Braun topped the Dodgers' Matt Kemp for the NL honor last season and came back in 2012 even better, leading the NL in home runs (41), total bases (356), runs (108) and OPS (.987) while tying for the lead in extra-base hits (80). Braun also ranked among the leaders with 112 RBIs (second to Headley), 191 hits (second to McCutchen), a .595 slugging percentage (second to Miami's Giancarlo Stanton,) and a .319 batting average (behind Posey and McCutchen). Braun also tied for ninth in the league with 30 stolen bases.
But the question in this awards season is how voting constituencies would weigh NL batting champion Posey's premium position (catcher) and the fact he played for a postseason-bound team against Braun, whose club needed a late surge to get into contention and who spent last winter fighting, successfully, a suspension following a positive test for elevated testosterone.
MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds, who co-hosted Wednesday's awards preview show, predicted victory for Posey.
"I think the numbers would go to Ryan Braun, if you just sat and looked at numbers," Reynolds said, "but I think if you look at the overall things that they compute into being an MVP, Buster wins it by a landslide."
Among those "overall things," in Reynolds' view, were Posey's comeback from a devastating leg injury in 2011, his role in the Giants' pitching success and the versatility he showed in playing some first base.
Posey led Braun in batting average and on-base percentage. Braun led Posey in slugging percentage, OPS, runs, home runs and RBIs. BBWAA members cast their ballots before the start of the postseason, so Posey's run to the World Series did not factor in the MVP Award.
"[Braun] was better this year, I think, than last year, but he's not going to win it," Reynolds said. "It's sad, because of the offseason that he had last year, he's not going to win the award this year. That's just my feeling. ...
"And I think if he didn't have that offseason, we would be talking about one of the greatest players in history. That's how heavy that hurt him and tainted his legacy as he moves forward. He fought through it. He had a great season and I think he'll continue to fight through it and move on, but I think this year, they're not going to give him the MVP. Come back another season, maybe he'll get it."
In the AL, the MVP finalists were Adrian Beltre of the Rangers, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, Robinson Cano of the Yankees, Josh Hamilton of the Rangers and Mike Trout of the Angels. That race is widely expected to come down to Triple Crown winner Cabrera and rookie sensation Trout.
The BBWAA announced three finalists in each league for three other awards -- Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year. In the rookie race, Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki did not make the cut after batting .288 with 37 doubles in a solid debut season in the Major Leagues.
But Reds outfielder Todd Frazier, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and D-backs pitcher Wade Miley were the top three. The A's Yoenis Cespedes, the Rangers' Yu Darvish and Trout were the finalists for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
In the managerial category, the Reds' Dusty Baker, the Giants' Bruce Bochy and the Nationals' Davey Johnson were named finalists in the NL, and the A's Bob Melvin, the Orioles' Buck Showalter and the White Sox Robin Ventura were the finalists in the AL.
All of those awards will be unveiled on MLB Network next week.