Banzuke Crystal Ball

Who knows when it’s going to be possible to hold the next basho, but at least the rankings chart for it, based on the March results, will be released on schedule on April 27th. Let’s briefly divert ourselves from more weighty matters by speculating how the top-division ranks will be reshuffled.

The top five ranks are pretty much set in stone: East Yokozuna Hakuho, West Yokozuna Kakuryu, East Ozeki Takakeisho, West shin-Ozeki Asanoyama, and East Sekiwake Shodai. The next two ranks, West Sekiwake and East Komusubi, will certainly be occupied by Mitakeumi and Daieisho, in all likelihood in that order. So the real prognostication is for ranks starting at West Komusubi.

I went through my forecasting methodology in the last of these posts. We can divide the rikishi into three lists: those with winning records (kachi-koshi) in the top division, those likely to stay in Makuuchi despite losing records (make-koshi), and those likely to be promoted from Juryo. We first need to establish a pecking order for each list, and then merge the lists.

If we go by rank and record alone, the KK list in order of priority is: Takanosho, Okinoumi, (Yutakayama/Onosho), Takarafuji, (Kagayaki/Kiribayama), Aoiyama, Terutsuyoshi, Ishiura, Chiyotairyu, Ikioi, (Shimanoumi/Kaisei), Kotonowaka, with parentheses indicating ties. Higher up the banzuke, higher rank tends to outweigh extra wins in case of ties, which favors Yutakayama over Onosho. Lower down, it tends to go the other way, likely placing Kiribayama ahead of Kagayaki and Shimanoumi ahead of Kaisei. Also, at the top of the list, Takanosho’s low rank and strength of schedule makes it highly probable that Okinoumi will pass him for the last san’yaku slot, and it’s not out of the question that Yutakayama and even Onosho could end up ahead of him.

The ordered MK list is Endo, Abi, (Hokutofuji/Enho), Ryuden, Tokushoryu, Tamawashi, Tochinoshin, (Myogiryu/Sadanoumi), Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, (Takayasu/Chiyomaru), Nishikigi (assuming he avoids demotion). Hokutofuji’s san’yaku rank should give him the tiebreaker over Enho, and the lenient treatment often afforded those demoted from the named ranks may even place him ahead of Abi. Takayasu should be ranked above Chiyomaru, and could rise even higher—his placement after an 0-5-10 performance at M1 is probably the biggest question mark of the banzuke.

I’m predicting five promotions from Juryo, and I would rank them in the following order: (Wakatakakage/Kotoshoho), (Terunofuji/Kotoeko), Kotoyuki, with Tobizaru just missing out. I would not be surprised if the order ends up being different, and it’s also far from clear where to slot in the second-division men.

Making some reasonable guesses, here’s my predicted down to M9:

I could see different orders among the M1-M2 ranks, Hokutofuji being up to a full rank lower, and some half-rank switches, but otherwise I’m fairly confident down to this point. Here we come to the first tricky placement. By the numbers, the next in line for the M10e slot is Tochinoshin, but with a 6-9 record at M9w, a half-rank-demotion would be extremely generous. This can be solved relatively easily by moving Shimanoumi and Kaisei up past the former Ozeki, and placing him at M11e instead. Myogiryu and Sadanoumi (in either order) then fill the M11w and M12e ranks. And after that?

M12w is a real conundrum. Does Takayasu end up this high with zero wins at M1, when the two previous banzuke saw demotions to Juryo of winless rikishi from M3? Shohozan is the other make-koshi candidate from the upper ranks, but his 4-11 record at M8 also seems to call for a bigger drop. The only remaining kachi-koshi rikishi is Kotonowaka, and 6 ranks is quite a jump for someone who went 9-6 at M18. Or do we slot in the highest of the men promoted from Juryo here, and is that Wakatakakage, Kotoshoho, or even Kotoyuki? And it doesn’t get any easier as we go further down the banzuke. I went with Kotonowaka at M12w, and slotted everyone else in below him, giving preference to Makuuchi incumbents whenever it was a close call. With that, we get the following projection for the lower half of the maegashira ranks:

We’ll find out how the banzuke committee’s rankings differ from my predictions in just about two weeks. In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments! I hope that everyone in the sumo world, including the writers and readers of this blog, stays safe and healthy, and that we get to see another basho (and the associated reshuffling of the ranks) as soon as it is prudent to hold one.

