Broadcast Review: Tigers Television

This post comes complete with poll. Because it’s America, you know.


Tiger play-by-play man Mario Impemba is most well known for his role as a Fratelli in The Goonies.

In a move that I believe underscores my commitment to the fledgling broadcast-review project here at NotGraphs, I’ve not only consumed three or four Tiger games ahead of the present review, but have actually traveled to the pleasant peninsula that is Michigan with a view towards truly understanding what it is to watch Tiger baseball*.

*That my wife’s family happens to live on same peninsula, and that we had been planning to visit them this past weekend, ought to be regarded as mere coincidence.

As I say, I watched parts of about three or four broadcasts on FS Detroit for the purposes of this review — including the May 24th game, at home versus Tampa Bay, with particularly close attention.

The FS Detroit broadcast team is composed of play-by-play man Mario Impemba and color commentator Rod Allen. Regarding the studio hosts, there are either one or 100 of them. But they’re all giant, large men with strange haircuts, is what I can say about them.

Analysis
So far as analysis goes, there’s a marked difference between that which Impemba and Allen provide.

Impemba, the play-by-play man, appears to read almost verbatim from the Game Notes supplied by the team’s media relations department. In the May 24th game, for example, he cited Miguel Cabrera‘s average with runners in scoring position so far this season, Evan Longoria‘s performance against Justin Verlander in just 14 career at-bats, and Wade Davis‘s rookie-leading win total last season (as a signifier of that pitcher’s success).

While it’s inarguable that these things are true, it’s also difficult to regard them as anything besides what they are — namely, trivia. As I hope I’ve stated at least once in these broadcast reviews, it is absolutely not the case that a broadcaster needs to cite advanced metrics in order to satisfy the curious fan. In fact, those broadcasters who best do their jobs — Bob Uecker, for example, or Vin Scully — frequently omit statistical analysis almost entirely from their game narratives.

The point is, small-sample stats add little to a broadcast. They either (a) mislead the audience into believing that said stat is significant in some way or (b) annoy those who have some notion of sample-size reliability. In the best case scenario, they are mere content fillers.

For his part, Rod Allen appears to be a case study in the possibilities of observational — as opposed to statistical — analysis. At one point, for example, Impemba made a comment about a slump that Longoria was in — like, 5-for-30 or something. That could be a legitimate slump, of course, but it could also be the product of randomness. Going 5-for-30 gives one a .167 AVG; going 9-for-30, a .300 AVG. If only four hits separate a player from a .300 AVG, it’s prudent not to conclude too much from the numbers.

However, at one point, Longoria swung sort of clumsily at a 3-1 pitch (a fastball, I think) low and out of the zone. Allen noted it, saying something like, “That’s not a pitch that Evan Longoria, when he’s going well, swings at.” For me, that’s a valid comment, and it illustrates something that merely citing a player’s last 30 at-bats can’t.

In the time that I watched, Allen made a number of these simple, but elegant, observations. On the first pitch of the game, for example, Justin Verlander threw a fastball at 91 mph. Per FanGraphs, Verlander is averaging 95 mph on his fastball — i.e. a pretty different speed. Allen made note of this, however, saying that Verlander and Tiger pitching coach Rick Knapp had specifically discussed the virtues of throwing the fastball at different velocities — especially earlier in games. This is the sort of information that a team-oriented (as opposed to national) broadcast should offer.

Allen also noted that Damon’s success with Tampa Bay this season — relative to his 2010 with Detroit, that is — might have something to do with the fact that he (i.e. Damon) is in his second full year of DH-ing. Though I can’t seem to find the research just this minute, I recall a study which found that the offensive penalty for DH-ing is actually pretty similar to the penalty for pinch-hitting. Therefore, that a batter might perform better in his second year of DH-ing seems wholly plausible.

Charm
My brother-in-law, with whom I watched a number of these games, assures me that Allen and Impemba sometimes get a little goofy in the press box. He cited a recent episode, for example, when Allen described Brandon Inge as a freak, after the latter had made an acrobatic play. Apparently, there was an amusing exchange between Allen and Impemba after that.

