Handicapping The Natsu Banzuke – Part 1


banzuke-1

No Surprises Here

After fairly reasonable success with the Haru banzuke, I dusted off the old spreadsheet and decided to turn the crank for May. The real banzuke is only a week away, and there are a few things that are deep in the unknown, given the chaos and decimation that took place in March to the upper Maegashira ranks. In this series, we take our best guess at where everyone will be ranked for the next tournament in Tokyo.

The San’yaku banzuke is fairly straightforward, with the question being who fills the empty slot at Komosubi vacated by Shodai, and what order the rest of the top men of sumo will take in their respective ranks.

East Rank West
Kisenosato Yokozuna Kakuryu
Harumafuji Yokozuna Hakuho
Terunofuji  Ozeki  Goeido
Takayasu Sekiwake Kotoshogiku
Tamawashi Sekiwake
Mitakeumi Komusubi Yoshikaze

Yokozuna

With just a slight shuffle from March, we now see two time yusho winner Kisenosato as 1 East, with Hakuho dropping to 2 West after sitting out most of Haru with lingering foot problems. During the spring jungyo, Kakuryu was the only Yokozuna making daily appearances for a few weeks, as everyone else was injured and recovering. This further underscores the problems with the current Yokozuna crowd. Now all of them are injured and degraded in some way.

As is frequently the case, there was scant coverage of the true extent of Kisenosato’s injuries, so it will be interesting to see if he is still weakened or if he has fully recovered. Hakuho and Harumafuji were both able to join the jungyo tour a few weeks ago, and were at least able to train with the other rikishi.

Ozeki

Terunofuji’s fantastic performance in March may have not been a sign of things to come, as it seems he re-injured his knees in his day 13 bout against Kakuryu. This explains a few things about his henka against Kotoshogiku, and also why an injured Kisenosato had any chance in his final day match. When Terunofuji is healthy and in fighting form, he is fast, effective and at times a bit scary. We hope he comes to Natsu in form and ready to fight, but fear his chronic injuries are going to hobble him yet again.

The same can be said about Goeido, who had a horrific injury towards the end of Hatsu, and had reconstructive surgery on his ankle. He competed during the March tournament in Osaka, and was a complete mess – clearly not recovered or ready for action. He enters this tournament kadoban once again.

Sekiwake

A second tournament with three Sekiwake, as none of them had a record worthy of demotion. Kotoshogiku has decided to remain active and fighting, though his chances of re-promotion to Ozeki are nonexistent. It is unknown if he is still plagued by the injuries that had degraded his performance to the point he was demoted. Tamawashi managed to hold on to his Sekiwake rank with a 1 win kachi-koshi. He is not yet strong enough to contend for an Ozeki slot, but the fact that he has been able to survive as Sekiwake this long is a testament both to his talent (and training) and the problems in the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.

Of course, there is Takayasu. He is 10 wins away from securing a promotion to Ozeki, and he has been looking in form for the last several basho. But with Kisenosato out and injured, the logical question must be what effect that will have on Takayasu. Both men are constant training partners, and their mutual strength, determination and dedication is what has driven their increasing performance. Take that away, and it’s natural to wonder what effect Kiseonsato’s absence will have on Takayasu’s Ozeki efforts.

Komusubi

Mitakeumi, sumo’s next-next Ozeki, remains at Komusubi in spite of performance and records that would normally have him sharing Sekiwake with Takayasu. Mitakeumi has been bringing fantastic sumo to the dohyo every match, and I am eager to see him battle his way up to the next rank. Joining him at Komusubi is none other than my favorite, Yoshikaze. This was a tough call, as there was such a blood bath in the top 4 Maegashira ranks that Shodai actually had better computed rank, even with his horrific 4-11 record. So there was really only one choice, and that is veteran sumo berserker Yoshikaze.

17 thoughts on “Handicapping The Natsu Banzuke – Part 1

  1. Always enjoy reading the banzuke posts. Hoping Goeido clears the crumbs from his injuries this time around. We’ll see though… (Btw, there is a duplicate of Harumafuji in the table.)

