It’s time for me to try to predict the sumo rankings for the Nagoya basho ahead of their official release on June 24th. The rankings represent a substantial reshuffle, with 3 new San’yaku rikishi, 3 predicted exchanges between Makuuchi and Juryo, and several big moves up or down the ladder.
I have Takagenji jumping 9 full ranks, from J2 to M9, after his 13-2 performance at Natsu, though you should take this with a grain of salt, as my forecasts have been known to be overly optimistic about the Makuuchi ranks of high-performing Juryo rikishi. [EDIT: In the spirit of learning from my mistakes, I’ve bumped Takagenji down a rank to M10w in my final prediction, with Daishoho and Yoshikaze each moving up half a rank.] Surprise yusho winner Asanoyma leaps up 8 ranks, from M8 to Komusubi. Another Juryo promotee, Kotoyuki, rises 7 ranks from J6 to M15. Rising 6 ranks each are Shodai (M7 to M1), Shimanoumi (M12 to M6), and Daishoho (M16 to M10).
There were not a lot of disastrous performances at Natsu, and some of them were cushioned by banzuke luck. So the only notable drop belongs to Kaisei, who is projected to fall 8 ranks from M8 to M16 after racking up an injury-marred 3-5-7 record. How do you go from East maegashira one to the bottom of the rankings in two tournaments? By posting a total of 6 wins. Kaisei is actually lucky to escape demotion, as staying in the top division with 3 wins at M8 has been a 50:50 proposition in the modern era. The last person in this position? None other than Kaisei, in March 2017, when he was demoted to M15 after going 3-7-5, posted a 7-8 record in May, and dropped to Juryo for July.
Best Banzuke Luck
As mentioned above, Kaisei is lucky to stay in Makuuchi, and Terutsuyoshi is even more so with a 6-9 record at M15, assuming that I am right about him not getting demoted. Interestingly, the last two rikishi with this rank and record also escaped demotion (Myogiryu a year ago and Ishiura last basho), but before that, it hadn’t happened since the 1950s.
But the best banzuke luck is to be found at M10-M12. Natsu performances left a giant hole at these ranks, with no rikishi “deserving” to be ranked there, and yet the ranks had to be filled, so they contain a combination of extreme over-promotions and under-demotions. The “ridiculously generous promotion” awards go to Daishoho (M16 to M10 with 9 wins) and especially Kotoeko (M15 to M11 with only 8 wins). For Kotoeko, this big bump comes after he managed to stay at M15w for 3 straight basho despite 7-8 records in the first two, so he is enjoying quite a run of luck.
The “extremely lenient demotion” award recipients are Yoshikaze (M6 to M10 with 4 wins), Nishikigi (M9 to M11 with 5 wins), Tochiozan (M11 to M12 with 6 wins), and Kagayaki (M10 to M12 with 5 wins). In particular, two-rank demotions after 5-10 records are very rare, but I can’t find more deserving candidates to fill these slots.
Worst Banzuke Luck
In the upper maegashira ranks, there were too many deserving rikishi to squeeze into the available slots. Ryuden did enough (10-5 at M5) to be ranked Komusubi, but will have to settle for the top slot in the rank-and-file. Similarly, Endo, Daieisho, Ichinojo, Kotoshogiku, and Takarafuji all ended up half-a-rank lower than their rank and record would suggest.
Biggest Question Marks
From the top of the banzuke:
- Which Komusubi will be ranked on the more prestigious East side? Abi (M4w, 10-5) has higher rank and strength of schedule going for him, while Asanoyama (M8w, 12-3) sports the gaudier win total and the yusho. A toss-up in my opinion.
- Will Aoiyama and Ichinojo receive milder-than-predicted demotions because of their San’yaku status?
- What will be the relative ordering of the following pairs: Hokutofuji-Meisei, Myogiryu-Tomokaze, and Okinoumi-Onosho?
- How high will Takagenji actually debut?
- What will they really do with the mess from M10 down, and especially from M11w down? My forecast includes several rank-record combinations that have never occurred in the modern era, but I couldn’t come up with a better scenario that doesn’t involve promoting rikishi with losing records. With 14 rikishi all deserving to rank no higher than M13, something had to give.
With all that out of the way, here’s the guess: