Nagoya Banzuke Postmortem

Refreshments at the banzuke meeting, probably

By popular demand, let’s take a look at the July banzuke and how the Crystal Ball fared (spoiler: not very well). It started off strongly, getting the first 11 slots, covering the named ranks and M1, exactly right. This wasn’t exactly challenging though—most of these ranks were set in stone. At the ones that weren’t, Terunofuji’s ranking as the top Ozeki, leapfrogging the previously higher-ranked Takakeisho, confirmed the primacy of a head-to-head playoff win. Meisei, making his san’yaku debut, got the nod over Endo for the West Komusubi rank, and the incumbent Daieisho only dropped one rank to M1w after posting a 6-9 record.

I was mildly surprised to see Takanosho, 5-10 at S1w, ranked just ahead of Ichinojo (9-6 at M6w), but both men are at M2, as predicted. And the streak of correct predictions ends with Hokutofuji, who was a lock for M3e. The biggest shock came at the next position, M3w, where we find Tobizaru dropping only a single rank after going 5-10. A demotion of this leniency is virtually unprecedented. I looked at the hundreds of cases of 5-10 records in the M1-M5 ranks during the 6-basho era, and could find only a single comparable instance, back in 1967, when someone was demoted from M3e to M4e. Moreover, the banzuke committee was by no means forced into this choice—they had to over-promote Kotoeko and either Okinoumi or Chiyotairyu anyway, and it would have been much more palatable to place them ahead of Tobizaru.

The next surprise to me was the decision to dramatically over-promote all three of Kotoeko, Okinoumi, and Chiyotairyu, when only two of these were forced. I get the point about trying to treat them similarly, but none of them even remotely deserved to be ahead of Hoshoryu and Onosho, who should have retained their ranks after posting 7-8 records, as has been the custom recently and as happened lower down on this banzuke with Tamawashi and Terutsuyoshi. In a similar vein, why in the world did they feel compelled to promote Chiyoshoma 4 full ranks after an 8-7 performance, pushing down 7-8 Takarafuji in the process?

The Crystal Ball also missed Chiyomaru’s ranking by a whopping 2.5 ranks, although this is probably my fault for placing a kachi-koshi top-division rikishi below the promotions from Juryo, even if Ura deserved to be promoted 5 full ranks ahead of Chiyomaru “by the numbers.” And in a final surprise, I had Yutakayama claiming the last promotion slot instead of Ichiyamamoto. Getting to Makuuchi with an 8-7 record from J4 is rare, but not as rare as doing so from J8 with a 10-5, and on top of this, Yutakayama should have gotten the benefit of the doubt by virtue of his considerable top-division experience.

Overall, the Crystal Ball got only 17 of the 42 ranks exactly right, and placed an additional 11 rikishi at the correct rank but on the wrong side—one of my worst performances of the last two years. Of the 14 misses, 7 were by half a rank (if we count M17e/J1e), 4 by one rank, and 3 by more than a rank—the aforementioned Chiyotairyu and Chiyomaru, as well as Tokushoryu. Hopefully, some of this analysis will improve future banzuke predictions, but some of the misses can only be chalked up to the banzuke committee departing from both historical precedent and internal consistency. I often think how different things might be if they had to publicly justify their decisions, as is the case in most other contemporary sports.

11 thoughts on “Nagoya Banzuke Postmortem

  1. I almost wonder if any of these ahistorical promotions are tacit rewards of punishments for covid protocol breaches/adherence of which the NSK might have knowledge. Or perhaps some of these moves reflect that we are in topsy turvy times in the world of Sumo (and so many other places as well).

    • I wonder if the pandemic has disrupted some of their usual decision-making processes, leading to “noisier” outcomes.

      • Classically, banzuke making is based on the results of the previous basho, but gingko nut’s comment below leads me to wonder if looking back a basho or two might help explain some of this noise.

  2. Regarding Yutakayama – this was his first winning record in a year and I think they are rewarding Ichiyamamoto for double digit consistency in juryo. I do not mind Yutakayama staying another round in juryo: his elbow still needs healing time and he was showing a bit more focus versus in maegashira rankings. Also, Ichiyamamoto is 27 and perhaps they are swapping in some “fresh blood” to see how he performs. This is perhaps in comparison to some of the older fellows being promoted recently.

    For me, in this situation, it’s less NSK covid protocol breaches and more about their need for healthy, consistent yokozuna prospects. Wakatakakage, Meisei, and even Hoshoryu and Onosho are being pushed and pressured to rise up. Though in Onosho’s case, I just want his steadfast confidence as he enters each match as I greet each new day, no matter what the record shows…

    I appreciate the write up Iksumo! It gives me banzuke insight from an objective mind.

      • Well said! Thanks for all of the great insights. This banzuke projections and post-mortems really add to my interest level as the next basho approaches.

      • could abi hypothetically, if everything went extremely his way, go through juryo in 1 basho?

        (or is it more that IYM might be back down in juryo in september? )

        • No way the Clown Prince gets through Juryo in 1 basho. Even if he blitzes the field and goes 15-0 the best he can hope for is to be ranked somewhere between J1 – J3 for September.

          We’ll just have to wait until November at the earliest to see him back in Makuuchi beyond 1 or 2 guest appearances in September as a Juryo wrestler stepping up to Makuuchi for a day.

        • No one’s ever made it from J14, Endo was promoted from J13 with a 14-1 yusho, so maybe with a zensho … far more likely they meet in juryo

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