Since the Twins signed Fien as a minor league free agent from the Detroit Tigers organization, he’s developed into one of the better relief pitchers in baseball. In 2014, Fien is posting career best numbers.The 6’2" righty currently boasts a 3-1 record with a 1.89 ERA and 13:4 strikeout to walk ratio. His strong start helped him take over the 8th inning role from Jarod Burton in early April and he’s kept the role absolutely locked down through sheer dominant performances all season.
Fien has only allowed an earned run in 2 of his 20 outings (oddly enough, both against Cleveland) and has rarely even yielded a hit. Take a look at his game logs from 2014:
That’s a lot of zeroes.
Fien is currently 12th in WAR among AL relievers (0.6) and ranks 17th BABIP (.222), 16th in BB/9 (1.89), and 16th in FIP (.233). Those rankings become even more impressive once you factor in that most of the players ahead of Fien are other team’s closers (Glen Perkins, Greg Holland, Koji Uehara – etc.). In short, outside of the true elite bullpen arms (i.e., closers) there are not many relievers pitching better than Fien in 2014.
Of course, whenever a player is having a career year, the talk always turns to regression. How soon will the player "return" to his career averages and how far will the "fall" be? Thankfully Fien’s overall numbers show that if he does experience any regression this season, it might not be that dramatic. Take a look at his numbers since joining the Twins ‘pen:
Essentially, Fien’s advanced numbers all point towards one thing: consistency. Even if Fien’s early season hot streak cools, he’s still a high strikeout, low walk reliever who should continue to excel in late game situations.
The question then turns to what the Twins should do with Fien going forward. He’ll be (Super-2) arbitration eligible at the end of this year, and is under team control through 2019. He’s 31 years old, so the Twins should be cautious about locking him in to a long term deal – especially given how volatile relievers can be (See: Valverde, Jose), but he’s clearly providing value for the team in the short term. He could be a potential trade asset for the team if they fall out of contention before the trade deadline* or the team could simply choose to retain Fien and enjoy the quality arm out of the bullpen.
*As an aside: Do you know how nice it was to type "IF they fall out of contention by the deadline" and really mean IF – winning baseball is fun. We should do it more often.
Casey Fien is quickly becomeing a fan favorite. His enthusiasm and fire on the mound is a blast to watch. This season he’s become the very definition of a "bulldog" out of the ‘pen for the Twins and is one of the few Twins pitchers who is not afraid to attack hitters and pound the strike zone with scorching fastballs. Fien has elevated his game to a new level this season – whether he can maintain this strong start remains to be seen but either way the Twins (and Twins fans) have to be enjoying the fantastic output from Casey Fien so far.