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    • Wow, thanks for pointing that out! I guess I need to be a bit more careful about making sure everything gets in from the spreadsheet.

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    • The San’yaku ranks were fairly easy this time, but given the insanity at both the top and bottom of the Maegashira ranks, it’s going to get a bit odd. This is a very good test of the math model, which was too far off last time.

      I will repeat that it’s know that the NSK has their own spreadsheets that provide their starting point, then they make changes at they wish to the rankings. It’s tough to know how far Shodai is going to get dropped down the banzuke, as it’s clear they are grooming him for a shot at being a star.

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        • I had not heard of any Shodai injuries – so I am wondering now, too. Maybe he was just a bit overwhelmed due to his first time in San’yaku? He still comes in high in the tachiai, so he loses in the first few moments of any bout.

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          • Yeah that’s true, Interesting that he beat hakuho on day 1 if I recall correctly?

            Will be looking forward to seeing if he can bounce back.

            One of the rikishi I am most interested in watching is Chiyonokuni. Really impressed by him last two Basho, wondering if he can continue this upward trajectory. The top maegashira generally struggle so will see whether he’s sanyaku material. I think he is – whether that happens now is another question.

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      • FWIW, as far as I know there’s no NSK “base” banzuke (spreadsheet or otherwise); it’s all hashed out on the fly in the committee meeting.

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        • Good to know – I had some information from someone who claimed to know that there is a “base” banzuke the day after the basho, and that the elders discuss it a few times during the intervening weeks to decide what they want the final one to look like. My source also mentioned that they use Excel to compute things for this “base” banzuke.

          But, part of the fun is the speculation! No way I know for sure, and for all I know the person who told me this was making it all up.

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          • As the US gears up for the NFL draft, with all of the mock drafts and speculation about which players feature highly on each teams’ “draft boards,” I do find myself much more interested in how the NSK will settle this banzuke. My sanyaku was straight forward (even though I disagree with everyone and NEED an even number of sekiwake to satisfy my OCD), but, my maegashira are sure to fall apart. The upper maegashira were all worthy of falling…several substantially.

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          • I daresay somebody was pulling your leg there. All the banzuke-making is taking place on the Wednesday immediately after the end of the basho. A year or two ago, there was a lower-division rikishi who was intending to retire, but the official papers from his oyakata apparently didn’t reach the committee until something like 20 minutes after they had commenced their session – the rikishi ended up appearing on the next banzuke (but didn’t fight, of course). That indicates they’re very interested in getting it over with as quickly and as definitely as possible.

            I suspect the biggest reason the process isn’t more drawn out is that it’s difficult to get the whole committee together in the inter-basho period. Jungyo tours, stables going on private travels, oyakata out in the country for scouting/recruiting purposes, etc.

            Anyway, the most labour-intensive part of the banzuke-making falls to the gyoji who has to write out the master banzuke by hand. 🙂 Which takes him somewhere between one and two weeks – after that it’s only another couple of weeks until the banzuke is published, so the turnaround time is actually pretty short. It’s usually on display at the arena, alongside the normal print banzuke. Picture from a few years ago: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BBRjUIrCMAASZct.jpg:large

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          • Thanks for that information Asashosakari. That’s not too far off from what I had been told. Save that before there is any sort of committee starts things, some boffin in the NSK does a spreadsheet to rank everyone by their scores, and that serves as input to this Wednesday discussion.

            But your information has lots of great detail, and it’s great to read – thank you!

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          • Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely possible that there is such a thing and I’ve just never heard about it – but these are people who are still using long handwritten rolls of paper to keep track of the matches during the basho in order to avoid illegal schedules (repeat matchups, same-stable pairings), so an automated / algorithmic banzuke calculation would surprise me a bit, even as just a starting point.

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  2. Right now it’s impossible to know who is healthy and who is walking wounded. But I would think that Takayasu may not be as strong as he was at Haru due to the lack of Kisenosato training time. I would also like to think that if Terunofuji has healed up, he has a decent shot at a top finish if the Yokozuna are all injured (which they may be).

    Of course I am hoping that we get Goeido 2.0 back, with enough strength in his busted ankle that he can once again fight like a wild Jōmon warrior.

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