Because he watches more Tiger broadcasts than I do and because he’s my brother-in-law, I’ll believe him. However, in the four or so games I watched, there wasn’t much in the way of spirited banter. Which, that’s not to say there’s no chemistry between Impemba and Allen, but just that they add little beyond what the game itself provides.

At one point, Impemba noted all of the players on Tampa Bay’s roster — including starter Wade Davis — who hail from Florida. I don’t recall him building on that thought, however.

Finally, it should be noted, that Mario Impemba looks like one of the Fratelli brothers from 1985’s adventure-comedy The Goonies.

Regional Flavor
The animated tire in this commercial has an impressive baritone:

Final Thoughts
Allen and Impemba are watchable — which, that’s not an insignificant accomplishment. The latter does fine in terms of calling the game, but adds little else. Allen is actually a pretty competent analyst, and seems able to ground his observations in a larger analytical context.

Grade: 3 (out of 5)

Now, here’s a poll!





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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
ivantopumpyouup
Guest
ivantopumpyouup
5 years 1 month ago

Allen seems to catch a lot of flak from Tigers fans who think he’s dumb and adds nothing of use to a game broadcast, but I quite often enjoy him. He has some pretty good observations, including one he had yesterday or the day before about Longoria’s swing which he lated elucidated with video. It was informative and much more interesting, to me, than Mario reading off Longoria’s stats since returning from injury.

I find Mario to be bland and much prefer his predecessor, Josh Lewin. I think Lewin and Allen would have been an amusing play-by-play/color man combo.

glassSheets
Guest
glassSheets
5 years 1 month ago

No poll for the Tigers?

UncleCharlieVT
Member
UncleCharlieVT
5 years 1 month ago

My wife is a baseball fan and is from “The D” so I voluntarily watch a number of these FSD broadcasts. I find these teams to be one of the least annoying you can find in all of MLB and I watch a lot of games. They are ‘homers” only in the sense that they know more about the home team. They are quick to point out if the Tigers benefited from a bad call or bounce. They do get a little “punchy” sometimes and can be quite funny but Impemba doesn’t usually want to go there, Allen has to pull him along. Allen’s comments are often elegant (good word) and insightful. FIVE!

Powder Blues
Guest
Powder Blues
5 years 1 month ago

There’s worse out there than bland.

Can you do the Jays, Carson?

Eric
Guest
Eric
5 years 1 month ago

Yeah, perfectly bland would be might vote, they rarely add much, but seldom distract.

I quite like Dan Dickerson on the radio. He possesses a pleasing tone, and is a bit of an smart-stats apologist (park-factors, UZR and what-not). Add in Jim Price saying silly things, eating peanuts, and enjoying the occasional adult soda as the game goes by and you’ve got a reasonable team. Plus, the radio lets me pretend the games are still being played at Tiger Stadium.

Imperial Stout
Guest
Imperial Stout
5 years 1 month ago

I miss Tiger Stadium…..

Chris
Guest
Chris
5 years 1 month ago

I dislike Rod Allen as a commentator for a couple of reasons that don’t have anything to do with his grasp of the game of baseball.

1. I don’t like the silly things he says. They are things that wouldn’t seem out of place coming out of the mouth of basketball’s Mark Jackson, who is utterly intolerable.

2. He makes a smacking noise before speaking quite often that I find annoying.

Benny Hill
Guest
Benny Hill
5 years 1 month ago

If I may use Rod Allen’s own words to describe Rod Allen, he 1) is country strong, and 2) looks good in that uniform.

Also, no review of the Tigers broadcast team is complete without reference to Rod Allen’s shining moment in Japanese baseball. Behold.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CWE-8w79fU&feature=related

Benny Hill
Guest
Benny Hill
5 years 1 month ago

Also, the Rod Allen Drinking Game has enhanced many a viewing experience. So long as it only lasts for the first couple of innings. Alcohol poisoning tends to ruin baseball games, not to mention the rest of the day.

http://www.detroit4lyfe.com/articles/detroit-tigers/rod-allen-drinking-game-2010.html

HRB
Guest
HRB
5 years 1 month ago

Can you do the Phillies TV, Carson? You’ve done a lot of decent to great broadcasts…how about one that’s terrible?

glassSheets
Guest
glassSheets
5 years 1 month ago

I really wanted to watch the CIN-PHI series recently, but there was no good option. I bit the bullet though and alternated the nights I listened to each side to make it less annoying.

