The 2016 Yankees campaign was a huge letdown, but given the wildly prosperous trade deadline that will position the club toward a brighter future, I wouldn’t go as far as to peg the season a failure. The club started this year slower than David Ortiz’s home run trot, and despite a torrid finish that kept fans holding their breath until late September, they finished the season nine games out of first place in the AL East and five games away from a Wild Card berth.
Invariably, disappointing seasons stem from disappointing performances, and there were plenty of those to go around in New York. Strictly on a WAR basis, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira hurt the team the most, while others, like Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and Nathan Eovaldi were among the most disappointing, given expectations. Finding the right combination between underachieving and just plain bad isn’t as clear cut as one would expect, but it’s the ideal way to arrive at an answer for the Yankees’ least valuable player. For this season, that (dis)honorary title has been given to Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira, normally a steady presence in the Yankees’ lineup, finished the season with an embarrassing .204/.292/.362 batting line, complete with a 76 wRC+ that ranked 12th worst in baseball (min. 400 at-bats). First basemen are expected to be plus contributors at the plate, and Teixeira was anything but. He walked less, struck out more, saw his 2015 home run total cut in half despite a similar number of at-bats, and was overall a black hole in the Yankees’ lineup all season long. Defensive metrics can be unreliable, especially for first baseman, but the 36-year-old was rated as below average this season, and he looked to have lost mobility in the field after a midseason knee injury.
Although there were other players on the team that could have given Teixeira a run for his money statistics-wise, such as Alex Rodriguez or Luis Severino, high expectations for the switch-hitter are what ultimately gave him the title. Tex had a resurgent 2015, in which he posted a 143 wRC+ and 31 home runs in an injury shortened season, and he once again looked like a serious threat in the Yankees’ lineup. While he did have age working against him, it didn’t seem like there was anything holding Teixeira back other than injuries. Unfortunately, even with (some) health, he was a non-factor at the plate.
The lack of production coming from first base had a huge impact on the Yankees’ whole season—with his normally productive bat weakened, the team scored the ninth least runs in baseball after having the second most last season. It may not be fair to blame all of New York’s offense struggles on Teixeira (Alex Rodriguez also had an extremely disappointing season), but his lack of power sent shockwaves through the whole lineup. The Yankees likely ended up missing the playoffs because of the poor offense, and Teixeira is the main cause of the lack of runs.