Thursday, January 12, 2017

Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now

As inspired by MLB Network's Top 10 Right Now Series on the best players at each position in the game today, my version of of the MLB Network Top 10 Right Now Series is back once again ranking the on-air talent of MLB Network as broken down by each specific category of the MLB Network employees based on their respective job descriptions of Hosts, Analysts, and Insiders and Contributors.  Following the model of the real Top 10 Right Now series, Part Two will focus on the analysts of MLB Network.

NOTE: Analysts' placement in rankings is based on their completed body of work and overall performance during the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season and postseason as well as the 2017 Hot Stove Off-Season.  

Photo Courtesy of:
Keith Allison on Flickr
CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

1. Mark DeRosa-Occupying the top analyst spot on the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now is Mark DeRosa. Since he came on the scene at MLB Network in 2014, DeRosa has shown excellent baseball analysis skills while appearing primarily on MLB Central during the 2015 and 2016 regular seasons. His work during that time has been so good that first off, he was able to  move up six spots from number seven on the last analysts list I did and second, I wanted to include him in the Hosts' countdown list this time around but his official job description according to the network's website is as an analyst so a analyst he shall be.  

On MLB Central DeRosa takes center stage on fun and informative segments of the program such as the D-Train, Doctor DeRo and DeRo Demo.  In these segments DeRosa gives viewers his unique take on the news around the big leagues by breaking down a different aspect of the game in each of these segments.  The D-Train segments seem to focus on the teams and players who have had some degree of success throughout the season.  The Doctor DeRo and DeRo Demo segments on the other hand focus on what needs to be done to fix any problems a certain player might have throughout the season in Doctor DeRo or what a team needs to get done prior to the July 31st trading deadline for future success in DeRo Demo.  These segments are made even more humorous and wacky in that DeRosa is seen during the opening of each segment dressed as either a train conductor, a doctor about to perform some kind of surgery or a construction worker wearing a hard hat who is ready to demolish a building.

In addition to his MLB Central duties, DeRosa also took part in the network's Spring Training coverage in 2016 for the 30 Clubs in 30 Days programming segments interviewing various players and coaches from around Major League Baseball.

He was also a part of the network's pregame and postgame coverage for the 2016 MLB Playoffs and World Series where the Chicago Cubs broke a 108 year championship drought against the Cleveland Indians that included some on-field demos from Chicago and Cleveland at both Wrigley and Progressive Field.  The  best of those World Series on-field demos for DeRosa was his analysis of Wrigley Field's ivy-covered wall and fence basket where baseballs go to get swallowed up.  He also padded his resume in 2016 with his work at 2016 Winter Meetings in Washington D.C. at the Gaylord National Resort.  The overall body of work throughout the entire baseball calendar year is more than enough for DeRosa to claim the top spot in the countdown for 2016. Looking ahead to 2017, DeRosa should still be at or close to the top of next year's rankings if his overall work and performance remains consistent.

One more thing to think about with regards to DeRosa's potential performance in 2017 and this is totally contingent on how well my favorite team the Angels do in 2017: I hope that we don't have to hear anymore ridiculous DeRo Demo trade proposals involving Mike Trout. I know it might be impossible to fulfill that request given how the team has performed the last few years but it's just something to take into consideration.

Photo Courtesy of:
Craigfnp at the English language Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 3.0 License. 

2. Eric Byrnes-Jumping up three spots in the countdown and coming in at a close second place, and I do mean a close second, on the Analyst countdown is Eric Byrnes! Of all the analysts at MLB Network, Byrnes is probably the most Sabremetrically-inclined in his views on the state of today's game of Major League Baseball. To go along with his Sabremetric views of the game, Byrnes was also not shy when it came to expressing his views in favor of an automated strike zone on both MLB Network and in an episode of Real Sports on HBO.  Regardless of how some fans might feel about the possible future of an automated strike zone, there is something to be said about the simple fact that Byrnes is not afraid to mix it up a little in his views and opinions on the game when it comes to his overall strengths as an analyst.

