Hatsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

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 Guess

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.

Biggest Moves

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.

23 thoughts on “Hatsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. With Enho just outside the joi, what odds do you give for him to secure a kachi-koshi? I’m loving the chance for another Prime Time bout against Shohozan.

    • I dunno, maybe 60:40? He’s done it in 3 of his 4 Makuuchi basho, and he seems to be learning and improving each time. On the other hand, he’ll face higher-caliber opposition; with the minimal 16-rikishi joi extending to M4w, his predicted banzuke position is actually similar to Tamawashi’s in Kyushu, so he could face a pretty full san’yaku schedule unless everyone ranked ahead of him shows up and competes the full 15 days…

    • There are three matchups in joi (Hokutofuji/Okinoumi, Endo/Daieisho, Goeido/Myogiryu) which aren’t possible so Enho may get called into action against some of those and thus have something of a joi schedule.

      Of course, he can’t face Hakuho himself outside of a playoff whatever rank he comes in at.

  2. I think you’re right with sanyaku. The last year or so seems to indicate that demoted ozeki get first dibs on the sekiwake slots, and other candiates either have to force a third with worthy records, or go without.

    I hope Tomokaze remains in makuuchi. Not because he’ll be back, but it just strikes me as unfair that you could get demoted to juryo from the makuuchi joi. That’s opinion though, not analysis.

    • If someone actually fought 15 bouts and went 0-15 at that rank, a demotion would be warranted. Often, they seem to treat absences as worse than losses (see Ichinojo being ranked below Chiyotairyu last time), but history suggests there’s special consideration as far as demotions to Juryo go…

  3. Prior to reading this, I spent many hours working out my own predicted Basho and found it the hardest one I’d done (and I thought the last one was tough)! It feels wrong over-demoting people, but it felt wrong over-promoting people last time, but such is life when the available ranks move around.

    Despite lots of hand-wringing and trying to see if I could possibly do things any different, I came up with something identical to your except for the last slot – I had Tokushoryu as getting promoted over Kiribayama. My thinking was just that to not get promoted from J1 would be harsh, but then it could be considered harsh to not get promoted from J5w with 11-4 when the J5e Rikishi gets it also with 11-4…

    Back in January 2018, 3 Rikishi changed places between Maegashira and Juryo with J1w 8-7 missing out in favour of J1e 10-5, J2w 9-6, & J3w 10-5. Prior to that, t was July 2001 which was even tighter… J1e 8-7, J2w 9-6, J3e 9-6 – though that was an 8-way Yusho playoff with the J12e rikishi coming out on top!

    • Great minds think alike 😉Seriously though, there are a few places where they can move rikishi around by half a rank, but it’s pretty constrained. You may well be right about Tokushoryu: as you note, it is rare for a J1w to not get promoted with an 8-7, and the recent instances in which winless M3’s escaped demotion did not involve passing over such strong promotion candidates.

  4. My coin flip came up tails, so I have Tokushoryu promoted at the expense of Tomokaze. I don’t think that Tokushoryu will be taking up a makuuchi spot for very long as his limitations have been thoroughly exposed at the top level but with a kk at j1 he’s earned another try. He;s good enough to get to the top division, but not good enough to survive there, a bit like Norwich City.

    • What we call a “quadruple A” player in baseball—too good for AAA (the highest level below the majors), but not good enough for the Major Leagues.

  5. Y1e Hakuho
    Y1w Kakuryu
    O1e Takakeisho
    O1w Goeido
    S1e Asanoyama
    S1w Takayasu
    K1e Abi
    K1w Daieisho
    M1e Myogiryu
    M1w Endo
    M2e Hokutofuji
    M2w Mitakeumi
    M3e Tamawashi
    M3w Kotoyuki
    M4e Shodai
    M4w Okinoumi
    M5e Enho
    M5w Meisei
    M6e Takarafuji
    M6w Shohozan
    M7e Onosho
    M7w Takanosho
    M8e Ishiura
    M8w Yutakayama
    M9e Chiyotairyu
    M9w Kagayaki
    M10e Tochinoshin
    M10w Aoiyama
    M11e Ryuden
    M11w Sadanoumi
    M12e Chiyomaru
    M12w Tsurugisho
    M13e Terutsuyoshi
    M13w Azumaryu
    M14e Kotoshogiku
    M14w Kotoeko
    M15e Shimanoumi
    M15w Ikioi
    M16e Tochiozan
    M16w Kaisei
    M17e Kiribayama
    M17w Tokushoryu
    J1e Tomokaze
    J1w Kotonowaka
    J2e Chiyoshoma
    J2w Hidenoumi
    J3e Daishomaru
    J3w Nishikigi
    J4e Kizakiumi
    J4w Wakatakakage
    J5e Mitoryu
    J5w Daishoho
    J6e Daiamami
    J6w Tobizaru
    J7e Ichinojo
    J7w Kotoshoho
    J8e Kyokutaisei
    J8w Yago
    J9e Kyokushuho
    J9w Akua
    J10e Sokokurai
    J10w Takagenji
    J11e Toyonoshima
    J11w Terunofuji
    J12e Asagyokusei
    J12w Churanoumi
    J13e Chiyootori
    J13w Irodori
    J14e Sakigake
    J14w Hoshoryu