Nathan
Guest
Nathan
5 years 1 month ago

The problem us Tiger fans have with Rod Allen isn’t that he doesn’t provide insight on many occasions. It is more about his obsession with hokey sayings like:
– “I see ya [insert Tiger player here after they make a good play]!”
– “[Insert Tiger pitcher here] has been workin’ on that [slide/change]-piece…”
– “This much is true…”

It’s like he’s working to cultivate catch phrases, instead of just analyzing the game and realizing that the best catch phrases are the ones that announcers and commentators never intend to be catch phrases.

The worst part though, is his absurd man-love for Brandon Inge. I mean, I’m pretty sure Rod Allen bathes in the Inge butter every night. He is drinking the “some overrated defense and awful offense masquerading as excellent defense and ‘clutch’ offense” Kool-Aid. Yes, Inge had a couple of VERY good seasons with the glove, but he’s a few years removed from that, and Allen and all the Tiger shills still act like Brandon Inge is Brooks Robinson.

And don’t even get me started on all the excuses he’s made for dozens of other junk players over the last five years… I’m just glad Gerald Laird is gone, for multiple reasons, most of which is I don’t have to hear Rod Allen call him “G-Money!” and wax poetic about how his sub-0.300 OBA will turn around when the weather gets warm.

Paul Sporer
Member
Member
5 years 1 month ago

I think you’re grasping at straws a bit here, Nathan. There’s nothing wrong with the I see ya phrase. In fact, I love it and I know many other Tiger fans that enjoy it. It’s really not a big deal and easily ignored for someone who doesn’t like it.

Not even sure what you’re getting at with the other two. You’re really peeved bc he says “This much is true”? Wow.

What exactly do you want him to say about Inge & Laird? That they effin blow and they’re terrible piles of garbage that should be run out of town? That’s how you lose your job. Is there a single broadcaster in any sport in the universe who rails on the weak players on the team they announce for? No, of course not, because that’d be stupid and their family would be hungry in a heartbeat.

C’mon, man. This is some really weak criticism. Rod isn’t the best ever, but these nitpicky attempts to cut into him hold no water.

The Nicker
Guest
The Nicker
5 years 1 month ago

I really like this (my home town) broadcasting team. Rod can get a little goofy with the catchphrases, but I’m pretty sure most people like the “I see you _____” after a good play by a specific player. I do, anyways.

These guys don’t roll much with any SABR EXCEPT both of them do cite K/BB ratio for both batters and hitters quite often. Surprised you didn’t pick that up in the broadcasts you watched.

CMUTIMMAH
Guest
CMUTIMMAH
5 years 1 month ago

OK – To be fair, I hated Rod Allen at first. I realllly hated him. But as time passed by, this team grew on me. Mario Impemba is the compliment to Rod Allen’s craziness. They balance each other out. Comparing them to Uecher or anyone else is silly.

PS – You claim that Mario’s stats without a proper sample size don’t hold water. Neither does your opinion of 4 broadcasts. Boom. Roasted.

Imperial Stout
Guest
Imperial Stout
5 years 1 month ago

“You claim that Mario’s stats without a proper sample size don’t hold water. Neither does your opinion of 4 broadcasts. Boom. Roasted.”

It’s true!!

Also, I’ve watched a lot (a stupid stupid amount) of MLBTV and have heard each team’s broadcast. These guys are top five for me. Rod is great and, like mentioned before, they aren’t really that big of homers except that they mostly talk about the team they cover. They’re pretty fair, but that also goes with most Detroit teams. The Red Wings, for instance, have an incredible broadcast team. Best in the biz.

Chris
Guest
Chris
5 years 1 month ago

Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond are my favorite announcing team in all of sports. Larry Murphy is good as well, either between the benches as the third man or as the color fill-in for those trips Redmond doesn’t take, but it’s the glory that is Daniels and Redmond that really makes Wings broadcasts so excellent.

