Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

Paper banzuke being prepared for mailing to supporters

It wouldn’t be a break between basho with the Crystal Ball trying to guess the next banzuke. Since Timothée already posted his guess, I thought I’d go through in a bit more detail how I construct the banzuke projection.

The named ranks

The top three ranks should be unchanged: both Yokozuna entered the Hatsu basho and withdrew after picking up one win, so Hakuho should stay on the East side, with Kakuryu serving as the Yokozuna-Ozeki on the West side. And of course, we only have one (East) Ozeki, Takakeisho.

Asanoyama (10-5) will return as East Sekiwake, while the West Sekiwake slot and both Komusubi slots are open. Conveniently, there are three upper maegashira with strong records to fill them: M4 Shodai (13-2), M2 Hokutofuji (11-4), and M1 Endo (9-6). All three have held san’yaku rank before, which can be a consideration for the banzuke committee, and I’ve ordered them according to what I think will be their order on the banzuke, as the two extra victories for Shodai over Hokutofuji and Hokutofuji over Endo should more than make up for the differences in their previous ranks.

The wildcard here, once again, is whether any extra san’yaku slots will be created. One consideration is that a 7-person san’yaku hasn’t been seen in the 6-basho era (in fact, since 1934), and the committee might feel compelled to to add a Komusubi slot in order to have more potential intra-san’yaku bouts. Given the recent reluctance to add extra ranks except when absolutely necessary, I don’t really see this happening.

The other question is whether a Komusubi slot will be created for the yusho winner, M17 Tokushoryu (14-1). Of the 19 previous maegashira yusho winners since 1958, 16 were promoted to Sekiwake or Komusubi. Of course, many of those were routine promotions from considerably higher rank, but some, like like Takatoriki’s promotion from M14 to K2 after his 13-2 yusho at Haru 2000, involved the creation of a “yusho bonus” extra slot. However, in the two most recent examples, yusho winners could easily have been promoted to san’yaku but weren’t: Kyokutenho after his 12-3 yusho from M7 in 2012, and Asanoyama after his 12-3 yusho from M8 in May of last year. So unless the banzuke committee sees something special in getting to 13 or 14 wins, I’m going to guess that their approach has changed, and that the san’yaku will be limited to the obvious choices.

The rank-and-file

While there are many approaches to building the maegashira rankings, one that gives a lot of insight is to separately rank-order the rikishi with winning and losing records, and then merge the two lists. The start of my process is shown below:

Kachi-koshi rikishi are on the left, make-koshi rikishi are on the right (lots more of those this time). The numbers in the middle indicate the rank the rikishi “should” occupy based on their rank and record in the previous basho, if they were placed on the banzuke in isolation.

In most cases, the rank order of each list is clear. The obvious exceptions are ties. For the KK list, these occur on lines 3, 4, and 13. I give the nod to Okinoumi over Ryuden by virtue of his joi schedule. In fact, Okinoumi might jump over Yutakayama as well, given the latter’s much lower rank. Tochiozan gets the tiebreaker over Terutsuyoshi by virtue of the higher victory total. I think reasonable arguments can be made for any order among Enho (six san’yaku opponents), Onosho (9 wins at mid-maegashira) and Tokushoryu (yusho). And where do we slot in the two rikishi who I think will be promoted from Juryo, Nishikigi and Daiamami? Usually, promotions are placed below Makuuchi incumbents with winning records, and I don’t think either has a strong enough case to buck this trend, so I’ve ranked them below Kaisei.

On the MK side, Tamawashi is the pick over Shohozan because of his joi schedule. Tochinoshin gets the nod over Sadanoumi partly because he faced san’yaku opponents, and partly because Sadanoumi cannot be ranked any higher than M10e, his prior rank. Tsurugisho and Chiyomaru posted identical records at M12e and M12w, respectively, so their order relative to each other won’t change, but it’s not clear whether Aoiyama should be placed above or below them. Sometimes in such cases, the banzuke committee can’t come to an agreement either way and ends up splitting the two rikishi with the same rank and record and inserting the third between them.

