Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.
What, you didn’t take Latin in school? That’s no excuse for not knowing the English translation of that phrase. After all, it played a pivotal role in an episode of the Aaron Sorkin political drama, “The West Wing,” only a couple of decades ago.
Fine, since most of you still probably have no clue, I’ll provide the translation. Loosely, it means, “After this, therefore because of this.”
The phrase refers to the generally inaccurate fallacy that just because a particular event occurred just prior to another event, the first event must have caused the second. Of course, that’s not always true. In fact, it seldom is.
So why am I telling you all of this here on a baseball blog?
Because I want to talk to you about Royce Lewis and the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
The Kernels qualified for the Midwest League Playoffs by finishing second in the league’s Western Division standings during the first half of the season, which concluded in mid-June.
About that time, the parent Minnesota Twins started promoting many of the players that played key roles in the first half.
Tom Hackimer, Andrew Vasquez, Jermaine Palacios, Jaylin Davis, Mitchell Kranson, Brandon Lopez, Sean Poppen and Alex Robinson all earned promotions between the end of May and early July.
While Cedar Rapids still had a pretty talented core of position players and several effective pitchers, the promotions took a toll and the results on the field reflected that toll.
The Kernels went 4-5 during second half games played in June and 13-15 in July games.
They followed that up by winning just four of their first ten August games, averaging just three runs per game in those contests. They scored two or fewer runs in eight of those ten games, getting shutout in three of them.
That left the Kernels with a 21-26 second-half record as they prepared to host Quad Cities for the third game in a four game home series on August 12.
On that morning, the Twins announced that 2017’s first-overall draft pick, Royce Lewis, was being promoted to Cedar Rapids from Elizabethton. Lewis made his Kernels debut that evening.
Since then, the Kernels have won 13 games and lost just five, as they prepare to head into the final few regular season games and get ready to host Kane County in game one of the first round of the playoffs on September 6.
In the first ten games of August, the Kernels averaged just three runs per game. Since August 12, they’ve averaged over five per game.
In those first ten games this month, Kernels pitching and defense were combining to surrender 4.8 runs per game. Since then, they’ve been giving up just over three.
So the Kernels’ have clearly turned things around since Royce Lewis donned jersey number 30 for Cedar Rapids, but could he really be THE reason his team appears primed for the playoffs?
Lewis has hit .339 since taking over the leadoff spot in the order on August 12 and he’s made several impressive plays at shortstop, as well, so he’s clearly ONE reason for the Kernels’ recent success.
But to assume he’s the only reason would be inaccurate – and more than a little insulting to several of his teammates who have also dialed things up a few notches down the stretch, not to mention manager Tommy Watkins and his coaches.
In fact, as well as Lewis has played, Lewin Diaz has arguably outperformed the newbie during the same stretch of games. Diaz, who has been strong all season, has hit .351 with an OPS north of .900 since Lewis’ arrival.
Travis Blankenhorn struggled at the plate in July, but he’s popped a .947 OPS in August. He’s hit .319 since August 12 and has hit five home runs in that same stretch.
Shane Carrier was on the Kernels’ roster out of spring training, but struggled and was ultimately sent back to extended spring training. Since rejoining Cedar Rapids a week before Lewis’ arrival, he’s hit .280, clubbed five home runs and racked up an .885 OPS.
Shane Kennedy joined the Kernels on August 22 and has been getting on base at a .452 clip while putting up a .910 OPS.
Jimmy Kerrigan has been about a .270 hitter with the Kernels, but he’s hit .312 since August 12.
Trey Cabbage and Ben Rortvedt each sport batting averages around .225. But since August 12, they’ve each been hitting about 45 points higher at .270 or so.
The Kernels’ rotation has been in a state of near-constant flux this month and has been hit particularly hard by promotions.
Still, virtually every arm that manager Tommy Watkins and pitching coach J.P. Martinez have sent to the mound to start a game has at least given the team five solid innings before turning things over to what has been a consistently effective bullpen.
Reliever Hector Lujan hasn’t allowed an earned run in any of his eight appearances beginning August 8.
Eduardo Del Rosario, who pitched well enough as a starter for the Kernels to earn a late-July promotion to Fort Myers, returned to Cedar Rapids August 15 as a bullpen arm and hasn’t allowed an earned run in any of his five outings since.
Maybe it’s all a coincidence.
Maybe, as they approached the final three weeks of a long season, these guys were all poised to ratchet their games up a notch or two as they headed toward the postseason.
All we can say for certain is that Royce Lewis showed up on August 12 with his smile and his infectious energy… and he stroked base hits in each of his first four plate appearances that night.
And since then, this has been a very different Kernels team on the field than what we were seeing up to that point during the season’s second half.
This team is clearly having fun and they are definitely winning a lot of baseball games.
The first two rounds of the Midwest League playoffs are best two of three games, so advancing through those rounds is pretty much a crapshoot, but three weeks ago, not many people watching the Kernels on a regular basis would have given this team much of a chance to get through the initial round of the postseason.
Whatever the reasons, that has changed. This is a team that now looks like a legitimate postseason contender and likely everyone in that clubhouse deserves a share of the credit.