Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


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My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai

10 thoughts on “Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. I am going to say that Komusubi will go to Tochinoshin, and that Tochiozan will take a Maegashira 1 slot. Likewise I would put Aoiyama at Maegashira 2, and Kotoshogiku at Maegashira 1.

    Your prior banzuke computations have been exemplary, so this is just me using my “gut” feel on where the NSK might adjust ranks due to the rikishi in question.

    I would switch Ura and Kagayaki, as I am quite sure they want to make sure the little guy stays well out of the way of the meat grinder as it’s likely we are going to get several top rankers either withdraw within the first week, or not even start.

    As always, great forecasting IK – thanks for posting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I was with you all the way down to sekiwake west but from then on downwards it was all very different starting with komusubi, where I have Tochinoshin and Tamawashi. My rankings are within one or two spots of yours for the most part but I can’t evisage Shohozan landing anywhere near M4e.

    It’s a very unpredictable banzuke and fans of various wrestlers will be belly-aching whatever happens. The day-by-day match-ups will also be challenging to arrange as you have Tochinoshin, Tochiozan and Aoiyama, the three big lads from Kasugano stable all likely to be clumped together at top maegashira or bottom sanyaku.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think the Kasugano trio will pose any trouble for the scheduling as they’ll be at ranks where they would be a low priority to be matched up anyway, even if they were in different stables.

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  3. Appreciate the comments. My confidence in the exact predictions is definitely lower this time. There’s a logjam at the lower San’yaku and the very top of the maegashira ranks, and then a dearth of deserving candidates further down the banzuke.

    And good point about the 3 Kasugano boys; this will definitely extend the “meat grinder” zone further down the banzuke!

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    • It seems to me that the overall banzuke is getting a bit more chaotic each basho. I think we had a nice period where things were fairly predictable, but now it’s all jumbling up nicely. I like to entertain myself that we will start a 18 month period soon that will see a few of the long standing sekitori take retirement, and the “Angry Tadpoles” take over.

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  4. Dammit, what happened to Sokokurai? In January he was runner-up with a 12-3 record including wins over the other sansho winners, Takanoiwa, Mitakeumi, and Takayasu, all of whom went 11-4. In fact, since January he’s won only two fewer matches than Takanoiwa (Sokokurai: 15-30-0, Takanoiwa: 17-25-3), but that’s enough to bounce him out of makuuchi while Takanoiwa’s sitting pretty at around M8. I know he’ll never make ozeki but he’s not too old to make it into sanyaku one time before the end of his career…

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    • That’s an interesting observation! The 4-11 in March really hurt him, but other than that, I think what’s going on is the following. Takanoiwa managed to stay in the top half of the banzuke, where there’s been a dearth of winning records, so even 3 straight make-koshi cost him relatively little in rank. Whereas once Sokokurai dropped toward the lower half, there were more rikishi with winning records competing for the ranks, and so his drop became much more precipitous. Bad banzuke luck exaggerated the small difference in combined records.

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      • I think you’re right about bad banzuke luck, but even without that, in the past two basho Sokokurai was presumably going make-koshi against worse competition than Takanoiwa even though they had identical numbers of wins.

        I just like Sokokurai’s comeback-kid story and want to see him get up to komusubi or sekiwake before the end of his career.

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