Now that we have the two lists, it’s time to merge them. Again, this is straightforward in most cases, especially when we consider the rules that KK rikishi can’t be demoted and MK rikishi can’t be promoted. However, some decisions feel like coin flips: Mitakeumi vs. Ryuden, Kagayaki vs. Myogiryu, Nishikigi vs. Azumaryu, Daiamami vs. Shimanoumi, Meisei vs. Kotoyuki. It’s also unclear how much of a “san’yaku dropout boost” Abi will receive: enough to propel him ahead of the line 4 KK trio, or somewhere into the middle of that already messy situation? After making some fairly arbitrary choices for these cases, I get the guess below (with Kotoyuki at M18e, which doesn’t work on the template I used). The main differences from Timothée’s are: Shodai ahead of Hokutofuji, Kagayaki ranked lower, and quite a few changes among the lower maegashira, including Meisei and Kotoyuki edging out Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi for the last two spots in the top division.

We’ll find out the results in a couple of weeks! In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments.

M3w Kotoyuki 0-0-15 M18

17 thoughts on “Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. I know it’s only 1-2 ranks higher than I expected but Ikioi and Kaisei that high would be nice. Breathing room in the event of a 7-8 (even 6-9) Osaka couod be crucial. I think they’ll keep Takayasu as Komusubi, perhaps opening up a slot, like you said. It will be very interesting to see how it turns out!

    • If they did place Takayasu at Komusubi it would even things out in the upper ranks with the one Ozeki. So I can see it happening.

      • If they really felt the need to even it out, I’d say lobbing our yusho winner all the way up to K2 would be the least precedent-violating way to do it, not that I think they will…

        • I don’t think they’ll go from m-17 to K. The Daieisho to K-2 idea, that you mention, is another way to even things out. So it’ll be Daieisho or Takayasu. I think!

    • A 6-9 Sekiwake has never been Komusubi in 69 prior instances in the six-basho era, so that seems extremely unlikely. It’s happened on a handful of occasions that a 7-8 East Komusubi merely moved over to the West, so Daieisho as K2 would be somewhat more plausible.

      As for Ikioi and Kaisei, I think they really like to favor winning records over losing ones toward the bottom of the banzuke.

      • To be honest, I’d thought that Takayasu would fall to M2, with a 6-9 record. Just as a point of clarification to how to figure the banzuke, when you have a score like that, do you count it as a presumed three-numbered rank drop, or do you consider E/W positions in the count when dropping them? Or is Takayasu a special case, considering his tenure as Ozeki? I don’t have a lot of experience with banzuke precedent, but I’m trying to learn. :)

        • Either M1 or M2 would be reasonable (historically, the odds are 5:2 in favor of M1). You’re right that it “should” be a 3-rank drop to M2, so the next question is, is there a better candidate for M1w (with Daieisho already at M1e)? Okinoumi should only get a one-rank promotion from M4, so he’s behind Takayasu. The only other choice is Yutakayama, who’s due for a 7-rank promotion from M9, which would also put him at M2, so it’s a tie, and a Sekiwake who fought a full joi schedule will receive strong preference over a mid-maegashira. E/W can play a small role as a tiebreaker, but it doesn’t come into play here.

          • That makes a lot of sense; I’d forgotten to look at it from the angle of whether or not there were other reasonable options for the rank. There are so many moving parts in this ranking system! Thanks for the clarification!

          • Back when I started my own banzuke predicting, demoted lower sanyaku tended to get treated very leniently, to the point that the rule of thumb I came up with at the time was “ranks down = wins under 8”, so e.g. a 5-10 was mostly expected to drop 3, not 5. That’s no longer true, of course, they’re usually a bit more aggressive in demoting S/K these days. (A bit odd really, considering how generous they often are with makekoshi elsewhere in makuuchi now.)

            • Part of what makes prediction hard is that precedents from not that long ago may no longer apply as their approach changes, and for some scenarios the sample size of still-relevant past occurrences is small or zero.

  2. FWIW, our drafts are identical except for relatively significant divergences for M4e-M6e and M15w-M18e. I have a feeling the same will be true for many of the upper-ranked GTB regulars…

    (Our two entries would score 5/22 in GTB against each other on those slots.)

    • Those are definitely the two areas I’m most uncertain about. I’d be very happy if we’re both right and get 62 points from the rest, plus whatever hits in those slots. Unless of course they do add an 8th san’yaku rank—I was ready to scream when I read that possibility in your final promotion/demotion post 😱

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