The Extra 2%, by Jonah Keri. Hardcover.
Every year, around this time, I read a baseball book. This one just came out a few months ago, so the timing was right to make it my 2011 baseball book.
The book takes a look at the "worst-to-first" seasons that the Tampa Bay Rays have pulled off the last few years. After a decade of hard times under the reign of their first owner, the Rays were taken over by a young trio of Wall Street geeks who used quantitative analysis and out-of-the-box baseball thinking to find ways to be successful despite working on a shoestring budget compared to their big-market competitors. Teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox had far more resources than the Rays, but the Rays were able to win their division twice in three years, making it once all the way to the World Series.
Comparison to Michael Lewis' groundbreaking Moneyball are inevitable, and justifiable. Both chronicle the efforts of non-baseball people to bring non-baseball analytics to the great old game. But Keri's book does not focus primarily on one man, as Lewis' did, but instead discusses a total top-to-bottom overhaul. It is this additional layer that separates The Extra 2%, and makes it seem like a fresh read.
After reading similar books the last few years, about new methods of analysis and sabermetrics, all of which I enjoyed, I think for next year I'll go back and find a more old-school book to read.