When it comes to baseball broadcasts, choice is welcome. If you live in the overlap of the footprints for WLW radio and FSO-TV for most games you enjoy a choice between the Reds radio and television broadcast. A growing number of fans around the country are taking advantage of the additional option of listening to opponent feeds of Reds games through the MLB website. For as long as Reds games have been shown on television, it has been commonplace for fans to turn off the TV audio and tune in the radio. The preferences each of us has are subjective and personal.

The Reds broadcaster I enjoy the most is Jeff Brantley – particularly the three innings (3, 4 and 7) he calls on the radio by himself. Brantley is much improved at play-by-play. But his strength is interesting insight into pitching strategy during each at bat. That may not be every fan’s cup of tea, but it is mine. If it were up to me, I’d install Brantley as the primary radio broadcaster.

But under the usual WLW arrangement, listening to Brantley comes with … oversized baggage.

For the past week or so, I’ve listened to the television broadcast. Other than a few times when I’ve jumped to the radio feed to hear Jeff Brantley’s three innings, it’s been Jim Kelch and Chris Welsh every night.

I’ve really enjoyed their work together.

Jim Kelch does a first-class job with play-by-play. He may not be the most exciting broadcaster, but he’s prepared, pleasant and perceptive – three qualities that are more important than charisma. And, in contrast to the usual Reds television play-by-play announcer, Kelch doesn’t put himself at the center of the broadcast. He isn’t driven by the urge to fill every second of airtime with his own words. Kelch often allows the game to speak for itself.

The all-important dynamic between Jim Kelch and Chris Welsh works. Kelch avoids the role of color analyst and affords Welsh wide berth to show off his expertise. When Kelch does add an opinion, it’s well informed.

Chris Welsh is a different broadcaster when working with Jim Kelch. His usual partner regularly crosses into the role of analyst (something for which he is poorly equipped  and ill-prepared). In that context, all-too-often Welsh is forced to play a diminished and reactive role to Thom Brennaman’s cockeyed agenda. Some nights he must feel like the person with the broom and shovel walking behind a parade.

As I’ve learned this week, that’s a shame. When Chris Welsh is free to do the analysis he wants, he’s excellent. He gets in rhythm with Kelch and offers a wide range of insights. Like Jeff Brantley, Welsh is great with pitcher strategy. A few nights ago, he elaborated on the worthlessness of the save statistic and talked about how it warped the way managers use their pitchers. That’s not to say Chris Welsh is perfect. He’s soft on washed up veterans, but the reason for that is transparent and understandable. While he is – far and away – the most progressive Reds announcer when it comes to sabermetrics, he occasionally falls back on creaky, obsolete stats like pitcher wins to evaluate a player. But that criticism is picking nits.

Finally (only in the bizarro world of Reds broadcasting is it necessary to praise this quality) Jim Kelch and Chris Welsh don’t seem to have underlying hostility toward any of the Reds players. While they aren’t afraid to be critical of individual plays or a pattern – like pitchers being unable to bunt – they also don’t appear to be waiting to pounce on certain players for any real or perceived failing.

Again, this is all a matter of opinion. But it says here the Reds would be wise to make Kelch and Welsh the regular television team in 2016.

27 Responses

  1. Kurt Frost

    I’ve enjoyed Ketch since he was in Louisville doing Bats games on the radio. I would love to see him take that position.

  2. Redsfan48

    I agree 100%. George Grande is horrible to listen to on TV and Thom Brennaman isn’t great either. I definitely prefer Kelch and Welsh.

    • gaffer

      Do you prefer to eat gardbage, cockroaches, or rotten eggs? What is the difference?

    • sezwhom

      Couldn’t agree more. Grande seems like a nice enough man but breaking news; not everything is “great” George. Thom is fine but I get sick of the dripping hyperbole on how wonderful everything is in Cincinnati. Brantley is much better on radio than TV.

    • RFM

      George Grande retired a few years ago, and only does a few games a year now. If you want optimism, well, George Grande is your guy, the opposite of the Brennamans, who like trashing certain players.

  3. WVRedlegs

    I like Jeff Brantley on the radio broadcasts. He has come a long, long way. I think Jeff Brantley is excellent when he is on the TV. I think he is fast becoming a top-notch analyst and I fear one of the national tv channels will grab him up some day soon. I hope the Reds see his value in the booth and sign him long-term, either radio or tv. They have a gem in Brantley.
    Kelch and Welsh seem like an odd pairing. One of them always says something, waits on the other to say something, but nothing but silence. I don’t think their senses of humor mesh very well. Kelch is pretty good. As you state, always prepared. He is much into the scoring book and often explains the scoring decisions. Welsh might be better for radio.

