Phillies: Zach Eflin on pace for best season of career

Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

How has Zach Eflin been successful?

Eflin’s early dominance starts with his control, command and efficiency on the mound. Translation: limiting walks.

Eflin walked 48 batters in 163 1/3 innings (2.6 BB/9) in 2019, then 15 in 59 innings (2.3 BB/9) in 2020, and hasn’t been a high-walk guy throughout his career. But this year, he’s really taken his game to a new level — with just two walks allowed in 38 2/3 innings (0.5 BB/9) and none in his last four starts.

The right-hander is getting ahead of hitters with a career-best 69.4 percent first-pitch strike rate, up from 63.7 in 2020. He’s taken full advantage of working ahead in the count. His walk percentage, which dropped from 6.8 percent in 2019 to 6.1 percent in 2020, is down to a microscopic 1.3 percent so far in 2021 — putting Eflin in the 99th percentile among qualifiers in the category.

Eflin’s 17.00 K/BB ratio fourth-best among qualified pitchers, behind Corbin Burnes (INF, 0.00), Gerrit Cole (20.67, 62 K/3 BB) and Walker Buehler (19.50, 39 K/2 BB). Eflin’s 0.47 BB/9 ratio ranks second to only Burnes (0.00 BB/9). Burnes — who is on the COVID-19 injured list — actually fell off the qualifiers list last night, but for this article, we’ll still count him on there.

Those are going to be two tough leaderboards for Eflin to stay on, but it’s encouraging to see the former first-round pick ranked among the game’s elite arms early on.

He’s doing all this while averaging 14.17 pitches per inning, the third-best mark in the majors. Eflin also has the league’s fourth-highest strike rate at 69.9 percent. Both factors have helped him go deep into games, as he’s tossed at least six innings in all six of his outings, with four quality starts.