It’s that time again when I try to predict how the shimpan department will reorder the rikishi rankings based on the results of the just-completed tournament. Unlike the mess left by Aki, the Kyushu results were fairly orderly, and we shouldn’t see giant banzuke leaps and plunges with rikishi taking up slots nearly unprecedented given their prior rank and performance. Nevertheless, every banzuke forecast must grapple with some tricky puzzles. Aside from the usual uncertainty about who should be ranked on the East or the West side at a given maegashira rank, or whether someone will be M6w or M7e, here are the key question marks for Hatsu (scroll down if you just want to see the forecast).
Will they reshuffle the Yokozuna order?
To recap, Y1e Hakuho and Y1w Kakuryu sat out Kyushu from the beginning, while Y1w Kisenosato showed up, dropped his first 4 matches and handed out 3 more kinboshi to run his total to an alarming 16 in 63 Yokozuna bouts (for comparison, Hakuho has conceded 19 kinboshi—in 913 bouts!). He then withdrew, with the 5th day fusen loss making his official record 0-5-10. You’d think he wouldn’t be rewarded for this performance, but there is some question as to whether showing up at all will be viewed more favorably than sitting out the entire basho, and hence if Kisenosato will leapfrog the others on the banzuke. Precedent isn’t very helpful here, as the only parallel scenario happened in 1953, when a 0-3-12 Yokozuna switched sides with a 0-0-15 Yokozuna. In my forecast, I’m hoping sanity prevails and keeping the status quo.
What will be the composition and order of lower sanyaku?
This actually seems fairly straightforward to me. The two Komusubi put up diametrically opposed performances, which will be reflected in the their banzuke moves. Kaisei will drop into the maegashira ranks (see below), while Takakeisho will be promoted to a new career high rank of East Sekiwake. What will happen with the two current Sekiwake? History strongly suggests that a 7-8 record at Sekiwake leads to a demotion to Komusubi, while a 6-9 record means a fall from sanyaku. Exceptions to this pattern are rare and require a lack of suitable promotion candidates, which isn’t the case this time. Two upper maegashira rikishi have clear promotion cases: M2w Tamawashi (9-6) and M1e Myogiryu (8-7). While one could debate the details, I have Tamawashi at West Sekiwake, Mitakeumi at East Komusubi, and Myogiryu at West Komusubi, with Ichinojo falling to M1w.
How far will Kaisei drop?
Every basho this year has featured a Komusubi with 4 or fewer wins: Onosho (4-6-5) in January, Chiyotairyu (4-11) in March, Endo (3-10-2) in May, Shohozan (3-12) in July, Tamawashi (4-11) in September, and now Kaisei (3-9-3). The rankings of the first five in the following basho? M5, M4, M6, M7, M2. While Tamawashi’s demotion stands out as historically lenient, all saw lesser drops in rank than if they were treated as “M0”. How much of this “Komusubi bonus” will Kaisei enjoy? Unlike the case at Aki, the upper maegashira ranks generally performed well in Kyushu, and there were also several several very strong showings lower down the banzuke, leaving fewer rikishi for Kaisei to plausibly jump over. I have him at M8e, although it is conceivable that he will end up a couple of rungs higher.
Where will the Juryo promotions be ranked?
In a pattern opposite to the one considered in the previous section, the rankings for the rikishi moving up from Juryo always tend to be lower than if we simply treated J1 as M17 and so on. The countervailing force this time around is that the four worst performers in Makuuchi who aren’t at risk of demotion—Yutakayama, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, and Daiamami—were just barely good enough to stay out of Juryo themselves. So I have Yago, with a strong 10-5 record at J1e, debuting at M13e, Kotoyuki at M14e, and Kotoeko and Terutsuyoshi holding down the final two M16 slots.
Who takes the last slot in Makuuchi?
It should come down to keeping M14w Daishomaru (6-9) vs. promoting J5w Terutsuyoshi (10-5). The shimpan department has shown a recent preference for keeping borderline demotion candidates over those with marginal promotion claims. Daishomaru’s rank and record at Kyushu are identical to those of Chiyomaru at Aki, who got a one-basho reprieve from a trip to Juryo. However, Terutsuyoshi has a somewhat stronger promotion claim than Yago did last time, so I am going with a top-division debut for the pixie from Isegahama beya, who is certainly the more exciting choice!
With the preliminaries out of the way, my forecast is below (kachi-koshi records are in green; make-koshi records are in red). Please let me know what you think in the comments, and we’ll find out how the banzuke actually shakes out a little earlier than usual—on Christmas Day!