One of the finer off-season books you can buy is The Hardball Times Baseball Annual. The Annual is a collection of observations and analysis from the previous season, along with some historical writing, done up by writers from THT (, and a few guest writers who contribute a similar brand of excellence in talking baseball.

The book is broken down into four sections, starting with a division-by-division recap of the season just past. Next up is a section of Commentary on what played out over the grueling 162-game season, followed by a section of History. Finally, the book rounds out with a section titled Economics & Analysis.

The hot stove season is a great time to take a snapshot of the game, both past and present, and the Baseball Annual uses this effective format to do just that. With the season of daily games and developments ending, there is much to be said about what happened, or didn’t happen. The Baseball Annual breaks down many of these topics in detail and sheds light on some of the highlights, as well as some of the lowlights.

The 2012 overview that opens the book is a succinct recap of the division races and how they played out. Good reading no matter what geographical region you are aligned with, as the reader is taken back through the Nationals’ rise to the top of the NL east, the surprising playoff runs of the A’s and Orioles, and all of the other happenings in MLB’s six divisions.

The Commentary section kicks off with Craig Calcaterra’s “The Year in Frivolity,” a look back at newsworthy events intertwined with humorous observations and a recurring theme of no-hitters/perfect games becoming common-place. After Craig’s great setup, it’s on to the surprise success of the A’s, the embarrassing failure of the Red Sox and other developments that defined the 2012 season.

In History, we learn about the production of the farm systems of the Dodgers and Giants over the decades since Horace Stoneham took over ownership of the Giants in 1936. Satchel Paige and umpire strike zones are also discussed along with other topics.

The Annual finishes with the Economics & Analysis section that opens with a discussion of the most recent CBA. The economics are addressed with a look at financial disparity while analysis takes center stage in Dave Allen’s look at the nuances of game situations when a runner is on first base.

This is great sabermetric stuff with keen analysis, knowledgeable insight and plenty of humor. The Hardball Times Baseball Annual is perfect for the offseason, even a busy one like this year. There are so many storylines in a given MLB season, it is nearly impossible to keep up with all of them. You can get in-depth analysis of just how good the Orioles’ bullpen was this season to explain how they came from out of nowhere to land in the playoffs. The historical and economic stuff never go out of season. This is a book that you will have always within reach and the paperback edition will show plenty of signs of wear before the new season rolls around.