In addition to his strong Pro-Sabremetric views on baseball, Byrnes was also notable in 2016 for his ongoing regular season morning show political campaign to quote "Make MLB Central fun again!" It should also be noted for the record than whenever Byrnes did make an appearance on any of MLB Network's programming in 2016, there was an Unpredictability Factor Added (UFA) (Sabremetric pun intended), that came into play whenever Byrnes was on air because you just never knew what to expect from his overall performance on any given day.  For entertainment purposes the Unpredictability Factor Added (UFA) of Mr. Byrnes is a good thing.

One more thing that helped solidify Eric's standing in the upper portion of the Analysts rankings was his quest to compete in the 2016 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run from Squaw Valley to Auburn in Northern California covering a total of 100.2 miles from end to end.  Byrnes' endurance run efforts are chronicled in the documentary film called Diamond To The Rough.

When you put together the entire body of work for Eric Byrnes in 2016, it is somewhat of a shame that the original Top 10 Right Now series doesn't allow for Co-Champions in its Shredder model rankings because the race for the top two spots was that close.  Considering that it was a close call at the top of the rankings, Byrnes has a good chance to claim the top spot next year.        

3. Harold Reynolds-There will be no defending champion in the MLB Network analyst department of this countdown! Also known by the lovable nickname of "HR", Harold Reynolds lands at the number three spot in the latest rankings of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now having dropped two spots from last time.  Known for his more old-school views on the game of baseball, Harold Reynolds has been a mainstay with MLB Network since its first year of existence in 2009.  Ever since his MLB Network broadcasting career began, Reynolds has provided his own brand of analysis and commentary on MLB Tonight during the regular season and Hot Stove in the offseason.

He also played a key part in the network's playoff and World Series coverage in 2016.  At the World Series, he continued his excellence as the King of the Diamond Demo with various on-field demonstrations illustrating various plays and strategic moves during the World Series.

Like John Smoltz who also appears on this list, Reynolds also served as a color analyst for some games on FOX Sports alongside Kenny Albert throughout the 2016 season.

4. Carlos Pena-Another newcomer to the countdown, Carlos Pena has quickly risen through the ranks at MLB Network ever since his debut there in 2014.  In 2016 Pena made numerous appearances on MLB Central as a guest analyst in addition to his regular work on MLB Tonight.  Pena also put his stamp on 2016 by starting the #Plakata craze on Twitter whenever there was a good play in a game such as a home run.  In terms of what the word Plakata actually means, I don't think we the viewer have been given official explanation from Mr. Pena up to this point.

In addition to his excellent hitting analysis skills at MLB Network, Carlos Pena also provided some excellent analysis about the relationship between players and umpires during the 2016 postseason in the 2016 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.  Specifically there was a play in Game 4 where Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs disagreed with a strike call by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez.  In his very next at bat, Rizzo apologized to Hernandez for his actions in the previous at bat and both of them moved past that incident without an ejection occurring.  Rizzo even hit a home run later to help his team win the game by a final score of 10 to 2.

For his part in it as an analyst, Pena did an excellent job on putting the spotlight on that particular play in the postseason in a positive way to show that not all interactions between a player and an umpire are bad even if they disagree at times.

Looking ahead to the upcoming 2017 season, Pena's work as an analyst will hopefully still be consistent enough to stay somewhere on the countdown next year.  

5. Al Leiter-Claiming the fifth spot of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now is Al Leiter. Leiter is another example of an analyst who made the list this time around after not even being ranked in the previous go around. One of the original analysts for the network since its debut in 2009, Leiter's spot at number five was basically cemented at number five when in addition to his regular work on MLB Tonight and other network programming he was the color analyst for the first Miami Marlins game played after the death of Cuban ace pitcher Jose Fernandez for Fox Sports Florida which was simulcast on MLB Network along with play-by-play commentator Rich Waltz.

In his playing and broadcasting career, Leiter is no stranger to taking part in games that have been played after times of tragedy having been a member of the New York Mets in 2001 when the 9/11 terror attacks took place.  I'm sure that experience helped him with the broadcast on an intangibles level, (which Sabermetrics doesn't measure or account for), considering the circumstances of what happened to Jose Fernandez and Miami Marlins in 2016.

