SAN FRANCISCO -- The instructions at the top of the National League Most Valuable Player ballot begin with the words: "There is no clear-cut definition for what Most Valuable means."
In 2012, Buster Posey did his best to change that.
Posey is the heavy favorite heading into Thursday's MVP announcement for good reason. As members of the Baseball Writers Association of America filled out their ballots at the conclusion of the regular season, they were presented with a catcher who, from hitting to catching to winning, formed an MVP résumé without holes.
Posey even had one of the more compelling back stories in the history of the award.
He missed the majority of the 2011 season with a career-threatening ankle injury and was limited when spring training began this season. He then went out and had an All-Star first half before turning his production up to historic levels in the season's second half, leading the way for a team that lost No. 3 hitter Melky Cabrera to a PED suspension. The efforts earned Posey a Comeback Player of the Year nod, and on Thursday he is expected to cruise to his first MVP award.
"I can't think of a player more valuable to a ballclub than what Buster is to us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's really amazing what he's done. Being at a premium position, handling the staff and hitting cleanup -- it's why we feel he's the most valuable player.
"Guys feed off him."
Teammates are happy to make Posey's case for him, too.
Want a dominant hitter? Posey was the first catcher to win the National League batting title in 70 years, hitting .336. He also led the league in on-base percentage at .408, hit 24 homers and drove in 103 runs. During the World Series, Posey was named the winner of the Hank Aaron Award, given to each league's best hitter.
"He's the complete package up there at the plate," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "He's good at everything."
Want a leader in the field? Posey checked that box, too, guiding a pitching staff with a 3.68 ERA and throwing out a major-league-leading 38 attempted base stealers.
"He's the same force behind the plate as he is in the lineup," closer Sergio Romo said. "Catchers like Buster don't come around too often."
Want a winner? The Giants were tied for the division lead when Cabrera was suspended on Aug. 15, but ended up taking the National League West by eight games. Posey hit .385 with a 1.102 OPS (on-base plus slugging) after the All-Star break.
"Look at our record when Melky went out and look at where we ended up," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "Buster stepped it up and was our leader."
In addition to the Hank Aaron Award and Comeback Player of the Year Award, Posey has recently been bestowed with a Silver Slugger Award as well as the Willie Mac Award as the Giants' most inspirational player.
To add to the trophy case Thursday, Posey will need to come out on top in voting done by 32 members of the BBWAA. The ballot holds 10 spots, with first place worth 14 points, second place worth nine and the next eight spots each worth one point less than the previous spot.
While the American League vote is expected to be a close race between two players -- Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout -- Posey faces a more varied field.
Reigning MVP Ryan Braun had another strong season (.319 average, 41 homers, 112 RBIs) for the Milwaukee Brewers but likely will be hurt by a positive testosterone test in 2011 that was revealed in the offseason. Braun successfully appealed the suspension but took a hit publicly.
Posey himself named Braun and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen as front-runners at the All-Star break, but while Posey surged down the stretch, McCutchen cooled off as the Pirates fell out of playoff contention.
Posey's greatest challenge could come from another catcher, Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, who is a defensive whiz but trailed Posey in every significant hitting category. ESPN's Jayson Stark, an MVP voter, compared the two catchers in his season-ending awards column and gave the edge to Posey.
"So (Posey) isn't the defensive catcher Molina is. Who the heck is?" Stark wrote. "But catching and leading that staff in San Francisco is still a major responsibility. And on the other side of the ball, Posey has had a second half for the ages."
Where Stark sees a close race, other national writers are predicting a runaway. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has Posey winning easily over Braun.
"When you play a demanding position like catcher, hit in the middle of the lineup with big hits, clutch hits, that's the definition of an MVP," Verducci said last week on MLB Network, the station that will air Thursday's award presentation. "I think it should be a fairly large margin for Buster Posey."
For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants.