This season, the Houston Astros dominated the world of pitching on all levels. How were they able to accomplish this feat?
According to a complaint (see document #75) filed in Palm Beach County, Neiman Nix, an ex-MLB pitcher and founder of DNA Performance Lab, alleges that members of the Houston Astros organization, in violation of Florida’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“FUTSA“), misappropriated Nix’s trade secrets without his consent. The trade secret in question is referred to as the “Nix Method.”
The complaint states that the Astros obtained the Nix Method by hiring ex-employees and students of Mr. Nix.
Ex-Employees and Students
Kyle Boddy, now founder of Driveline Baseball, and former student of Nix is said to have been hired by the Astros in order to obtain Nix’s secrets. You may know Boddy because he was involved in some controversy earlier in the 2018 MLB season when he retweeted a fan’s comment wondering if the Astros were doctoring baseballs. This kicked off one of baseball’s most talked about stories because Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, a Driveline Baseball client, responded to Boddy’s comment with even more skepticism.
You can read the full story in the New York Times.
The Houston Astros also hired Nix’s former employee Chris Holt who is currently serving as their minor league assistant pitching coordinator. Holt, according to the complaint, learned the Nix Method in order to instruct players of Nix’s then business, the American Baseball Institute (ABI). According to Nix, Holt agreed to keep information learned at ABI confidential.
Since Holt became the assistant pitching coordinator for the 2018 season, the Astros minor league system has led in all minor league levels in strikeouts. They also led all minor league levels, except AAA, in ERA. Their AAA affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies placed 6th in ERA this season.
The Strom Connection
The complaint also states that current Astros pitching coach Brent Strom and second hitting coach Jeff Albert are involved in the matter as well.
According to the complaint, Nix also alleges that, then Cardinals pitching coach, Brent Strom, now of the Houston Astros, went to Nix’s ABI facility in Washington to observe the Nix Method in action. Nix was even invited to Cardinals spring training to test his method on pitchers. Strom led Nix to believe that, the then St. Louis Cardinals GM, Jeff Luhnow, who is now the GM for the Astros, would hire Neiman Nix in the player development department.
Neiman Nix was never hired by either the Cardinals or the Astros.
In addition to all of these allegations, current Astros second hitting coach, Jeff Albert, is purported to have reached out to Mr. Nix in regards to his motion image tracking machine (further detailed below). He went so far as to visit Nix’s DNA Sports Lab in Miami in order for Nix to demonstrate the machine and answer questions. According to the complaint, Nix realized Albert didn’t have the funds to purchase his machine and instead was trying to learn of Nix’s technology.
We will report more on this story as it comes out. For now, let’s find out…
What is the “Nix Method”?
The Nix Method is a pitching program created to combat the increase in power hitting caused by performance enhancing drugs. We can also assume that this method can counteract the current increase in power. Additionally, it enables pitchers to throw breaking balls with higher spin rates, and, as an added benefit, keeps pitchers from getting injured as much.
Mr. Nix combined his unique pitching motion with analytics in order to produce better results and fewer injuries. To do this, Nix made use of a motion image tracking machine. He worked with experts to design computer programs to show animated hitting and pitching movements.
Dr. Mike Marshall
It should be noted that after breaking his arm while pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers organization in the year 2000, Neiman Nix sought help from, former Cy Young pitcher and Phd., Dr. Mike Marshall. Dr. Marshall is best known for setting major league records by pitching 208 innings across 106 games in relief. He did so by featuring the screwball, a pitch considered one of the most damaging to a pitcher’s elbow. He is also know for a pitching motion he developed in order for pitchers to increase efficiency while staying healthy.
As you can see in the video, the Marshall pitching motion is quite unorthodox. This was a problem for baseball and teams were not buying in to such a unique style of pitching. So, Nix worked at solving this problem of creating a more efficient pitching method that would gain league-wide acceptance. As you now now, this method is now referred to as the Nix Method.
Kyle Boddy was contacted for comment. This is what he said:
We are in active litigation with Mr. Nix and have defeated him once in court and plan to do it once again. His claims are frivolous and time-barred to boot. We also plan to file sanctions to recover legal costs.
We have been referred to Boddy’s attorney for further comment.
Neiman Nix and Chris Holt were also contacted for comment. They have not yet responded. Check back for updates.
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)