Why Kisenosato Shouldn’t Worry

Bruce’s article from the other day got me thinking about Goeido’s title and possible Yokozuna promotion as well as Kisenosato’s Ozeki career. I put together a chart of the several indicators of ozeki performance for a select group of rikishi to act as a bit of a baseline.

Obviously, titles are the key statistic. In the words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.” Of the ozeki careers I’ve selected, something should stand out. Most of these ozeki won titles, multiple titles, before promotion. I don’t understand why everyone is so eager to see a promotion, whether Goeido or Kisenosato. Our ozeki need to be doing a better job of pulling their weight.

Kaio and Chiyotaikai were great, recent ozeki. Each had a career spanning at least 50 healthy tournaments at the rank of ozeki. 50. Kaio won 5 titles over that span, Chiyotaikai won 2. Compared with those careers, Kisenosato’s a pup. He’s been ozeki for a mere 28 tournaments. Konishiki was ozeki for 35 tournaments and won 3 yusho. These guys never made and are remembered for being great ozeki. There’s no shame in that.

There is shame, however, in a promotion that comes too early. The poster child for this would have to be Futahaguro, a yokozuna with the distinction of never having held the Emperor’s Cup. In a short, four tournaments at the rank of ozeki, he did average 11.5 wins per basho. However, he was promoted after securing two consecutive second-place jun-yusho. His career as yokozuna was winless and cut short when he punched the wife of his oyakata.

We expect a certain level of play from our ozeki. We expect better than 8 wins per tournament, consistently. Actually, I should say we demand 8 wins per tournament. If they don’t get it, they go kadoban – as Terunofuji is now and both Goeido and Kisenosato were at the start of the last basho. We get our 8 wins from Kisenosato. He has actually averaged a cool 10.68 wins which is certainly not too shabby and a far sight better than Goeido’s 8.33.

The thing is, a yokozuna needs titles. And to get those, he needs even more wins. Musashimaru had 5 titles as ozeki over 32 tournaments with an average of 11.03 wins per basho. Clearly both Kisenosato and Goeido can and should perform better if they want to be promoted. It’s a lot better to look back on a great ozeki career than an underperforming yokozuna career. But it’s even better to look back on an ozeki career WITH CHAMPIONSHIPS, like Kaio, Baruto, Kotooshu…even Goeido. Chances are, these guys would have been underperforming yokozuna. Kaio had many injuries. Kisenosato’s been very healthy. Hopefully his time will come but he needs to earn it.

Selected Ozeki Careers (some went on to be Yokozuna)
Rikishi Avg Wins (Ozeki) Ozeki Term (healthy basho) Yusho
Musashimaru* 11.03 32 5
Kaio 9.72 50 5
Harumafuji* 10.19 21 4
Hakuho* 12.17 6 3
Konishiki 9.77 35 3
Asashoryu* 12.67 3 2
Chiyotaikai 9.37 51 2
Chiyonofuji* 12.67 3 1
Hokutoumi* 11.2 5 1
Kakuryu* 9.92 12 1
Goeido 8.33 12 1
Futahaguro* 11.5 4 0
Kisenosato 10.68 28 0

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