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  • Fantastic Fien

    When a team is mired in a rut of three losing seasons, it’s easy to overlook players who are achieving beyond expectations – especially when those players are relief pitchers. After all, who cares if you have a lights out righthander when the team is constantly down 6-0 by the third inning? For that reason, you could be forgiven if you’ve missed what Casey Fien has been doing over the past three years with the Twins.

    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:

    Date Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA
    Mar31 CHW L3-5 0.2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
    Apr2 CHW L6-7 H(1) 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0.00
    Apr4 CLE L2-7 1.0 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 10.12
    Apr6 CLE W10-7 H(2) 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 7.36
    Apr10 OAK L1-6 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 5.79
    Apr13 KCR W4-3 W(1-0) 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 5.40
    Apr17(2) TOR W9-5 W(2-0) 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4.50
    Apr20 KCR W8-3 0.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4.05
    Apr23 TBR W6-4 W(3-0) 2.1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 3.00
    Apr25 DET L6-10 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.70
    May Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA
    May1(2) LAD L3-4 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2.45
    May3 BAL W6-1 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.25
    May4 BAL W5-2 H(3) 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2.08
    May7 CLE L3-4 L(3-1) 0.2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 2.63
    May9 DET W2-1 H(4) 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.45
    May11 DET W4-3 H(5) 0.2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.35
    May15 BOS W4-3 H(6) 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.20
    May16 SEA W5-4 H(7) 0.2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2.12
    May20 SDP W5-3 H(8) 1.0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 2.00
    May21 SDP W2-0 H(9) 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.89
    19.0 12 4 4 4 13 1.89

     
    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:

    Year
    K%
    BB%
    BABIP
    2012
    22.7%
    7.5%
    .229
    2013
    29.9%
    4.9%
    .280
    2014
    18.3%
    5.6%
    .222

    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.
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. blairpaul715's Avatar
      blairpaul715 -
      He should be a FA at the end of 2018.........play it month by month or year by year, if someone wants to trade for him to be their closer, get what you can, we can find more setup guys.
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      Fien has been an effective setup man for Perkins. I would guess, if he continues to pitch like this, that he will get a contract similar to Burton's.
    1. Highabove's Avatar
      Highabove -
      At what point, should the Twins start holding on to their good Players.
      How many C prospects does this Organization really need?
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      I really like fiery players like Fien. Seems like you know they're giving it they all every game. I'd just keep riding it out year by year. Even if he continues to pitch like he has he shouldn't really ever get overly expensive.
    1. severson09's Avatar
      severson09 -
      Great article! I tuned into the Tigers radio broadcast when he pitched against them in the last road trip and their announcers were baffled by who this guy has become.
    1. tarheeltwinsfan's Avatar
      tarheeltwinsfan -
      I repeat my comment of yesterday: Fien has been a fine find.
    1. Beezer07's Avatar
      Beezer07 -
      Year-to-year deal. I'd be willing to do two years tops. Under no circumstances three years
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      I'd love to know what kind of reputation he has with other teams at this point. Do they groan when they see him getting ready to pitch or is he still just some semi-random guy in the Twins' pen?

      I also I wonder if he has any chance of being the one random non-closer reliever who makes it to the All-Star game each year. Honestly, outside of strikeouts he's been a better pitcher than Perkins this year, I'm curious if that can hold up. Regardless, I'm a fan of his performance and his obvious passion for the game. I'll take a couple more like him, gladly.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Well, I don't want to trade him for pitching since he is a good pitcher himself. Our biggest current need is outfield but Willingham and Arcia are coming back, Parmalee is doing all right and Hicks is getting on base along with the fact that we all hope Buxton and Rosario will soon be out there so I don't want him traded for an outfielder that will just muddy the picture even more. Shortstop is the other spot so if we can package him with Santana for a guy we think will be better than Santana and will be a long term guy there then that would make sense. Otherwise, enjoy having a good reliever for the 8th inning. The hallmark of most Twins winning seasons has been that a lead after 7 will stay a lead. Tons of value there so only trade it for commensurate value.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Keep him and go year-to-year. Bullpen pitchers are volatile and he's not a free agent until 2019. He shouldn't get more than $5M a season even in his final year of arbitration.
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      You have to love his intensity. Fun to watch!
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Highabove View Post
      At what point, should the Twins start holding on to their good Players.
      How many C prospects does this Organization really need?
      The Twins have held on to players longer than they should have in most cases over the past few losing seasons, but I agree (at the moment) that they might be closer to contention than at least I thought going in to this year. It all depends on how things transpire and what someone would offer to get him but obviously they wouldn't trade him for a career minor leaguer.
    1. SwainZag's Avatar
      SwainZag -
      Fien is 30 years old. Let him go arbitration and play it year by year, he has been good, but relievers aren't THAT hard to find out there. If a deadline offer came around from a team looking to invest in a closer, they would have to take a serious look at it.
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      Fien is a great find by this organization. But we should avoid a long-term deal, just in case.
      BTW, the name of the article should be "Fantastic Mr. Fien".
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Finding guys like Fien is one of this organizations clearest and most consistent areas of strength.
    1. Heimer's Avatar
      Heimer -
      They should trade him this year while he's at his highest value. The organization does a good job finding these types of bull pen arms growing trees. They are also very loyal to there players so it'll be interesting to see at the deadline.
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