Who would you choose?

The news broke in early March and left one lingering question well into May.

How will the York Revolution replace All-Star Nate Espy?

At first, it was trial by error. Manager Chris Hoiles first used the trio of Matts in the No. 3 hole — Matt Esquivel, Matt Padgett and Matt Dryer. None seemed all that comfortable in the role.

But then came the arrival of Chris Ashby at the end of May and since Hoiles put Ashby in the No. 3 hole 51 games ago, he’s put on a pure clinic in hitting. We all know about the 26-game hitting streak entering Tuesday night. But what about the 29 multi-hit games, the 13 three-hit games and the .398 average for the month of July? Or how about the fact that he’s followed that up with an absurd .452 mark in 11 August games so far?

All that Ashby has accomplished lately got me thinking. Has he eclipsed what Espy was able to accomplish last year? And who would you rather have as your middle-of-the-order guy? Let’s look at the facts.

The Case for Espy: Not only did Espy’s bat arrive with an eruption right from the start of the ’07 season, he was a model of consistency all year. Sure he hit .309 at home, but he hit .326 on the road for the year and finished with a .419 on-base percentage. Espy also led the Revs in multi-hit games (43), mulit-RBI games (17) and played through a nagging hamstring injury. He didn’t miss a game after June 25 and also sprinkled in a 22-game hitting streak — then a team record — along with a 45-game on-base streak along the way.

The Case for Ashby: Ashby is tied with Ramon Castro of Newark for the league lead in batting average (.371) and has 103 hits in 68 games. Considering he missed almost a month of the season, it’s safe to say that with a full year under his belt he definitely would be challenging for the league lead in hits. But Ashby is certainly not a pure singles hitter. He has 13 homers — good for second on the Revs behind Jason Aspito’s 17 — and again you have to consider he missed almost a month of the year. Ashby also has 23 doubles and an insane OPS of 1.039. 

He tried to explain the groove he’s in to me after Monday night’s game and said it’s all come down to playing time. He no longer has to live with the pressure of performing with every opportunity in Triple-A just to keep his job. Instead, Ashby has started the last 54 games and has been in the No. 3 hole for 51 of those games.

“I’ve had times like this before, probably not for this long, but I’ve never really been in the lineup since probably 2000,” Ashby said. “Even then I felt I really had to produce to stay in the lineup every day. I had a good year that year, I hit right around .300, but before that I was in Triple-A with the Yankees and I was battling to stay in the lineup. In Columbus in ’99 it was just a monster lineup and I felt I really had to do something every day to stay in the lineup. For me, it makes a huge difference mentally — knowing you’re going to be in there.” 

The Verdict: While Espy was an incredible leader and well respected, based on the statistics you have to go with Ashby. He’s hitting for a higher average, has shown more power and has even eclipsed Espy in his best area — on-base percentage. Ashby has reached based at a .431 clip so far this year. Also, you have to consider Ashby’s incredible defensive versatility. He’s been an above-average first baseman, but he can also play the corner outfield spots and he’s even York’s emergency catcher (Espy was strictly a first baseman/designated hitter). You can’t ask for much more from the anchor of the offense.

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5 Responses

  1. Our family had this same discussion Sunday night and while we all were sad to see Espy go, we have been extremely happy to see Ashby fill the spot. He is just an all around great player and you couldn’t ask for more. Here’s to continuing the hitting streak to 28 tonight!! Go Chris!

  2. They are both great for different reasons and I am just glad we have been lucky enough to have both of them on our team in the short history of the Rev’s.

    That being said…. it is a good lunch time discussion

  3. Nothing against Espy but I’m 100% behind Ashby on this one.

  4. Jeff — you forgot to mention above that Chris can also be an emergency pitcher when needed too.

  5. I asked him if he’s ever thought about playing all nine positions in a game. He said he’s entertained the idea, but obviously you need a blowout and a willing manager to pull it off.

    Would be interesting to watch, though.

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