Paul Sporer
Member
Member
5 years 1 month ago

That’s one thing I love about our guys. They aren’t homeristic douches. They’ll announce a Big Papi HR with enthusiasm even though it’s against our team bc it’s a home run dammit and it should be announced properly. Too bad no one can say the same of those losers doing White Sox games.

rodhater
Guest
rodhater
5 years 1 month ago

Can’t stand rod allen. keep the ghetto slang out of my broadcast please

Paul Sporer
Member
Member
5 years 1 month ago

Racist much? What ghetto slang, exactly?

Clown.

Z
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

No mention of Rod’s epic chase through a Japanese outfield? I’m disappointed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CWE-8w79fU

CadillacNick
Guest
CadillacNick
5 years 1 month ago

“Allen made note of this, however, saying that Verlander and Tiger pitching coach Rick Knapp had specifically discussed the virtues of throwing the fastball at different velocities — especially earlier in games. This is the sort of information that a team-oriented (as opposed to national) broadcast should offer.”

Yes, Rod does provide us with this kind of information but he will tell us the same story every time JV is on the mound for the rest of the season. Hey, did all you guys know that Alex Avila was the first catcher at Alabama to be allowed to call his own pitches? Rod tells that story every time Al is behind the plate!

A lot of times I will mute the TV and turn the radio on and listen to Dickerson and Price.

Funk
Guest
Funk
5 years 1 month ago

Exactly. Rod’s weakness is that he gets very repetitive game after game. He’s been better so far this year, but I’m worried because usually by the end of the season I’m kind of fed up with it.

If you don’t watch them too often though, I think they’re both very good.

glassSheets
Guest
glassSheets
5 years 1 month ago

This is an interesting comment thread. The pollcurrently shows mostly positive results (>50% 4’s and 5’s), some of the comments are positive, but there are definately people annoyed by the team. I haven’t seen/listened to this team very often for no reason in particular, now I feel compelled to watch them.

Zach
Guest
Zach
5 years 1 month ago

I’m a huge Tiger fan, and probably watch as many Rod and Mario broadcasts as anyone. Initially, when they replaced Lewin and Gibson I thought their broadcasts were just goofy and almost unprofessional. They were entertaining, which helped when the team was so bad, but I felt my amusement was more at their expense than anything else.

Starting in 2006, I started realizing that Rod, despite his goofiness, actually said a lot more insightful things than most of the national broadcasters. I think the two of them actually got a lot better and started becoming a lot more excited about the team in 2006. They are homers, will never rag on a Tiger, and are especially fond of the longer tenured Tigers, like Inge, but as a huge fan of the team I feel the same way and don’t blame them. I’d rather have them than guys that are totally disconnected to the team.

Rod and Mario love their jobs, the Tigers, and baseball, and you can tell from watching their broadcasts. They get as excited as I do when the Tigers make a great play or get a big hit, and can appreciate and admire great plays from opposing teams. I also believe their knowledge of statistics continues to improve. This year, as somebody mentioned before, they’ve been into commenting on K/BB ratios, and if there’s somebody that has some statistic that is heavily talked about in the SABR world, such as a pitcher with an abnormal BABIP, they’ll make a comment like, “I read somewhere…”.

These guys are far from perfect, but they’re entertaining, provide knowledge that can be understood by a casual fan and can even be enlightening every so often to a huge fan, stat nerd, and player like myself, and there’s nobody I’d rather have call a no-hitter or a walk-off home run.

Dogbooth
Guest
Dogbooth
5 years 1 month ago

I think the statistical side has a lot more to do with the production team than the actual broadcasters.

WhatLeylandNoooo
Guest
WhatLeylandNoooo
4 years 11 months ago

There was a pretty good example of Rod getting goofy in the booth during last night’s Tigers’ game…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baKxmyX0MBI

Jan Douglas
Guest
Jan Douglas
11 months 12 days ago

Can’t stand them.
They do not make the game enjoyable
I’m not interested in baseball lessons and I don’t care about
all the stats.
It sounds like they are just reading off a computer
I’m interested in enjoying the game
they don’t do anything to connect with the viewers in a relaxing way
they have no warm and fuzzy personalities.
They are not likeable
basically they do not have enjoyable personalities
If I was out with a group I’d pick the table they are not sitting at
Especially Rod.

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