  4. kmartin

    The TV and radio broadcasts are not in sync. I think the radio broadcast is a few seconds behind the TV broadcast. For the fans that turn off the TV audio and tune in the radio, don’t you find this annoying?

  5. mike hanes (@mikejhanes)

    Kelch and Welsh are my favorite pair also.
    I don’t mind Thom at all, Brantley has grown on me, definitely has the shtick thing going on.
    George Grande is the o.g.
    Jim Day is great on the sidelines.
    I don’t miss Sean CAsey talking about how much chicken he can eat.

  6. daytonnati

    I cannot agree with you enough, Steve. Kelch and Welsh are the most enjoyable combo to listen to. Also, Kelch is not afraid to give Marty the shiv when they are on the radio together.

  7. Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

    While I don’t really dislike Kelch he’s just kind of meh to me. He’s not bad but he’s not great either. He comes across as boring which when comparing him to Thom can sometimes be a blessing. I know many people don’t like George Grande and I agree his shtick can get annoying, he’s much better than Thom. Welsh has really gotten to be a better analyst. He’s definitely open to new things and unlike those he works with he doesn’t come across as condescending or seem to have an agenda against some of the players. Marty’s biggest flaw is his inability to keep his personal feelings about certain players out of the booth. I don’t understand why. It can seem very unprofessional at times. I guess his son is the same way though. Brantley and Welsh definitely have their hands full with the partners they have.

  8. Frogger

    Personally, I do not care much for Kelch. He is too dry. Thom’s talent level is much higher. However, that is not to say I am very pleased with any of them. The problem with the broadcasts too me is focus.
    1. Lack of focus on what is taking place on the field. Hate it when they will watch bad calls against the Reds all game and then complain about a call that wasn’t that bad. I wonder if they are paying very good attention.
    2. Enjoy Brantley and Welch’s analysis on the baseball player side (love insights into pitching) but they don’t do anything to crystallize a players value for the fan. (use data not opinion)
    3. It is quite frankly a dumb broadcast. They do nothing with the tools and data available in this generation. FSO has to be one of the only broadcast still showing avg., HR, RBI for goodness sakes. RC+ is best, but OPS is much better than the almost useless stats of AVG and RBI. Heck if you want to do something with RBI use RISP or Left On Base numbers, or Clutch. No responses please that these are too complicated. At least make the effort to do something.
    4. One of them called attention to the fact that BP doesn’t strike out a lot as if that was a big deal….The Reds fans will parrot the Reds media. Reds fans think RBI and batter strikeouts are important because that is what is emphasized. Many fans have thought that BP is the best player on the Reds for years… Think about it. We are watching one of the best if not the best hitter to ever wear a Reds uniform. Certainly in my lifetime. (Born in 1978) How can that even be a thought in any Reds fan who watches the broadcast. You can be a homer and have credibility. When you emphasize BP more than you should it says he is the best player on the Reds. If you present him as something he is not you lose credibility with knowledgeable fans in and outside the city. Nothing wrong with explaining that he is a great fielder with below average offense. No Cubs fan or Dodgers fan etc. will ever listen to a Reds broadcast and laugh when they are extolling the hitting prowess of Votto. Many of them will if the announcer is extolling the batting prowess of a player that has a RC+ under 100, but doesn’t strike out a lot.
    5. Engage me as a fan. Give me a reason to listen. Are you targeting 8 year olds or adults.

    (no need to defend BP, this post is not about him)

    • Chuck Schick

      Frogger, your points are really good. The issue as much as anything is the demographic of the audience. The average viewer is over 50 and radio listener is over 60. Those who enjoy the science of baseball are less inclined to watch and/or listen via traditional means.
      Most of the audience made up their minds a long time ago that RBI’s and Batting average are important and aren’t as interested in things they don’t understand. The announcers are preaching to the choir.

      • Frogger

        Excellent points Chuck. I would add that these are the primary announcers or presenters of the Reds. Whether you access video from the pc, phone, or tv they are the voices you will likely here. A business needs to lead into the future.70 year olds are not the future. They need to figure out how to reach more demographics for multiple reasons. Do a blended broadcast. Include RBI and Average if you want with additional more relevant information. I am not buying that the only reason this format remains this stale is due to demographics. If they want to improve their product and sales they need to expand the model. However, almost on a nightly basis I hear myself say that’s wrong Jim or that’s wrong Chris. I think last night it was when Kelch said it was the first time Frazier had batted 2nd this year. Took him 4 innings for someone to tell him that was incorrect. Granted this is a little nit-picky, but when you add it up it isn’t a very sharp product. I love the Reds. It’s just sad to think it’s not what it could be. I am glass full on the franchise. It has about as much potential as any in baseball, but this is what we have. Look at the Pirates. Say what you want about them, but they have together. They row the same way. Their announcers got the players back and so does the organization. They go in the same direction. The leadership of this organization leaves us with inconsistent development of young players to media ridiculing it’s best player for unknown reasons to the rest of the circus. Look at it this way.

