Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

With a week to go before the March banzuke drops on February 28, it’s time for me to stick my neck out and predict what it will look like. Here’s a brief reminder of my process for those who haven’t read these posts before. First, I assign each rikishi a computed rank based on their rank and performance in the previous tournament. Then, I deal with all the cases that this algorithm doesn’t handle well. This includes ensuring that a rikishi with a losing record isn’t promoted, breaking ties when multiple wrestlers end up with the same computed rank, making adjustments for rikishi with especially large predicted moves, and deciding on the division exchanges and where to rank the predicted promotions from Juryo.

The top two ranks are easy: Terunofuji will remain the lone East Yokozuna. Shodai (6-9) will take over the more prestigious East Ozeki rank from Takakeisho (1-3-11) by virtue of his less disastrous performace. Both incumbents will be kadoban in Osaka and need winning records to avoid demotion. And, for the first time since July, we’ll have a third Ozeki on the banzuke: newly promoted Mitakeumi (13-2), who’ll occupy the lowest spot of the trio (O2w) as a newcomer to the rank.

Both Sekiwake slots are open. I predict that they will go to M1e Wakatakakage (9-6) and M6w Abi (12-3), in that order. This would be a career-high rank for both, and the first time we’d have two brand-new Sekiwake since Hatsu 2017, when the rank was shared by Tamawashi and Shodai. I’d say that Wakatakakage at Sekiwake is a certainty, but one could make a case for M2e Ura (8-7), M5e Onosho (10-5), or M6e Hoshoryu (11-4) over Abi, though I don’t find these cases compelling.

Both Komusubi slots also came open; one will be occupied by the dropping S1w Takanosho (7-8), and I think that he’ll only drop half a rank to K1e. The contenders for the other spot are the same ones as for Sekiwake above. I predict that Hoshoryu will make his eagerly-awaited san’yaku debut at K1w, though I would not be surprised if Onosho got the nod here. Ura would be more of a surprise but not a complete shock.

The Maegashira Ranks

Here’s the prediction. Scroll down to read what I see as the biggest areas of uncertainty (where to even start?).

  • How will they solve the M1e-M3e puzzle? Whichever two rikishi don’t get the second Komusubi slot deserve to be ranked M1, Ichinojo and Tamawashi need to get promoted, and no 7-8 Komusubi has ever been demoted below M2, leaving us with 5 wrestlers vying for 4 slots. I’ve gone with a very unlucky under-promotion for Onosho, but nothing here would surprise me.
  • In contrast to the logjam at the top of the rank-and-file, we have a giant hole in the middle (starting at M7w), which can only be solved by a slew of under-demotions and over-promotions, but how exactly will the banzuke committee accomplish this? I have rikishi with 8-7 records moving up 3.5 ranks (Sadanoumi), 6 ranks (Aoiyama), and even 6.5 ranks (Kotoeko), but I don’t see how to avoid this. Similarly, everyone with a 7-8 record gets to keep rank, while 6-9 records drop Tobizaru and Yutakayama only one rank, 5-win Shimanoumi falls only 2.5 ranks, and 4-11 Okinoumi only 4.
  • How high will J2w Kotoshoho (11-4) go? He is desperately needed to help plug the above-mentioned hole. I’ve stuck with the rule-of-thumb that places the highest promotion from Juryo below Makuuchi incumbents with winning records, landing the second-division yusho winner at M11e, which would be the highest promotion since Takagenji’s M10w in July of 2019.
  • How will the other divisional exchanges play out? Two rikishi who will obviously be demoted are the absent M9w Hidenoumi and M17w Kaisei (5-7-3). In addition to Kotoshoho (11-4), former top-division regulars J2e Nishikigi (9-6) and J1 Kagayaki (8-7), as well as newcomer J4w Kotokuzan (10-5), did enough to earn promotion. But whose places will they take? Three other Makuuchi incumbents finished with demotable records: M14w Ichiyamamoto (5-10), M16w Tsurugisho (6-9), and M18e Oho (7-8). It seems like there is no way to keep Oho, as with the M18e rank disappearing after Mitakeumi’s promotion, that would mean moving him to a higher rank despite a losing record. Tsurugisho and Ichiyamamoto have equivalent rank-record combinations that nearly always mean demotion. Each lost to Juryo promotion contenders, one on Day 14 and the other on Day 15. I’m predicting that both will drop, and that J5w Azumaryu (9-6) will get a very lucky promotion, but the banzuke committee could keep one, or even keep both and snub Kotokuzan (who a year ago was overlooked for what seemed like a sure promotion to Juryo).

