What happened in 2016: Claimed off waivers from the Twins in May. Had a short, yet forgetful, stint with the Dodgers.
Fungible middle relievers are a dime a dozen in baseball, and that’s exactly what Casey Fien was for the Twins from 2012 through 2015. Then, he completely collapsed in 2016. After 13 2/3 innings of pitching to a 7.90 ERA, the Twins placed him on waivers. Because he had shown some success in the recent past, the Dodgers claimed him and hoped to fix him.
He was outrighted five days after being claimed and sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City because he had an option remaining. He remained there until May 28, when his contract was purchased.
Before that, Daniel wondered if the new reliever could help the Dodgers.
“Fien managed to strike out 30% of the batters he faced in 2013, but he hasn’t been over 20% since. As his strikeouts have dropped, he has still managed to be moderately successful due to good control of the strike zone and control of balls in play. Fien generates a lot of fly balls, but many of them don’t escape the infield and help lower the BABIPs he allows. He’s not Tyler Clippard in this regard, but it’s a good trait to have.
Unfortunately, this also gets us to the elephant in the room: Casey Fien was unwanted by the Twins. That’s an over-simplification, but it’s a particularly damning one. It’s also not difficult to see why: in 13-2/3 innings pitched this season, Fien has allowed a 7.90 ERA and a 6.73 FIP. Many of the things he controlled so well with the Twins have disappeared. Fien has allowed a .372 BABIP, and even worse, five home runs. In full relief seasons from 2013 to 2015, Fien has only allowed 9, 7, and 6 homers. A fly ball pitcher like Fien is going to live and die by his HR/FB ratio (much like Pedro Baez has). So far this year, Fien’s ratio is 22.7%.”
Before we get to more of the bad news, here’s a spot of good news. Fien’s first eight innings as a Dodger were great. He allowed just five hits, no runs, issued one walk and struck out nine hitters. Unfortunately, the rest of his Dodger tenure didn’t go nearly that well: 6.11 ERA, 14/6 K/BB, eight home runs allowed in 17 2/3 innings.
With the Dodgers, Fien had an increased strikeout rate of 21.7 percent, but that also came with an increased HR/FB rate of 25.8 percent. Overall, he had a 24.5 percent HR/FB rate, which was fourth-worst among all MLB relievers (minimum 30 IP). For a guy who had a 44.9 FB%, that’s not going to cut it.
Despite a 96 LOB% and a .235 BABIP, Fien struggled mightily in his time with the Dodgers. He had a 4.21 ERA (which isn’t downright awful) and a dreadful 6.22 FIP. He was worth -0.5 wins in 25 2/3 innings by FIP WAR — worst of any Dodger to throw a pitch in 2016.
2017 status: Unknown. He was designated for assignment on Sept. 10. Per the Dodgers’ official transaction page, Fien has not elected free agency. Odds are he is a free agent, though, and if he isn’t yet, he probably will be. If so, he’ll land at least a minor-league contract on the open market.