What is the 5.5 Hole?
That’s a two part question, whether you know it or not. What is the 5.5 Hole in terms of baseball, and what is the 5.5 Hole in terms of my random ramblings?
Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was probably the most famous player to use the 5.5 Hole. As a left handed batter, it served him well. He would carry his hands through the strike zone first as he swung and slap the pitch the opposite way, splitting the shortstop and the third baseman. While a right handed batter can go the opposite way with a pitch and hit it between the first baseman and the second baseman, it doesn’t carry the same aura. Tony Gwynn was so prolific at doing this, his final swing of his major league career was an attempt at this 5.5 Hole. He grounded out, but mystique is still there. (More on Tony Gwynn at a later time)
For the curious few out there who want to know why this area on a baseball diamond is called the 5.5 Hole, I’ll tell you. It’s pretty simple actually. For scoring purposes, each position player on the field is assigned a number. Pitcher – 1, Catcher – 2, First Base – 3, Second Base – 4, Third Base – 5, Shortstop – 6, Left Field – 7, Center Field – 8, Right Field – 9. Therefore a hit between the Shortstop (6) and the Third Baseman (5) is considered a hit in the 5.5 Hole.
Now for the second part of the question, what does this mean in terms of my thoughts about baseball? The 5.5 Hole is often forgotten, not used as much as possible, and relatively obscure in today’s style of hitting. Players would rather turn on a pitch and try to knock it out of the park rather than play finesse baseball and simply get a hit. Just look at all the players in which opposing teams impose a defensive shift. A simple opposite field hit could change a game, but some players are so set in their ways, they refuse to go the opposite way. In a world where power hitters can strike out over 200 times per season, players simply do not just try to make contact. So as the use of the 5.5 Hole may now be unconventional, many of my thoughts, opinions, and anecdotes may be as well.