Last month, Katie Krall sat in Wrigley Field with a trio of Red Sox pitchers with whom she’d worked a year earlier as a development coach in Double A Portland. The conversation with Brayan Bello, Chris Murphy, and Brandon Walter offered a reminder of the proximity of Double A to the big leagues, and the fact that the steps necessary to bridge a seemingly giant divide can be traversed more quickly than imagined.
“I was raised in that ballpark in many ways,” said Krall, a Chicago-area native. The meeting with those members of the 2022 Sea Dogs, she said, “felt like a confluence of so many things.”
Bello made the leap to the big leagues last year, flying through the system with a quick stop in Triple A to reach the big leagues by midseason. He’s now a mainstay of the rotation. Murphy reached the big leagues in June and has forged a place as a multi-innings reliever. Walter also made his debut in June, and has since shuttled between Worcester and the Red Sox as a depth option.
Krall has taken a different path to continue her advancement in the game.
After the 2022 season, she turned down an offer to return to the Red Sox as a development coach to explore other jobs in the industry. Ultimately, she took a position as the senior product manager of baseball strategy with Hawk-Eye, the UK-based technology company that works with Major League Baseball to provide tracking information that fuels Statcast as well as MLB’s replay system.
While MLB already has Hawk-Eye systems installed in all 30 big league parks, Hawk-Eye also contracts with individual organizations to install systems in minor league facilities. In her current job, Krall — who has an MBA from the University of Chicago and worked at Google between stints with MLB, the Reds, and the Red Sox — works with a number of teams to identify areas where they’re trying to help players improve, and how Hawk-Eye technology can further their goals.
“It’s really unique in that I have a pulse both on the league level and all of our teams,” said Krall. “So I get to think about how are the Guardians leveraging seam-shifted wake? What are the Padres doing in order to improve their defensive positioning models?
“I really get insights into what’s happening on the ground, and then also leveraging some of the other contracts that Hawk-Eye has with other sports like basketball, soccer, and thinking about best practices in those spaces and how they can be applicable to baseball.”
Krall also is working with teams in Nippon Professional Baseball, resulting in a transcontinental travel schedule that is affording a global perspective on the sport. She’s also used her time at Hawk-Eye to gain a deeper understanding of biomechanics for evaluating and developing players.
To the players she worked with last year, Krall’s position with Hawk-Eye represents a natural outgrowth of her ability to distill and analyze data and make it relevant at the player, coach, and executive levels.
Murphy recalled a conversation with Krall in the spring of 2022, when he wanted to make sense of why his curveball — a pitch that he considered one of his most effective — graded poorly from a “stuff” standpoint according to the Sox’ internal metrics, and how the relatively low grade on his stuff should impact usage.
“I’d ask her questions about those things just trying to understand what we as the Red Sox were trying to do as an organization in pitching development,” said Murphy. “She helped me by describing what the model takes into account, and teaching me what makes a pitch grade out better.”
The ultimate takeaway Murphy had from his conversations with Krall: No need to abandon the curveball. He stuck with it as his primary breaking ball, and it’s been a key element in his big league success this year, with hitters posting a .115 average and .154 slugging mark against it.
“She really understands pitch analytics and data,” said Murphy. “It makes sense that she works for [Hawk-Eye].”
“Obviously, she’s super-intelligent,” said Walter. “Wherever she’s working, she’s going to have success. That was the one thing that stood out to me from working with her, just how smart she is with everything, and how she can translate [analytics] to the game.”
For Krall — who will be in Portland Saturday, when the Sea Dogs commemorate her role as the first female coach in team history with a bobblehead giveaway at Hadlock Field as part of its Women in Sports Night — such sentiments amplify her interest in returning to MLB.
“It is absolutely my intention to be back with an MLB team or league office as soon as this offseason either in uniform as a coach as part of a front office,” she said. “I absolutely want to help an organization win championships.
“Once you get a taste of it, once it’s in your blood, nothing can compare to it. As arduous as the grind can be, there’s something extraordinary about being part of the day-to-day cadence where you have a chance to win every night and to help other players.”