6. Kevin Millar-Dropping three spots, the player who primarily wore number 15 throughout his career and is affectionately nicknamed One-Five because of it is at number six on second ever installment of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now. Having been with MLB Network since 2010, Millar is most well known for appearing on Intentional Talk from his home in Austin, Texas alongside Chris Rose and occasionally on MLB Tonight.

On Intentional Talk, Millar and Rose discuss the events of the day in baseball like only they can with fun segments like Kevin's Highlights and Got Heem.  The entertaining duo of Millar and Rose even go the extra mile throughout the year by taking Intentional Talk on the road for the big events in baseball like the All Star Game, World Series and the Winter Meetings.  This should leave little doubt that Kevin Millar has had a big presence with MLB Network since he arrived there almost seven years ago.

Millar also put his Role Model status to good use in 2016 and earned some very valuable Role Model Points (RMP's for those of you who are Sabermetricians ;))  when he and David Ortiz gave a young Rex Sox fan named Maverick Schutte what was most likely an unforgettable experience at Fenway Park last season for the young man.

7. Dan Plesac-Another analyst stalwart from the network's first days in 2009, Dan Plesac checks in at number seven on this installment of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now dropping three spots. The fact that Plesac underwent left hip surgery last June didn't do too much damage to his placing on this list.

Sure enough, Plesac made a nice recovery to take part in the network's on-site coverage of the World Series in Cleveland and Chicago and Winter Meetings in Washington D.C. as well as continuing his regular analyst duties on MLB Tonight.

The former pitcher also makes occasional appearances on MLB Now to mix it up with Brian Kenny and on Intentional Talk frequently filling in as a substitute co-host of the program for Kevin Millar. Looking ahead to the 2017 season, I think it would be neat for the MLB Network bosses to consider using Plesac's  vast inventory of knowledge of the game's international players as shown in his comeback video link above in preparation for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.  

8. John Smoltz-Dropping six spots from number two to number eight on the analysts countdown is John Smoltz. The Hall of Famer's overall body of work was still good enough that he didn't get pushed to the Those Who Missed The Cut portion of this countdown list.

Since coming to MLB Network in 2010, John Smoltz has continued to serve as an analyst on MLB Tonight and on select MLB Network Showcase games throughout the regular season.  During the 2016 season, Smoltz was named as the main Color analyst for FOX Sports alongside Joe Buck. Smoltz was lucky enough to be part of the broadcast team for the 2016 World Series on FOX. It is definitely a good thing when certain  MLB Network analysts are allowed to take part in other game broadcasts on other networks to help keep their analysis skills sharp.  

9. Cliff Floyd-Having arrived on the scene at MLB Network in 2013, Cliff Floyd has made it into the top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now with a spot at number nine. During the 2016 regular season, Floyd put in quite a bit of time as a guest analyst on MLB Central alongside Matt Vasgersian, Lauren Shehadi and Mark DeRosa offering his own brand of insight and analysis from a hitters' perspective.

While serving as a guest analyst on MLB Central, Floyd was even given the honor of having his own segment with his name in it called Tough Love With Cornelius Flood.  The Flood surname on the segment is an inside joke that pokes fun at when Floyd was drafted as a player by the Montreal expos and his name was mispronounced as "Flood" when he was selected.  In the Tough Love segments, Floyd took center stage to express his tough love views and opinions on certain teams and players throughout Major League Baseball.

Floyd also spent time on MLB Tonight and also took part in the network's coverage from the 2016 Winter Meetings.  Looking ahead to the 2017 season, Floyd has a very good shot at climbing up a few spots in the future Top 10 edition of analyst rankings.      

10. Sean Casey-Rounding out the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now is  Sean Casey. Also known as "The Mayor" during his playing career, Casey is one of the original regime of the network's analysts from 2009. Throughout his MLB Network career Sean Casey has provided the loyal viewers with a wide array of funny and entertaining moments.

