SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brittany Haby’s position as manager of baseball research for the Rockies often takes her back to her days strategizing the action as a softball catcher at Trinity University in San Antonio.
“I really loved being able to start off an at-bat with a changeup, which is very uncommon, and I could tell which batters I could do that with,” Haby said. “Honestly, I can’t tell you how. It’s intuition with that kind of thing. Sometimes it would be the high changeup. I’d give the sign and be like [signing thumb up] to her to steal it right off the top of the zone.”
Now imagine backing such a plan with data and history, only against opponents with all the information and often more information gatherers.
Being in a leadership role in a growing department makes the job exciting as well as challenging for Haby, whose job is to assist all parts of the baseball operation. Game-planning, advance scouting, preparing individual pitchers and hitters, researching trends and helping the front office all fall into Haby’s job description.
March is Women’s History Month. The Rockies-Mariners broadcast Saturday was an example of women making it as they go, with a game being announced, produced and directed by women for just the second time in MLB history. Haby and Shelby Cravens, the Rockies’ communications manager, were highlighted during the telecast.
Haby joined the Rockies in 2018 as part of the MLB’s inaugural Diversity Fellowship Program [current Rockies director of baseball operations Albert Gilbert was a member of that class] and was promoted to her current position in August 2021. The growing R&D Department that Haby manages works under Brian Jones, who became R&D director during last season.
Haby’s confidence came from her parents, Curtis and Shirly, who run an auto mechanics shop. She also was surrounded by people who pursued success -- a sister who is an aero-astro engineer, and two brothers, a videographer and an engineer.
Haby, who decided during her sophomore year at Trinity that analytics would be her future, developed knowledge of baseball, football and basketball and earned the Denise DeBartolo York Fellowship with the San Francisco 49ers.
She analyzed all NFL teams’ handling of various on-field situations, then worked the NFL Media as a Next Gen Stats researcher before joining the Rockies. Football allowed her to experience “being the only woman in the room” -- a situation she said is improving gradually.
Strip away gender and little has changed from her softball playing days. Her teammates now are players, coaches, front-office personnel and researchers.
“A big thing about teamwork is communication, making sure you’re collaborating -- everyone feels a part of what we’re trying to do here, which is obviously trying to win a championship,” Haby said. “The best way to do that is to really talk to each other, see what each other's strengths are, what your weaknesses are, and see where you fit into the whole big equation.”
Haby has a unique experience in appreciating her R&D teammates. There was a time when she had none. Attrition out of the 2020 pandemic left her as the entire R&D department. The needs of players, coaches and the front office were many and difficult to fulfill, but from it came reward.
“They kept coming to me, ‘Hey, Brittany,’ and asking for help -- that’s when you know there’s truly respect and they value what we do,” she said.
She has leaned into the Rockies’ biggest priority -- unlocking mysteries of playing at Coors Field, which sits just under a mile above sea level, more than 4,000 or so feet higher than the next highest parks, in Atlanta and Arizona. It affects pitches out of the hand, balls off the bat, hydration of muscles, sleep and more.
Haby headed a pitching strategy study that many starting pitchers liked. Execution, let’s say, is a work in progress. But Haby knows that no one is going to make a bunch of calculations, hit “send” and declare Coors conquered.
“I’m passionate about the pitching, but it’s the hitting, too,” Haby said. “And it’s about framing it as a positive -- Coors is not a negative thing, simply a fact. Now let’s use that to our advantage.”
The Rockies have only once made consecutive postseason trips. If consistent winning happens, it’ll be like Haby’s catching days -- a changeup that surprises opponents.