Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball

At the heart of professional sumo is the banzuke—the rankings chart that lists all the wrestlers in order, from the top Yokozuna to the lowest man in Jonockuchi, the sixth division. The rankings are reshuffled after every tournament based on performance; indeed, one could argue that this updating of the banzuke is the real purpose of a honbasho.

The committee that puts together the new banzuke meets on the first Wednesday after senshuraku—August 5 for the the just-concluded July basho—but the new rankings are not revealed until two weeks before the next scheduled tournament, with the exception of promotions to Juryo and announcements of new Ozeki and Yokozuna. In this instance, we won’t see the official banzuke until August 31, but the Crystal Ball can give us a good idea of what it might look like.

Yokozuna, Ozeki, and Sekiwake

The top six spots on the banzuke are clear. Hakuho recorded more wins than Kakuryu, so they will remain East and West Yokozuna, respectively. Similarly, Asanoyama (12-3) will be East Ozeki, jumping over Takakeisho (8-4-3), who’ll move over to the West side. Shodai and Mitakeumi both had excellent 11-4 tournaments and will remain East and West Sekiwake, respectively.

Komusubi

The order of the next three rikishi is obvious—K1e Daieisho (11-4), K1w Okinoumi (9-6), M1e Endo (8-7)—but their new ranks are not. One option would be to leave them where they are, but 11 wins at Komusubi have been a lock for a Sekiwake promotion, and the top-ranked maegashira with a winning record last failed to enter the san’yaku ranks in 1969. I therefore lean toward S2e Daieisho, K1e Okinoumi, and K1w Endo, although leaving the incumbent Komusubi in their current slots and creating a K2e slot for Endo is yet another option—after all, two of Daieisho’s wins came by default. If the san’yaku does expand to 9 rikishi, everyone in the maegashira ranks will benefit from pretty good banzuke luck.

Upper Maegashira

Let’s assume that one extra san’yaku slot is created (otherwise, slide everyone down half a rank). That brings us to the upper maegashira. M2e Takanosho (8-7) managed a kachi-koshi at his career high, and I expect him to rise to M1e. He should be joined on the West side by M5w Hokutofuji (9-6), the only other joi maegashira to post a winning score. From here, there is something of a hole in the banzuke, with the other seven members of the M1-M5 “meat grinder” managing a combined 31 wins. To find the next rikishi who earned a promotion, you have to look all the way down at M7e Terutsuyoshi (8-7) and M9e Tamawashi (10-5). So at M2e, I’m going to put none other than your yusho winner, M17e Terunofuji (13-2). The former Ozeki’s placement is one of the biggest wildcards for this banzuke. On the one hand, Toskushoryu got bumped up from M17w to M2w in March after a higher winning score (14-1). On the other hand, he wasn’t exactly a former Ozeki and prior top-division champion, and the competition for upper maegashira slots on that banzuke was tougher.

The rest of the ranks from M2w to M8w are filled by a mix of well-performing lower maegashira and make-koshi upper maegashira. In addition to the aforementioned Terutsuyoshi and Tamawashi, the former include M10w Myogiryu, M11w Tochinoshin, M13e Takayasu, and M14w Wakatakakage, all 10-5. The group of falling under-performers consists of M1w Yutakayama (5-10), M3w Kiribayama (6-9), M3e Takarafuji (5-10), M6w Ryuden (7-8), M4e Kagayaki and M4w Aoiyama, both 5-10, and M7w Tokushoryu (7-8). And aside from a few minor dilemmas—will Tochinoshin be ahead of Terutsuyoshi? Does Tokushoryu stay where he is or drop half a rank?—the ordering seems fairly straightforward.

Lower Maegashira

This is the area where banzuke making gets especially challenging, with incumbents with middling records, higher rankers who performed poorly, and rikishi promoted from Juryo all vying for similar ranks. M9-M10 should be filled by M16w Kotoeko (10-5), M12e Sadanoumi (8-7), M8w Chiyotairyu (6-9), and M6e Enho (5-10); I’ve listed them in what I think is the most likely order, but pretty much any permutation would be justifiable. The next group, which should occupy M11-M13, contains M2w Onosho (2-13), who takes the dubious honor of the biggest fall down this banzuke, M14e Kotoshogiku (8-7), M10e Kaisei (6-9), M5e Abi (3-4-8), M15e Kotoshoho (8-7), and J1e Meisei (10-5 Y). Abi’s extracurricular activities could see him ranked below Kotoshoho; I would guess his drop won’t be any bigger since he’s been punished by other means.

The final seven slots should go to the “broken toys” of Makuuchi (Ishiura, Shimanoumi, Shohozan, Ikioi) and the lucky promotions from Juryo (Tobizaru, Kyokutaisei, Hoshoryu). The order within each group is clear, but how to interleave them is not, especially when it comes to Shohozan vs. Tobizaru and Ikioi vs. Kyokutaisei. In this forecast, I’ve gone with the recent trend of favoring incumbents over newcomers.

