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.Ã‚Â 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,Ã‚Â 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 byÃ‚Â 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 Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â 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. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.