Hatsu Banzuke Postmortem

The January rankings are out! Time to see how the banzuke committee treated your favorites, and how my forecast fared.

What the crystal ball got right

As predicted, we have an 8-person san’yaku—the minimum size it’s been in the modern era, and the first time it’s this small since 2005. Asanoyama was promoted to East Sekiwake, his highest career rank. Abi remains stuck at East Komusubi for the 4th consecutive basho, and he is joined on the West side by Daieisho, who makes his san’yaku debut.

The forecast was also on target for the upper maegashira ranks down to M6e, getting only the East/West order wrong at M1, M4, and M5. Notably, Mitakeumi does indeed fall out of the san’yaku ranks after 17 consecutive basho, and does not get any leniency, ending up at M2w.

From there, the forecast goes off the rails (see next section) until we get to the bottom ranks. I went back and forth on this, and while my posted predictions got some things wrong here, my final GTB entry correctly had Shimanoumi as the lowest-ranked Makuuchi holdover at M14w, followed by the six Juryo promotions: Azumaryu, Ikioi, Tochiozan, Kaisei, Kiribayama, and Tokushoryu. The last of these went 8-7 at J1w, which proved a strong enough promotion claim to push Tomokaze down into the second division. The six promotions are the most we’ve seen since May 2016.

What the crystal ball got wrong

I wrote that the biggest uncertainty was how far 2-win Tochinoshin would fall from Sekiwake. The banzuke committee treated him far more favorably than the range of possibilities I had envisioned, with the former Ozeki ending up at M6w, making this my biggest miss, by three and a half ranks. This had a knock-on effect on my picks for the subsequent slots, so that the next rikishi to be placed correctly didn’t come until Kotoshogiku all the way down at M13e.

The other discrepancy between my predictions and the official rankings was the strong tendency by the banzuke committee to favor losing records over winning ones. The most extreme examples, and arguably the snubs of the banzuke, are Yutakayama and Terutsuyoshi, who stayed at M9w and M14e, respectively, despite posting 8-7 records. This is the first time I’ve seen rikishi with winning records not get a promotion outside san’yaku. Similarly, Ishiura, Chiyotairyu, and Chiyomaru got only minimal half-rank promotions for their 9-6 performances, and Takanosho and Kagayaki only moved up a couple of ranks following double-digit kachi-koshi. I guess that in these cases, the committee considered that in going from a san’yaku with 11 rikishi to one with 8, staying at the same rank means being three spots higher on the banzuke. But no similar consideration appears to have been applied to make-koshi rikishi such as Aoiyama, Ryuden, and Sadanoumi, with the committee assigning them typical numerical ranks given their Kyushu banzuke places and performances.

Bonus: Makushita Joi

I also took a shot at guessing who’d end up in the top 10 spots in Makushita, from which promotion to sekitori is possible without a 7-0 record. Who’ll be fighting it out for a ticket to Juryo? As expected, the top three Juryo dropouts made it: Kaisho, Wakamotoharu, and Akiseyama. Joining them in seeking immediate re-promotion is Ichiyamamoto, whom I had on the bubble (he got the last Ms5w slot). Also as predicted, moving up from lower down in Makushita are Midorifuji, Shiba, Oki, Chiyonoumi, and Naya. Hakuyozan, another bubble rikishi, also made it. That’s all ten spots spoken for, which brings me to one surprise: former Makuuchi man Chiyonokuni, who went 3-4 at Ms2w, is just below the “invisible line” at Ms6e. I thought he’d done just enough to have another shot at Juryo at Hatsu; technically, he still does, but he’ll have to be perfect to do it.

Overall, the crystal ball acquitted itself creditably, given the many unusual features of the banzuke and departures by the committee from customary practices. On to the basho!

10 thoughts on “Hatsu Banzuke Postmortem

  1. Ichinojo’s sljde is expected but still saddens me. I hope he can compete…but my biggest hope is that he ONLY competes if he’s ready. I’m not sure if Tochinoshin will settle here in the mid-maegashira or slide further. I hope he stays at this level for at least 2020.

  2. Despite the large demotions of a few of my favorite rikishi, I’m really excited by some of the matchups we’ll get to see this basho. I’m hoping Mitakumi and Tochinoshin liven up the joi, and it will be great to see both of them in first-time bouts with Enho! And with Tochiozan, Ikioi, and Kaisei back in the top division, we may see better fights earlier in each day’s action.

    Also, it looks like Sumo Kyokai took a new set of headshots and….. um well, is it just me or do they all look terrible? I can’t tell if the lighting is just bad, or if they scheduled photo day after a bad night at the bars, but when even Enho looks like he just walked back from a scrap, it makes me scratch my head.

  3. I had 16 spot on and 13 right rank guesses. My bad misses were Azumaryu, Sadanoumi, Ryuden and Shimanoumi.

    Given that there are two high-rankers from both Oitekaze and Sakaigawa stables I think that Enho at 5w is going to be squaring off against at least some of the top guys. This could be fun. Or painful.

    • 21 and 10 for me. Worst misses (guessed too low): Tochinoshin by 7 spots, Aoiyama and Ryuden by 5, Sadanoumi by 3. Worst misses (guessed too high): Kagayaki by 6 spots, Ishiura by 5, Takanosho and Chiyotairyu by 3. The others were either spot on or off by one spot, though in 3 of those cases “off by one” meant getting the rank wrong. As noted in my post, all the “too low” misses were for rikishi with losing records, while all the “too high” ones were for ones with winning records. The committee was much more willing to under-promote than to over-demote this time.

    • A lot of the permutations in the M6-M11 range are defensible, as a bunch of rikishi had equivalent rank/record combinations, and it was a subjective call as to how to value rank vs. wins. And Tochinoshin was always going to be a wildcard. But there were two departures from “going by the numbers” among the maegashira that I find difficult to justify. One is ranking Takanosho below the Aoiyama/Ryuden duo. The other is ranking Sadanoumi ahead of Ishiura, Chiyotairyu, and Kagayaki.

  4. With a lower count in san’yaku it may appear that some rishishi were treated unfairly, but it is not the case. This is also similar to when there is an increase in san’yaku count and some wrestlers seem to be treated too fairly.

    Abi for example, may be in his fourth tournament as Komusubi, however his relative rank is highest ever – 7. Back in Nagoya he was ranked 9.

    Yutakayama and Terutsuyoshi were not treated unfairly, but due to lower numbers in san’yaku it would have been difficult to move them up – despite same Maegashira rank. On a relative scale Yutakayama is ranked 3 levels higher than in Kyushu – 26th vs 29th. Terutsuyoshi’s same M14e sees him moved on relative scale from 38th to 35th – 3 ranks higher – rank where Takanosho was in Kyushu (M12w).

    Another example is Ishiura who may have only jumped half a rank, but on a relative scale he moved up 4 spots – from 32nd to 28th, his highest and if count of san’yaku remained constant he would have found himself at M9e as opposed to seemingly unfair M10w.

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