One such moment from the 2016 season that stands out is when he and Cliff Floyd were doing a fun analysis segment on MLB Tonight called Yearbook Memories in which both analysts were sitting in elementary school desks. During the segment, Casey was trying to get out of the desk and ended up getting stuck in it and fell over onto the studio floor while still in the desk chair.  It's also a good thing that in 2016, there were no incidents reported on involving Casey drilling any of his fellow MLB Network employees in the head while taking batting practice.

Comedic antics aside, Sean Casey also made numerous appearances on MLB Central and MLB Tonight throughout the 2016 season. He also continues to fill in from time to time on Intentional Talk when Kevin Millar is absent.  To top off Casey's slot at number 10 is the fact that he was one of the analysts who took part in the network's 2016 World Series coverage.

Those Who Missed The Cut In 2016-2017:

Bill Ripken
-Bill Ripken was still a steady performer in 2016. In his case, there was just too much competition among the other analysts for him to either retain or improve upon his spot at number six in the inaugural analysts rankings.

Mike Lowell-Like Bill Ripken, Mike Lowell was another MLB Network analyst that fell out of the Top 10 rankings completely who was simply a casualty of stiffer competition among the other analysts at the network who either stepped up their overall analysis game or were good enough in 2016 to claim a spot in the Top 10 this time around after having been previously unranked

Pedro Martinez-Of all the analysts who missed the cut this time around, Pedro Martinez was one of the toughest calls to make. It was so tough that I included him in the rankings when I started making out this year's Top 10 list but in the end, the work of some other analysts was slightly better in 2016. Looking ahead to 2017, based on the work he did while appearing on MLB Tonight in 2016, Martinez has a pretty good chance to go from the those who missed the cut portion of the list to somewhere in the Top 10. It should also be noted that in addition to his appearances on MLB Network, Pedro Martinez also contributes to TBS's coverage of the Major League Baseball posteason.

Ryan Dempster-Ryan Dempster was another MLB Network who did some good work in 2016 who almost made into the Top 10. If he continues to do some more good consistent work in 2017, he and his colorful suits have a good chance to crack into the next Top 10 analyst list of rankings. Hopefully he won't be too busy in 2017 celebrating a World Series championship and working with the Chicago Cubs front office to have a legitimate shot at making the Top 10 list next year.

Tim Flannery-The former third base coach of the San Francisco Giants might have a tough hill to climb with the crowded field of analysts who are already in the rankings and those who are not in the rankings but have a good chance to sneak in and grab a spot next year.

Ron Darling-The case of Ron Darling as an analyst for MLB Network is an intriguing one. While he was included in the last list of analyst rankings at number eight and was given credit for also working as an analyst on TBS's MLB broadcasts and SNY for the Mets, the fact that he works at MLB Network during the off season only did not help him in the rankings this time around. It could also be argued that Pedro Martinez could be penalized as well for working with TBS during the postseason as well, but the advantage for Pedro in future rankings is that he does contribute as an analyst for MLB network during the regular season while Darling does not.

Jim Kaat-Having been with MLB Network since the beginning in 2009, Jim Kaat's main contribution to the network has been as a color analyst for select MLB Network Showcase games. Throughout his time at MLB Network he hasn't appeared on too many of the network's other programs up to this point to merit serious consideration to be in the rankings.

Joe Magrane-Magrane is another MLB Network analyst who has appeared primarily on MLB Tonight since 2009.  He has also done some work for them as a color analyst for some World Baseball Classic games in the past. Where he falls short is the crowded field of competition and the fact that he doesn't contribute all that much to the network's programming during the off season.

Dave Valle-Dave Valle is another of the network's analysts who doesn't really appear and contribute all that much to the network throughout the year.  In 2016, he did appear on MLB Tonight and MLB Now throughout the regular season, but it wasn't enough to be included in the Top 10.

Preston Wilson-Having only been with MLB Network since 2016, Preston Wilson needs to build up his resume of analyst work a little more before being seriously considered for a spot in the Top 10.

Honorable Mention-Darryl Hamilton-R.I.P. to the former MLB Network analyst who tragically passed away suddely on June 21, 2015. After coming in at number ten on the previous analysts rankings countdown, it would have been interesting to see where Hamilton would have ended up on this year's countdown had his life not been cut short at the age of 50.

Tim Musick
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