We have to wait until Christmas Eve (December 24th) for the release of the first rankings of 2020. In the meantime, here’s what the Crystal Ball thinks they’ll look like.
The predicted ranks are in the middle column, with East-side rikishi on the left and West-side ones on the right. Current rank and record is shown for each rikishi.
You’ll note that I am forecasting an eight-person san’yaku, with only the standard two Sekiwake and Komusubi slots joining the two remaining Ozeki and Yokozuna ranks. While arguments can be made for promoting Abi to Sekiwake and/or for keeping Endo and Hokutofuji at Komusubi, I don’t find them persuasive. Having three fewer san’yaku ranks than on the current banzuke means that many rikishi will find themselves ranked lower than they would be otherwise, as being 12th in Makuuchi in Kyushu places one at M1e, while at Hatsu it would correspond to M2w.
Biggest Question Marks
Ozeki to Sekiwake to… ? How far will Tochinoshin fall? We don’t have a lot of data for 2-win Sekiwake, but the two most recent instances saw demotions to M8e, and the lowest modern rank was M9e (Konishiki, March 1994). Given the downward pressure created by the reduced san’yaku, and the need to give promotions to Kagayaki, Yutakayama, Ishiura, and Chioyomaru, I have placed the Georgian at a historic low rank of M10e, but anything between M8 and M11 wouldn’t surprise me.
What will happen to poor Tomokaze? Again, there is not a lot of data for an M3 with zero wins, but rikishi in this situation escaped demotion in 4 of the 5 recent instances. While those odds suggest Tomokaze might stay in the top division, J1w Tokushoryu (8-7) has a rather strong promotion case—will it prove strong enough to force the committee’s hand? I’ve provisionally placed Tomokaze at M16w, and left Tokushoryu in Juryo, but this feels like a coin flip. Note that if Tokushoryu is promoted, he’ll get the last slot in Makuuchi, M17w, with Kaisei and Kiribayama moving up half a rank.
I have M10w Shodai (11-4) jumping up 6.5 ranks, M12w Takanosho (10-5) moving up 6, and M13w Kagayaki (10-5) rising 5.5. This trio posted the only double-digit-win records in the top division aside from Hakuho and Asanoyama.
There are not many big moves in the other direction, other than the aforementioned Tochinoshin and Tomokaze. Well, not within Makuuchi, anyway. M7w Kotoeko (5-10) is the only maegashira with double-digit losses on the projected banzuke, and he is predicted to fall 7 full ranks to M14w. In general, because of the overall shift of the ranks, this was not a good basho to end with a losing record, as a number of rikishi are forecast to fall 5 ranks after posting 6-9 records, as opposed to the usual 3 ranks, and Sadanoumi is facing a 3-rank demotion despite a minimal 7-8 make-koshi.
The worst records in the top division were concentrated in the last four ranks, and all of these rikishi will be fighting in Juryo come January, alongside the absent Ichinojo. This quartet includes injured M16e Wakatakakage (4-1-10) and hapless M15w Daishoho, M15e Daishomaru, and M14w Nishikigi, who managed only 12 wins among them.
Do you have thoughts on the Hatsu banzuke and the projection? Let me know in the comments. And come back in a little over two weeks to find out what the actual banzuke will be and how these predictions fare.