Nagoya Banzuke Crystal Ball

Tochinoshin will be an Ozeki again. Image from Japan Times.

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.

Biggest Rises

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).

Biggest Falls

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:

36 thoughts on “Nagoya Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. Kaisei is usually less affected by the July heat. Here is hoping his other problems (what ever they are) are as easy to fix. I think Abi will end the tournament with a better score than Asanoyama. I would love to be proved wrong however.

      • Agree, as long as he’s healed up; when he was healthy in January, he bounced right back after an injury-related demotion from Komusubi to M8 with a 10-5 record that moved him up to M1; he should be even more of a terror near the bottom of the banzuke than he was in the middle.

      • Looks like Kaisei joined the Tomozuna training camp only yesterday. Fans report that he did not practice sumo, but did some off-dohyo exercise and some butsukari.

    • I think Abi will go 4-11 or 5-10, if the Sanyaku guys are healthy (Wasn’t the case last basho). His Sumo usually gets dissected at this level and he has no plan B. Asanoyama on the contrary hasn’t fought very well against top ranks, but I would like to attribute it partially to nerves. His sumo is more versatile and much better suited to be successfull up there. Wouldn’t even be too surprised, if he managed a KK.
      Takakeisho is very one dimensional too, but he can apply hi wave action at any point of the bout. Abi is usually done for, if he doesn’t beat his opponent right of the tachiai.
      Well, I hope Abi will surprise me. While his sumo is super boring to me, he seems to be a genuinely nice and fun guy … so if he could just add a trick or two … ;)

      • I think Abi’s problem is that his “one weird trick” keeps him in the upper middle Makuuchi. So why fix what ain’t broken? Good salary, opportunity to grab some big kensho. If the others manage to figure him out and he drops to Juryo, I’m pretty sure he’ll start reassessing his situation. But I think the level in Makuuchi right now is meh, too many one-trick ponies who don’t have the skill to undo the others’ tricks. So it won’t happen very easily.

  2. Looks to me like you have a couple of Ozekis ranked as Y2 instead of O1. Don’t think that will happen. You might want to move all of the Ozekis down 1 row.

        • No need to apologize; I really appreciate having the template, and understand it would be a hassle to change every basho depending on the likely number of (occupied) sanyaku ranks.

  3. am just relieved my Oguruma boys are still holding on esp Yago at M12 – time for a brilliant summer basho! hold strong Kaisei!

  4. That lower-middle really is a fustercluck. The door to makuuchi was wide open for lots of juryo guys but hardly anyone managed to step up.

  5. Thanks so much for these predictions – fascinating as ever.

    Question: it is common for sumo fans to try to predict future rank based on the actual performance in the last basho. But have you or anyone else ever tried the reverse inference, predicting the number of wins/losses in the upcoming basho based on the actual banzuke ranking? (or maybe just predicting who will be KK and who will be MK?)
    I guess this would largely be an exercise in saying who seems to be over-ranked and who seems to be under-ranked, though it would also have to take into account injuries and who else is in the nearby slots in the banzuke.
    Related question: Presumably it is common for people in Japan to bet on who is going to win a Basho – but do bookmakers also offer odds on specific rikishi going KK or MK? It would be fascinating to see what those odds are before each tournament….

    • While that logic is sound, the banzuke rankings aren’t consistent in this manner, in large part because every basho is different. I could see him as low as M11e, but beyond that, whom do you move up?

  6. Your rankings predictions always make sense and for me after attending Natsu and spending 4 enjoyable days there (flew in from Sydney) i also took a stab at the rankings – not as detailed as yours but with the following differences:

    Onosho and Tomokaze at M5
    Endo and Shimanoumi at M6
    Kotoshogiku at M7
    Kotoeko and Nishikigi at M10
    Takagenji and Yoshikaze at M11
    Kaisei at M15
    Toyonoshima and Terutsuyoshi at M16

    Whatever the Nagoya rankings, I look forward to another exciting tournament impact of young guns such as Tomokaze, Shimanoumi and Takagenji.

    • Always interesting to see other ideas. I think some of these are pretty unlikely, but others could be right. We’ll find out in 10 days!

      • I remember people saying similar things about Homarefuji and Amuru. Just because you haven’t heard of them and they’ve had a long string of god results doesn’t mean they’re young. Well, as young as they probably think they are. Guys starting out of college have the first half of their career outside of Ozumo. And in Shimanoumi’s case, he lost several years due to injury.

    • I don’t think we are; he’s started training so presumably depends on how he’s feeling in a couple of weeks.

  7. Big question marks. I have Abi on the east and don’t think Ichi and Aoiyama wil drop as low as you have them. I have Hokutofuji above Meisei, Okinoumi over Onosho and Myogiryu a whisker in front of Tomokaze. I have Takagenji at 10w but after what happened with Shimanoumi last time I have zero confidence in that ranking.

    I actually hope that Meisei has some “bad banzuke luck”. If he were a few ranks lower than you have him I think he would get a mixed slate of matches but at M2 he would probably get battered.

    • Yeah, I’m really second-guessing my placement of Ichi and Aoiyama having seen the other guesses, but I felt it would be unfair to move the others in that part of the banzuke any lower. Mine are pretty balanced in terms of how much banzuke luck anyone gets, but of course the banzuke committee could throw that out the window given their tendency to under-demote the lower sanyaku make-koshi guys…

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