Sizing up San’yaku.
We still have many weeks before the start of the March sumo tournament in Osaka, with 4 weeks until competition begins, and 2 weeks before the banzuke is released. But I was told something that fascinated me – the Nippon Sumo Kyokai creates a draft banzuke for the next tournament shortly after the prior one finishes, and then tweaks it in the intervening weeks. This may be completely fictitious, but if they can do it, why can’t we?
Being a technology guy who loves sumo, I started examining the ratios between rank, win / loss and position on the subsequent banzuke. It let me a couple of formulas, which may be useful, and a really overly complex spreadsheet. That gives us some ranks to start from, and a motivation for discussing what may drive the Haru basho. I am going to break these into a series of postings that span the Makuuchi banzuke. Up today, the San’yaku group.
|Goeido •||Ozeki||• Terunofuji|
Sort of the easy group, they don’t get demoted so they swap positions from tournament to tournament. During Hatsu, Harumafuji and Kakuryu both withdrew due to injuries, and Kiseonsato is the shin-Yokozuna. This puts Hakuho back Y1e again (where he belongs). I put Kakuryu at Y1w with Harumafuji at Y2e and Japan’s new celebrity hero, Kisenosato, at the starter slot in Y2w.
Harumafuji has started making public appearances again, but he reportedly tore a thigh muscle in January, and sometimes those things are tough to heal. Kisenosato, by all reports, is training his brains out after being on a whirlwind PR tour. Part of this may be making sure he lives up to the Yokozuna rank he takes great pride in, and part of it may be tuning up Takayasu for his Ozeki run.
Thanks to Kisenosato’s promotion and Kotoshogiku’s demotion, there are only 2 Ozeki going into Haru, one of them is gravely injured, and one of them is kadoban and a physical basket-case. Goeido is O1e, but it’s not certain he will be recovered enough to join in competition in Osaka (where he is a home-town favorite). Given that they re-assembled his ankle with plates and screws, he may in fact be forced to retire. As of today, Goeido has been canceling his public appearances and keeping a low profile in recovery. We dearly love Goeido 2.0, but fear he may never have a chance to shine again.
Terunofuji is kadoban, and faces a real chance of demotion this time. With the Sekiwake, Komusubi and upper Maegashira all strong and looking to advance, there will be no quarter given at Haru. Terunofuji’s injuries are complex and chronic, and there may be no way for him to resume the sumo he deployed that made him (at one time) a Yokozuna contender. Today, he can only hope to heal, or find a worthy exit path.
There will be at least three Sekiwake ranked sumotori in Osaka, the normal two plus the demoted Kotoshogiku, provided he does not decide to retire before hand. That gives us Kotoshogiku as Sekiwake 1e, with Tamawashi as Sekiwake at 1w. Computationally, Takayasu came out higher than Tamawashi, but seeing that Tamawashi is retaining his rank, he has a slight edge over Takayasu, who shows up at the rather exotic rank of Sekiwake 2e.
As describe in a prior post, the competition for a Haru San’yaku slot was fierce, with records that would have typically promoted rikishi into the upper ranks, not getting them even close to a berth in the named positions. Rounding out at Komusubi, we have Shodai falling out of Sekiwake to 1e and Mitakeumi rising on a superb Hatsu record to 1w.