The Meat Grinder & Cannon Fodder
In the first of our series speculating on the Haru banzuke, we took at look at the San’yaku ranks, which face fierce competition for the competitive ranks, and significant injury and problems in the “permanent” ranks.
Today we look at the rikishi who have hard work to earn their pay, the upper half of Maegashira ranks. As with the first group, this is all purely speculative, and based on some formula concocted by myself in an attempt to guess where the Nippo Sumo Kyokai will rank the men for the March tournament in Osaka.
Plugging everyone’s win/loss record, the difficulty of their foes, a scoring factor for their rank (harder to move up the higher you were in the banzuke) and a few other magic elements, we get this prospective ranking:
Ikioi is an amazingly popular rikishi with the public, and his posting to Maegashira 1e for the Osaka basho will only ramp public interest higher, above and beyond the current Kisenosato mania sweeping Japan. Ikioi’s sumo has been improving steadily, and the NSK probably assume it’s time to give him a test for a San’yaku slot in the near future. Interestingly enough, the sumotori with the highest “mathematical” rank is Sokokurai! Sokokurai had 11 wins, his “rank velocity” (win vs loss * rank factor * schedule difficulty) was an astounding 9.9, higher than anyone and well ahead of second highest Ichinojo. But I think the Maegashira 1 ranks are prized positions, and the Nippon Sumo Kyokai will likely put Ikioi’s impact on the popularity of sumo foremost. Takekaze moves up from Maegashira 5 to a Maegashira 1 spot at Haru, and we will see if the veteran can fend off the up-and-coming crowd.
Takarafuji benefits from the chaos and blood bath at the upper end of Makuuchi in January, landing solidly at Maegashira 2e, and a chance to rack up kinboshi against a wounded Yokozuna crew. Joining him is Sokokurai at Maegashira 2w, the rikishi who computed out to the highest “rank velocity” of anyone coming out of Hatsu. If he continues his strong streak from Hatsu, he will present a really good opponent to many top rikishi.
Tochinoshin drops 3 slots from Komusubi to Maegashira 3, he had a terrible record before his injuries forced him to withdraw. To be honest, it will be interesting to see if he is even healed up enough to compete, but as always Tachiai wishes the big Georgain the best of fortune. Joining him at Maegashira 3w is Yokozuna Kisenosato‘s dew-sweeper, Shohozan.
Takanoiwa, who has been really blowing the doors off of his competition, raises from Maegashira 10 to Maegashira 4. I put him on the west side, which draws a slightly easier schedule. However, if there is a lack of fierce Ozeki class competition, we may once again see score inflation among the up-and-coming rikishi, and I would look for Takanoiwa to excel. Joining him is Arawashi falling from Maegashira 2 in January.
Yoshikaze (a favorite of mine) seems to have been ranked in a very comfortable spot, as the computation put him at the same rank, but moved him from West to East. Joining him at Maegashira 5 is fan favorite Endo, whose make-koshi in January pushed him down from M2.
Another of the levitating next-gen rikishi, Ichinojo, leaps to Maegashira 6 from his prior spot at Maegashira 13. Frankly, I am not sure if he is ready for this intensity of competition, but we will see in March how he fares. His computed “rank velocity” was an impressive 7.7, which was more than Takanoiwa. Joining him is Chiyonokuni, who turned in a solid performance in January at Maegashira 8.
Rounding out the upper portion of the Maegashira ranks, we the rather impressive Hokutofuji at Maegashira 7e, with man-mountain Aoiyama broadly occupying the Maegashira 7w position. This is one of the cases where even though Aoiyama was able to turn in a winning record (8-7), there was a huge cohort with strong winning records, with victories over higher ranked rikishi, and they ended up passing him by.
Keep in mind – this exercise is for discussion purposes for the most part. So feel free to leave comments, and alternate opinions. I am hoping to tune my formulas over time, and this first attempt should not be taken too seriously.
Tune in Friday for part 3!