We’ll find out how these decisions played out, and what unexpected surprises the banzuke committee might have up its sleeve, on the 28th. In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments. If my predictions are right, Onosho would have by far the worst luck on what is otherwise a very lucky banzuke, with Kotoeko nosing out Aoiyama for the biggest positive disparity between his computed rank and where I predict he’ll end up.

16 thoughts on “Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

  1. Thanks for a very complete analysis. I look forward to seeing the banzuke to see how they figure it out.
    It would not surprise me to have 3 Komsubi’s this tournament, even though that leaves a tougher ranking at the lower levels

    • If you look closely, there aren’t too many places to put specific rikishi without breaking rules such as not promoting MKs, etc. I’m sure I’ll get some things wrong, but nothing should be too far off (famous last words).

      • I think Shimanoumi or maybe Sadanoumi was going much higher than deserved on my card and there were a few of the same that were giving me fits so when the GTB entry tool was down, I just deleted my card. It was crap. I wanted to print it out just to throw it out the window.

  2. I don’t see Abi getting into sanyaku this time around, even with his performance at Hatsu. He’s not Mr Popular at the JSA and I think they’ll make him wait a bit longer for promotion to Sanyaku because of lingering concerns about his maturity. So I’m predicting The Octopus will be at M1E.

    • There are very few if any precedents for deviating so radically from performance-based rankings. He is a win ahead of Hoshoryu and Onosho and two wins ahead of Ura.

    • I get a little frustrated with this line of thinking because where does the idea come from that the Kyokai will withhold promotion to a qualified rank on account of certain individuals’ opinions about a rikishi (whose punishment has been served)? I see a lot of comments on English sumo twitter about “the kyokai thinks this” or “the kyokai thinks that” — but it’s a lot more nuanced than that as there are 105 people in the organisation all with different opinions, and a smaller group – but still a group – in charge of the banzuke process.

      I totally understand where you’re coming from, and if we were talking about Yokozuna with the hinkaku conversation, or maybe even Ozeki, I would get it, but Abi’s ranks since his return have been in line with his performances. I take lksumo’s point that the Sekiwake position could go three other ways, and I would be interested to see some historical evidence that would lend itself to the idea that he wouldn’t even make Komusubi.

  3. I think you’re probably the best English speaker at this exercise (who posts regularly about it). Thank you, your work is appreciated.

  4. Thanks very much for this. It’s given me a lot of encouragement, I had very little confidence in my GTB submission! I had the same four rikishi in lower san’yaku but on the other sides. By the numbers (well my numbers anyway) I had Abi up at Yokozuna.

    You couldn’t wish for a better example of the importance of Bruce’s Darwin matches than this banzuke.

    • My raw numbers also had the S/K sides flipped, but I went with the higher ranks outweighing the half-win advantages of Abi over Wakatakakage and Hoshoryu over Takanosho.

  5. Well considering all of the riddles to solve this does not look too bad except a few super lucky promotions (Kotoeko, not the first time for him). I don’t think Azumaryu will be promoted with a 9-6, but Ichiyamamoto should take the M17w spot. Thanks a lot for your insight.

  6. Is it just me or does anyone else get the sense that here lately these banzuke predictions are getting more and more tricky? Team Tachiai always does a terrific job at this but the task appears to be getting more murky to navigate.

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if they find some way, however remote or twisted the logic would be, to keep Oho in the Makuuchi division. The JSA has a lot invested in him as Taiho’s grandson and potential future star in the division.

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