    • thank u for including Juryo crystal ball in this list. i’m a big Juryo fan as well and can’t watch Makuuchi without watching juryo!! LOL Hokkaido-shushin has staked their claim to J8 spot – would like to see my boys consolidate and move on up…. Kizakiumi at J4 – exciting! Aqua will be a handful i’m predicting.

  6. I find it unbelievable that Mitakeumi would fall so much to M2w. A 6-9 definitely warrants a demotion. Maybe to Komusubi if there are more than 2 slots or at worst M1. How can he do worse than Hokutofuji who had 7-8 at K2e now predicted at M2e?

    • This is based on historical precedent. A 6-9 sekiwake almost always falls into the maegashira ranks, and in previous instances, 7-8 komusubi have been ranked ahead of 6-9 sekiwake (in general, one extra victory is weighed more heavily than one extra rank). And K1 vs K2 doesn’t really matter except for ranking komusubi with the same records relative to each other.

    • Only once has a Sekiwake with a 6-9 record only dropped to Komusubi and that was in 1952. In that instance, both Komusubi & 2 Sekiwake got demoted with the other one getting promoted. The two highest ranked Maegashira with 9-6 or better (M2 & M3) moved up to Sekiwake with the next two (M4 & M6) both going up to Komusubi.

      With the only other rikishi between M1 & M6 with a KK (8-7) going from M3e to M2e and 3 rikishi coming down from makuuchi filling out the rest of the top 4 Maegashira positions, there wasn’t really anywhere else to put future-Ozeki Mitsuneyama, so they created K2wHD.

      The reason this can’t realistically happen this time around is that you’ve got 2 of the 3 Komusubi coming down with 7-8 records, so they have to be accomodated somewhere near the top. Myogiryu finished with 8-7 in M2e and the standard promotion for that is 2 positions, so M1e – this fits nicely as Daieisho finished M1e with 8-7 so he can slot in at K1w. The next few rikishi at the top of Maegashira all had losing records, so it’s easy to slip the two demoted Komusubi in at M1w ^& M2e.

      As Iksumo said, for purposes of demotion, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a Sekiwake or a Komusubi – your win/loss record is what counts (with the proviso that a 7-8 Sekiwake usually drops to Komusubi if there’s a space available), therefore M2w is really the highest place that Mitakeumi can feasibly go to – they can’t even keep an extra Komusubi rank and slip him in there because Endo & Hokutofuji outrank him, and there’s pretty much zero reason to keep a K2 slot for a K1 with a 7-8 – especially given they only created the K2 slots in the first place because they were backed into a corner with an exceptional set of results.

      • Nice analysing work! It may be best altogether to demote Mitakeumi from san’yaku. Might (might…) serve as an electroshock to him.

  7. Should be an interesting GTB again, if nothing else. FWIW, the 8-sanyaku guess I’ll probably send in (still undecided on Tomokaze/Kiribayama/Tokushoryu) shares only 49/84 GTB points with yours. Lots of room for different reasonable solutions in this one…

    • Interesting. I’m also still debating the last slot. Even aside from where to put Tochi, which I would guess accounts for a chunk of that difference, there were quite a few decisions about the value of wins vs. rank that felt like they didn’t have a clear answer.

      • Yes, my draft is quite different for M6w to M10e. The rest is mainly caused by Mitakeumi (three higher, quite speculative I admit, might still change) and Azumaryu (three lower, this one will stay).

        • I’m still unsure what my final guess will do with the Juryo guys. On the one hand, they’re already getting a raw deal, and it feels wrong to just dump them all in the lowest available ranks. On the other hand, everyone in that part of the banzuke, with the exception of Terutsuyoshi, is getting a big dose of bad banzuke luck as far as numerical rank goes because of the san’yaku reduction, and they might try to cushion the impact on the makuuchi incumbents…

          • They can and do quite often just dump the Juryo guys at the ranks that are available after putting in the Makuuchi demotions where they belong. There’s no compelling reason to think they will overdemote mid-Makuuchi guys even more than they already are being just to fit in someone who fought almost all of his matches in Juryo just because he scored more wins than needed for promotion. All those wins got him was to be at the top of the pack of the Juryo promotees, not any further distance into Makuuchi at the expense of those already there.

    • I can pretty readily write down a reasonable draft that shares only ~52 points with the one I posted, though I’d have to work hard to get to 49 😉


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