January Banzuke Crystal Ball

It’s a week to go before the official rankings chart for the January basho drops on Christmas Eve! Time to take a guess at what the new banzuke will look like. Remember, the point here is not to argue what the rankings should be, or what is and isn’t fair, but rather to try to anticipate the thinking of the shimpan department that makes the decisions.

At the top of the banzuke, we will once again have East Yokozuna Hakuho and West Yokozuna Kakuryu for at least one more tournament. This will be a record-extending 55th appearance by Hakuho at the highest rank. They’ll be followed by East Ozeki Takakeisho, West Ozeki Shodai, and East Ozeki 2 Asanoyama.

At the third rank of Sekiwake, I am predicting that the West side incumbent, Takanosho, will stay at his rank after his 8-7 performance, while November runner-up East Komusubi Terunofuji, who went 13-2, will leapfrog him to occupy the more prestigious East side. This could easily go the other way, and there are not many precedents that meet the conditions of a demoted East Sekiwake, a West Sekiwake with a modest kochi-koshi record, and a Komusubi with a high win total. I am going with the most recent example I could find, Hatsu 2003, when Takanowaka jumped ahead of Kotomitsuki following their 11-4 and 8-7 performances at West Komusubi and West Sekiwake, respectively.

The big wildcard for this banzuke is the 4th rank of Komusubi. There’s no question that West Komusubi Takayasu will keep his rank after his 8-7 performance, and little doubt that he should occupy the top East slot. East Sekiwake Mitakeumi, 7-8, should drop no lower than Komusubi according to recent precedent (and we do have many examples to draw on here). And Daieisho (M2w, 10-5) and Hokutofuji (M4e, 11-4) put up the kinds of performances that would be rewarded with a san’yaku rank on almost any banzuke. However, unlike the most recent instance a little over a year ago in which extra Komusubi ranks were created, the banzuke committee’s hand isn’t forced, and I’m going to predict that they will choose the conventional path of dropping Mitakeumi to K1w and leaving the two high-performing upper maegashira under-ranked at M1.

Here’s the full prediction for the maegashira ranks. Note that should my Komusubi prediction prove wrong, it isn’t simply a matter of sliding everyone up one rank, as (for example) my M2 choices cannot occupy the corresponding M1 ranks instead, as that would mean promotion after a losing record.

14 thoughts on “January Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. once again, “should my Komusubi prediction prove” right :
    ma boule de cristal…
    Hakuho Y Kakuryu
    Takakeisho O Shodai
    Asanoyama O2
    Takanosho S Terunofuji
    Takayasu K Hokutofuji
    Daieisho K2 Mitakeumi
    Takarafuji M1 Tochinoshin
    Wakatakakage M2 Onosho
    Kotoshoho M3 Tamawashi
    Endo M4 Okinoumi
    Ryuden M5 Meisei
    Tobizaru M6 Tokushoryu
    Kagayaki M7 Chiyonokuni
    Shimanoumi M8 Kiribayama
    Aoiyama M9 Chiyotairyu
    Ichinojo M10 Myogiryu
    Kotoeko M11 Akua
    Terutsuyoshi M12 Chiyoshoma
    Midorifuji M13 Hoshoryu
    Yutakayama M14 Kaisei
    Kotonowaka M15 Akiseyama
    Sadanoumi M16

    • I would like the Komusubi expansion. Not convinced it will happen but I think opening up K2W for Hokutofuji would give a nice symmetry to the banzuke and a balance in the force.

      • I’m a san’yaku purist, and there’s precedent for 10 wins at M2 and 11 wins at M3 not being enough to create a slot when there isn’t one open.

  2. I think your analysis is spot on. The $64,000 is whether they create the two extra komusubi slots. While I am in general in favor of moving rikishi up if it’s an even question, I don’t believe that it was in this case. Of the top five rikishi on the banzuke, Daieisho faced two and Hokutofuji one. While it’s certainly not their fault that so many top rankers pulled out, it does take the sheen off of their double digit wins.Therefore I don’t see either performance as worthy of creating extra komusubi slots.We’ll know next week what how the banzuki makers viewed it.

  3. If I’m making the banzuke, I have 4 Komusubi, if for no other reason than to minimize a bunch of kinboshi with two aging, hurt yokozuna.

    • Ha! I didn’t actually make a full draft with more than 2 Komusubi, but some of the over-promotions and under-demotions having 4 would entail were making me queasy.

    • I was wondering if they might be stingy with the extra komusubi slots because then they have to pay them more, and COVID’s been hurting their bottom line.


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