To a resume that, at 25 years old, already includes a Rookie of the Year award, two World Series titles and recognition as this year's best comeback story, Giants catcher Buster Posey can now add perhaps baseball's crowning single-season individual honor.
Posey was named the National League Most Valuable Player today in a landslide vote by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He received 27 of 32 first-place votes to beat out Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who received three first-place votes, and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received two first-place votes and finished fourth.
Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera was named the A.L. MVP for a season in which he became the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, leading the league with a .330 batting average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs.
"It's tough to put into words," Posey told the MLB Network after the announcement on its live awards show. "I think it's an accomplishment that is shared with the whole Giants organization. ... I couldn't be more honored to have my name alongside the previous winners."
Posey is the first Giants player to win the MVP since Barry Bonds in 2004, and the first N.L. catcher to win since Johnny Bench in 1972. He led the majors with a .336 average, becoming the first N.L. catcher to win a batting title in 70 years, hit 24 homers and drove in 103 runs. His .408 on-base percentage also led the league.
He caught fire after the All-Star Break, batting .385 in the second half with 60 RBIs, and his production helped the Giants weather the loss of Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension in August and run away with the N.L. West down the stretch.
For award voters, Posey's candidacy offered both narrative and convincing statistics.
When the season began, Posey was less than a year removed from the gruesome ankle injury that cut his 2011 season short. Yet he played in 148 games for the Giants and started 111 at catcher while compiling the numbers that won him the Hank Aaron Award for the league's most outstanding offensive player.
Posey also led the N.L. in Wins Above Replacement, an advanced statistic meant to calculate how many more wins a player was worth to his team than a minor-leaguer or bench player. According to baseball-reference.com, Posey's WAR was 7.2, compared to 7.0 for McCutchen and 6.8 for Braun.
Behind the plate, he handled a Giants pitching staff that ranked seventh in baseball with a 3.68 earned run average, though he rarely caught starters Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.
Cabrera is the second Tigers player in as many years to win the award, following Justin Verlander in 2011, and the first player from his native Venezuela to be named MVP. He received 22 of 28 first-place votes.
Angels rookie Mike Trout, the unanimous A.L. Rookie of the Year, received the other six first-place votes. Adrian Beltre of the Rangers finished third.
Giants players and management still speculate how the 2011 season might have turned out had they not lost Posey in a home-plate collision in May of that year. With his steady presence behind the plate and in the middle of the order in 2012, the Giants won their second division title and World Series in three seasons, though voting for the award was conducted before the postseason.
Posey joins Bench and Thurmon Munson as the only catchers ever to win Rookie of the Year, the MVP and a World Series in their careers. Posey was also named the Comeback Player of the Year this season by The Sporting News.
Posey was second on four ballots and third on one. He, Braun and McCutchen were the only players named on every ballot. Braun, the 2011 MVP., batted .319 with a league-best 41 homers, drove in 112 runs and stole 30 bases. McCutchen hit .327 with 31 homers and 96 RBIs for the Pirates, led the N.L. with 194 hits, stole 20 bases and won a Gold Glove for his defense in center field.