What Is a Fifth Infielder in Baseball?

Unleashing the Fifth Infielder: A Game-Changing Strategy in Baseball's Defensive Playbook
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

A fifth infielder is used as a defensive strategy on certain occasions. It is usually up to the coaches when they want to implement this tactic. This post will give you a better look at the fifth infielder and how it’s used in the game of baseball.

Role of a fifth infielder in baseball

A fifth infielder is typically used in late-game situations. A defense will bring a fifth infielder in to try and stop any run from scoring. It can also be used as a defensive shift against certain hitters. The role of the fifth infielder is to help their team get an out. 

Since there are four infielders, the fifth one is brought in from the outfield. One of the outfielders is placed strategically in the infield. The spot the fifth infielder goes to depends on the current hitter and situation. 

A fifth infielder helps teams protect themselves from giving up runs. It is a defensive strategy that is quite useful in late-game situations.

When to use a fifth infielder in baseball

In certain late-game situations, bringing in a fifth infielder on defense can be useful. 

For example, a hitter that hits mostly ground balls will attract the thoughts of a fifth infielder. If there is one out with the bases loaded, this would be a perfect situation to bring in a fifth infielder. 

However, it would not be a good idea to do so if it were not late in the game. When it’s early in the game, you don’t want to risk giving up a deep fly ball that scores multiple runs. 

When it is late in the game, the game is on the line, and you have to go all in to get three outs. Knowing when it is the right time to use this tactic can be challenging. Through experience, coaches gradually learn when to use all of these different tactics.

Pros and cons of using a fifth infielder

There are a few pros and cons to consider when using a fifth infielder. An advantage of using one is that you limit any ground balls from sneaking through a hole in the infield. However, a disadvantage of this is that your outfield now only has two players. This puts your outfield at a weak point that will be exposed by a deep fly ball or line drive. 

However, it is a huge advantage for the defense in a late-game situation. Let’s say there is a tie game with one out, and the home team is up to bat. The bases are loaded as well. The defense can bring in a fifth infielder to try and get a double play to get out of the inning. 

The reason to do this is that any kind of deep fly ball ends the game, whether the ball is caught or not. The runner will tag up and score on a deep fly ball. With that being said, the defense will want to go all out on getting a ground ball for a double play. 

Coaches have to consider all of these things before deciding to implement a fifth infielder. 

Types of fifth infielders

A fifth infielder can be used in many different ways. They can be put in a specific position or just go to a hole in the infield. It all depends on the current situation in the game. 

Sometimes you will see outfielders come in and play behind second base or even between first and second out in the grass. The situation decides where the fifth infielder is placed. 

You might wonder how coaches decide which outfielder to bring in as an infielder. In most cases, it is the one that has the most experience in the infield. One of the three outfielders will surely have some prior experience in the infield. This gives them somewhat of a foundation to rely on when playing there.

Notable fifth infielders in baseball history

Rod Carew is perhaps one of the most famous fifth infielders in baseball history. He was frequently brought into the infield in late-game situations during his time with the California Angels. 

Another notable fifth infielder is Ozzie Smith. Ozzie was a defensive mastermind who had much success on both sides of the ball. These players are effective in this role through their athleticism and knowledge of the game. 

A typical outfielder won’t be successful in the infield. However, some of them will have great success. It depends on their experience as well as their athleticism. 

Conclusion

Many defensive strategies are a part of the game of baseball. Defensive shifts are common but are beginning to be limited by the MLB. 

A fifth infielder is currently allowed to be used by teams by adding an extra infielder on defense. This tactic prevents any runs from scoring and/or any balls squeaking through any holes in the infield. It is undoubtedly a useful tactic that is used throughout Major League Baseball.

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