘Buns’ Ashby has got to be one of the more underrated radio analysts out there, and he is a master-level never-finisher of sentences with prepositions, a skill with which all announcers should familiarize themselves. With.”
• “Careful, Cistulli: the levees that hold back Jays’ nostalgia are shoddily built and hastily raised.”

Besides the mostly consensus approval of Howarth and Ashby, there’s also considerable praise among respondents for studio host Mike Wilner, who (according to those respondents) uses advanced statistics freely during his show JaysTalk. A number of commenters also make a point of remembering Tom Cheek, who called Jays games from 1977 (when the team became a thing) until 2004.


4. Cleveland Indians
Broadcasters: Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.5, 3.8, 4.5

Three Reader Comments
• “Listening to a Tom Hamilton home run call is like having a rainbow poured into your ear.”
• “From my Cardinals fan cousin: ‘Listening to Gameday Audio in bed. Only one announcer could get excited and loud enough over a caught stealing to wake [my wife] up: Tom Hamilton.'”
• “Listening to Tom Hamilton call a game reminds me of my childhood. It should be noted, however, that I didn’t enjoy my childhood.”

There’s a decided minority of comments regarding Hamilton that fail to note, at some level, his capacity for enthusiasm and/or the volume of his voice. More than most any other broadcaster, too, he receives praise for a specific broadcasting skill — namely, the quality of his home run calls. (Click here for video of a Hafner walk-off home run from last season. The 0:43 mark is where Hamilton begins yelling his gentlemanly parts off.)


3. Texas Rangers
Broadcasters: Eric Nadel and Steve Busby
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.4, 4.5, 4.6

Three Reader Comments
• “Eric Nadel describes the game in incredible detail — shadows, uniforms, positioning, stances, bounces. He’s better than television.”
• “[I appreciate what Nadel] does to improve his craft — he decided to learn Spanish so he can interview Latino players.”
• “The thing I like about Busby is he isn’t just a cheerleader for the team – he’ll point out things a Rangers player isn’t doing right from time to time. That is valuable insight from a home team announcer when you can’t see the game.”

The comments received here — along with what’s available on his Wikipedia page, for example — all suggest that Nadel is deeply concerned with the craft of radio broadcasting. Also, he went to Brown — which, despite being a lesser Ivy, is still clearly preferable to (gasp!) public school.


2. Milwaukee Brewers
Broadcasters: Bob Uecker and Cory Provus
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.9, 3.9, 4.8

Three Reader Comments
• “When I first moved to Milwaukee I was expecting Uecker to be in full Harry Doyle mode, which turned out not to be the case at all. True, Uecker is hilarious at times, but he takes pride in calling an accurate and informed game.”
• “WTMJ (Milwaukee’s radio network) could pair a jelly bean with [Uecker] and this broadcast would still rate a 5/5.”
• “Provus was really good by himself and was perfect playing off of Bob. I’m really going to miss him, Minnesota is lucky.”

With the departure of Provus to Minnesota, Joe Block has assumed Uecker’s off-innings, although the broadcast is dominated (and positively so) by Uecker’s presence. A number of respondents take pains to note that, while Uecker is certainly capable of irreverent flights (ahem), they are not necessarily a priority for him.


1. San Francisco Giants
Broadcasters: Jon Miller and Dave Flemming
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.8, 4.7, 4.8

No Reader Comments
[See Below]

The Giants radio broadcast received 678 valid ballots, which (a) is over 300 more than the next most voted-on team (St. Louis at 355) and (b) means there are more comments than the present author is capable of reading without taking a long — and perhaps permanent — nap. In summary: Flemming is sharp and listening to Jon Miller is like pouring lotion all into your ears. Also, Giants fans are peculiarly enthusiatic and loyal. Q.E.D.