        Cardinals=Intelligent front office using every tool, strong leading manager, motivated and focused players, supported branding (media)
        Pirates= Intelligent front office using every tool, strong leading manager, motivated and focused players, supported branding (media)
        Cubs=Intelligent front office using every tool, strong leading manager, motivated and focused players, supported branding (media)

      • Chuck Schick

        I completely agree with you. Great points.

        The Cardinals do a great job of embracing their storied history while being ahead of the curve. The Cubs are moving away from being just a beer garden with a $50 cover charge….they will be a power for years to come… and the Pirates are really smart and forward thinking.

        The Reds seem to live in the past. What Joe Morgan did in 1975 is still more important than what Joey Votto does today.

  9. reaganspad

    I like Jeff Brantley best myself and Chris Welsh second. I would like to here them together on a broadcast, maybe they have been on Radio before??

    I would build my broadcast teams around those 2.

    I am not too excited about Kelch, and would prefer Thom or George Grande and their issues to Kelch.

    Marty gets the 2nd inning for the media guest and the half inning where the Reds secure the win for his signature call.

    I had thought that Marty saying everything hit out of the infield was “hammered” was due to his failing eyesight, but it seems like it is a family thing.

    they would both improve by removing that word from their lexicon as I am not sure they know the correct meaning

    • Frogger

      Both been amens are much better broadcasters than the rest. I would like to see more substantive analysis from the analyst.

    • aceistheplace2

      Or if Thom would stop using “all of the sudden” 4000 times a game.

  10. Jeff

    All I know is listening to tHom makes me want to stick an ice pick in my ear. And that is when we aren’t playing his favorite team the D-backs. I think the D-back announcers are less homers for the D-backs than tHom is.

  11. Joe Dobby

    You lost me when you praised Brantley as a PBP caller. Saying he’s “greatly improved” from his early days is no real compliment given where he started. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been completely lost listening to a play because he never described it. He seems to forget that he’s not talking to a tv audience. As a color analyst, he is very good, especially when he’s talking pitching. Wish the Reds would just keep him in that chair and let the professionals do the PBP. You, know, like you were saying about the B’s being awful analysts. Everyone should just stick to their jobs, play to their strengths.

    • Frogger

      Well put! That’s is why I am more disappointed with the analyst.

  12. Carl Sayre

    Those PBP guys who start on radio do a better job when they get to TV. A well called game on the radio is every bit as enjoyable as watching it on the tube. There was a time when as Reds fans we were lucky to have Marty, IMO not so much now on any medium. Scully can make you think you are sitting next to him. Erni Harwell had a voice for radio and he too made you think you were sitting next to him. This all could be nostalgia from a man getting on in years and disrembering his childhood but I don’t think so.

  13. WVRedlegs

    If I had a nickel for every time Welsh said “You’re right about that” or “Your right about that, George” I could buy an island and retire on. Funny thing is he won’t use Thom’s or Kelch’s first name, just George when he says that.
    We’ve tried the “Your right about that” drinking game with Welsh on some Friday night telecasts, where you have to drink a small juice glass of beer every time Welsh says that. But we always run out of beer before the 5th inning.

  14. Nick Doran

    I agree with Steve. Thom is the worst baseball broadcaster I have ever heard, and I have heard a lot of them as a subscriber to MLB.tv. If Thom is doing the game I will switch to the opponent’s broadcast. The guy is simply obnoxious and knows next to nothing about the game. Marty is a bitter, grumpy, egomaniac whom the game has passed by.

    In my opinion they rank as follows: Welsh > Kelch > Brantley > Grande > Marty > Thom.

  15. chezpayton

    The one thing I love about Thom is how he always gets excited. Kelch and Brantley are good broadcasters, but they hardly ever get hyped for a Reds HR or fantastic play. Whereas Thom jumps out of his chair with an, “OH MERCY!” or a, “HO DOCTOR!”. It reminds me of Grande, whom I miss dearly.

  16. Grover Jones

    If the TV signal is slightly ahead and you have a DVR/Tivo, well . . . you do the math. Just hit pause on the TV for a few seconds and you’ll be golden.