The full predicted banzuke is below. Let me know what you think in the comments!

34 thoughts on “Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. Should M8e read Tokushoryu instead of Aoiyama (already M7w)? I know he’s a big lad but even he can only take up one rank, no? 😂

  2. The extra San’yaku slot and Abi’s absence from the basho will mean that a member from Juryo will be brought up every day of the next basho, correct? The Makuuchi/Juryo line is going to be even more of a meat grinder, for sure. To top that off, the ranks in your banzuke down to M6 is a murderer’s row of former Ozeki, former San’yaku rikishi, and talented youngsters. I think we’re in for a hell of a tournament in September!

    • Correct. It’s not owing to the extra san’yaku slot, because the number of makuuchi rikishi is fixed at 42. Until another rikishi pulls out, there will be a visitor from Juryo each day owing to Abi’s absence.

  3. I don’t think Kotoeko’s stint as heyagashira went well last year. I have higher hopes after that great July. I wonder if he can make it into the joi. Odd to think of him as the most inspired pixie.

  4. I really couldn’t put Terunofuji that high but there is no precedent for a M17e going 13-2Y so we are in uncharted waters. Apart from Tokushoryu the nearest approach was someone called Hajimayama who got 13-2 from M17w in 1949 and lost in a play-off. He landed at M4w. The placing of Terunofuji is going to play merry hell with a lot of predictions. I think I’ll put him in at M3w.

    Just looking at your prediction there are going to be a lot of stablemate pairs (and a trio) in the upper half, so the jo’i could go unusually far down the list, even without any withdrawals: and there will be withdrawals.

    • Yeah I can easily see anything from 2e (unless they go crazy and put him in san’yaku) to 4e, where he’d end up strictly “by the numbers.” Tokushoryu definitely ended up higher than I (and most others) predicted.

  5. Here’s my attempt.

    Identical with lksumo from Y1e down to M1w. Also identical from M14e down to M17e.

    As for the filling of the sandwich I have:

    M2 Tamawashi, Terutsuyoshi
    M3 Myogiryu, Terunofuji
    M4 Yutakayama, Kiribayama
    M5 Tochinoshin, Takarafuji
    M6 Ryuden, Takayasu
    M7 Kagayaki, Tokushoryu
    M8 Aoiyama, Wakatakakage
    M9 Sadanoumi, Enho
    M10 Chiyotairyu, Onosho
    M11 Kotoeko, Kotoshogiku
    M12 Abi, Kaisei
    M13 Mesei, Kotoshoho

    Gut feeling says that Terutsuyoshi is too high and Tochinoshin is too low, but we’ll see.

      • Ouch! I didn’t spot that. My initial version didn’t have three sekiwake and had Ryuden staying put at 6w. I moved everyone up a spot but didn’t notice the inconsistencies thereby introduced. Consider Takayasu and Ryuden switched and thanks for pointing this out.

    • In what sense do you think it’ll be a mess? It should be the three rikishi dropping from Juryo: J10 Asabenkei (3-12), J14 Chiyonoumi (6-9), and J13 Takagenji (6-9). From current upper makushita, Ms1 Kotodaigo (3-4), Ms4e Sakigake (4-3), Ms4w Jokoryu (5-2), and Ms5e Naya (4-3). And from lower down, I think Ms6e Kaisho (5-2), Ms10w Shiraishi (6-1), and Ms19 Ura (6-1).

      • Mostly in the way of who in that group goes where. I would guess Jokoryu and Takagenji at Ms1, with Kaisho and Chiyonoumi at Ms2- but that seems like Sakigake and Naya get a smaller bump than usual. Then again, Sakigake was the beneficiary of some banzuke luck by getting back to juryo, so it’s fair to see it go the other way this time. Similarly, if Asabenkei and Kotodaigo end up at Ms5, that seems a slightly sharper fall than the norm.

  6. These predictions about Terunofuji are heartwarming, but I find I can’t fully experience the joy of his thunderous return while my adorable lamb chop Ichinojo is beyond the land of broken toys. I think Hakuho is still on his throne because the two of them didn’t managed to knock him off it in 2015.

      • Your predictions are so clever — and I should be pleased with Ichinojo’s improved opportunities — but still dream of him riding into the sunset with a limp Yokozuna tucked under each arm. The most unrealistic part of that fantasy used to be the shatterproof Mongolian horse.

    • Ahh those happy days of 2014-2015 when it was obvious that the sumo world was about to be dominated by by Ichinojo and Terunofuji. If you asked me (and you didn’t) a 100% healthy, motivated and fit Ichinojo would pull Asanoyama’s arm off and smack him over the head with the soggy end.

  7. I’m with Tigerboy – I have Terunofuji pegged at M3 (but east) too. It seems that generally the amount of wins has a lot more weight than the quality of aite, but a lot of spots are hard to call precisely. I agree with the Sanyaku choices – it solves a lot of problems. And you did a nice job overall – thanks for the interesting read.

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