22 thoughts on “Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. Okay, here’s mine !

    Hakuho Y Kakuryu
    Takakeisho O Asanoyama
    Shodai S Mitakeumi
    Daieisho K Okinoumi
    Endo M1 Takanosho
    Yutakayama M2 Onosho
    Takarafuji M3 Kiribayama
    Kagayaki M4 Aoiyama
    Enho M5 Abi
    Ryuden M6 Hokutofuji
    Terutsuyoshi M7 Ishiura
    Chiyotairyu M8 Tamawashi
    Tokushoryu M9 Ikioi
    Kaisei M10 Tochinoshin
    Myogiryu M11 Sadanoumi
    Shimanoumi M12 Shohozan
    Kotoshoho M13 Wakatakakage
    Kotoshogiku M14 Terunofuji
    Takayasu M15 Kotonowaka
    Kotoeko M16 Chiyomaru
    Nishikigi M17 Kotoyuki

    • Enho can’t be ranked ahead of Abi, as he performed worse at the same rank. And Hokutofuji is extremely unlikely to rank below Enho, much less below Ryuden. And it would be harsh to place Kotonowaka, with his 9-6 record in Makuuchi, below several Juryo promotions.

  2. Seeing the names of Kiribayama and Takanosho at such high rankings, my first reaction was that they really have their work cut out just to survive. But actually in these strange, transitional times, the joi-jin may no longer be such a ‘meat-grinder’. And so perhaps these two have actually caught a good time to get one’s first promotion into the upper maegashira ranks?

    • I think Takanosho might struggle, but you never know. He doesn’t have anything exceptional but he’s pretty good at everything, and he might have a long career in the Okinoumi/ Takarafuji/ Ikioi tradition. Kiribayama on the other hand is fast, crafty, agile and has got in going on like Stacey’s Mom. He’s going to be up there for a long time, so get used to him!

      • LOL! I very much hope you are right about Kiribayama.
        From your lips to Allah’s ears…

        (ps: RIP Adam Schlesinger, co-writer of ‘Stacey’s Mom’)

        • I did not know that Adam had fallen under the covid scythe. Hard to keep up with all the awful sh*t these days, but thanks for letting me know.

  3. The extra break will hopefully give Takayasu and Tochinoshin time to recover a bit, especially if Natsu is cancelled altogether. But Takayasu down there with the Juryo promotees is a shock.

  4. I think this is one where there shouldn’t be too many surprises in the headlines (sanyaku and Juryo promotions). But the middle of the banzuke is a bit of a forecasting nightmare given the need to under demote or over promote to make it work. I have Tochinoshin taking the minimal demotion you refer to but it could go either way

  5. My version:

    same as lksumo for sanyaku, M5-M9 and M11, but…

    M1 Takanosho, Endo
    M2 Yutakayama, Onosho
    M3 Takarafuji, Kagayaki
    M4 Kiribayama, Hokutofuji

    M10 Myogiryu, Kaisei

    M12 Shimanoumi, Takayasu
    M13 Shohozan, Kotoshogiku
    M14 Kotonowaka, Wakatakakage
    M15 Kotoshoho, Terunofuji
    M16 Kotoeko, Tobizaru
    M17 Chiyomaru, Kotoyuki

    • The Tobizaru scenario is interesting – if he gets promoted he will probably be ahead of Kotoyuki but then there’s also a decent chance Kotoyuki will be promoted with Tobizaru stuck in juryo

      • It looks like I will be in the minority regarding Tobizaru. I hope he gets the chance: he’ll be 28 by the time the banzuke comes out and he’s been in juryo for ages.

  6. Sadogatake-beya is gonna have FIVE rikishi in low maegashira? Should make for some interesting banzuke jumps later in the basho (if we have one)…

    • The two in Makuuchi are certain to stay, and the three in Juryo are near-certain to be promoted, so yeah. And we will have a basho with this banzuke, just a matter of when. Enjoy the shadow of Hakuho videos BTW.

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