Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

Paper banzuke being prepared for mailing to supporters

It wouldn’t be a break between basho with the Crystal Ball trying to guess the next banzuke. Since Timothée already posted his guess, I thought I’d go through in a bit more detail how I construct the banzuke projection.

The named ranks

The top three ranks should be unchanged: both Yokozuna entered the Hatsu basho and withdrew after picking up one win, so Hakuho should stay on the East side, with Kakuryu serving as the Yokozuna-Ozeki on the West side. And of course, we only have one (East) Ozeki, Takakeisho.

Asanoyama (10-5) will return as East Sekiwake, while the West Sekiwake slot and both Komusubi slots are open. Conveniently, there are three upper maegashira with strong records to fill them: M4 Shodai (13-2), M2 Hokutofuji (11-4), and M1 Endo (9-6). All three have held san’yaku rank before, which can be a consideration for the banzuke committee, and I’ve ordered them according to what I think will be their order on the banzuke, as the two extra victories for Shodai over Hokutofuji and Hokutofuji over Endo should more than make up for the differences in their previous ranks.

The wildcard here, once again, is whether any extra san’yaku slots will be created. One consideration is that a 7-person san’yaku hasn’t been seen in the 6-basho era (in fact, since 1934), and the committee might feel compelled to to add a Komusubi slot in order to have more potential intra-san’yaku bouts. Given the recent reluctance to add extra ranks except when absolutely necessary, I don’t really see this happening.

The other question is whether a Komusubi slot will be created for the yusho winner, M17 Tokushoryu (14-1). Of the 19 previous maegashira yusho winners since 1958, 16 were promoted to Sekiwake or Komusubi. Of course, many of those were routine promotions from considerably higher rank, but some, like like Takatoriki’s promotion from M14 to K2 after his 13-2 yusho at Haru 2000, involved the creation of a “yusho bonus” extra slot. However, in the two most recent examples, yusho winners could easily have been promoted to san’yaku but weren’t: Kyokutenho after his 12-3 yusho from M7 in 2012, and Asanoyama after his 12-3 yusho from M8 in May of last year. So unless the banzuke committee sees something special in getting to 13 or 14 wins, I’m going to guess that their approach has changed, and that the san’yaku will be limited to the obvious choices.

The rank-and-file

While there are many approaches to building the maegashira rankings, one that gives a lot of insight is to separately rank-order the rikishi with winning and losing records, and then merge the two lists. The start of my process is shown below:

Kachi-koshi rikishi are on the left, make-koshi rikishi are on the right (lots more of those this time). The numbers in the middle indicate the rank the rikishi “should” occupy based on their rank and record in the previous basho, if they were placed on the banzuke in isolation.

In most cases, the rank order of each list is clear. The obvious exceptions are ties. For the KK list, these occur on lines 3, 4, and 13. I give the nod to Okinoumi over Ryuden by virtue of his joi schedule. In fact, Okinoumi might jump over Yutakayama as well, given the latter’s much lower rank. Tochiozan gets the tiebreaker over Terutsuyoshi by virtue of the higher victory total. I think reasonable arguments can be made for any order among Enho (six san’yaku opponents), Onosho (9 wins at mid-maegashira) and Tokushoryu (yusho). And where do we slot in the two rikishi who I think will be promoted from Juryo, Nishikigi and Daiamami? Usually, promotions are placed below Makuuchi incumbents with winning records, and I don’t think either has a strong enough case to buck this trend, so I’ve ranked them below Kaisei.

On the MK side, Tamawashi is the pick over Shohozan because of his joi schedule. Tochinoshin gets the nod over Sadanoumi partly because he faced san’yaku opponents, and partly because Sadanoumi cannot be ranked any higher than M10e, his prior rank. Tsurugisho and Chiyomaru posted identical records at M12e and M12w, respectively, so their order relative to each other won’t change, but it’s not clear whether Aoiyama should be placed above or below them. Sometimes in such cases, the banzuke committee can’t come to an agreement either way and ends up splitting the two rikishi with the same rank and record and inserting the third between them.

Now that we have the two lists, it’s time to merge them. Again, this is straightforward in most cases, especially when we consider the rules that KK rikishi can’t be demoted and MK rikishi can’t be promoted. However, some decisions feel like coin flips: Mitakeumi vs. Ryuden, Kagayaki vs. Myogiryu, Nishikigi vs. Azumaryu, Daiamami vs. Shimanoumi, Meisei vs. Kotoyuki. It’s also unclear how much of a “san’yaku dropout boost” Abi will receive: enough to propel him ahead of the line 4 KK trio, or somewhere into the middle of that already messy situation? After making some fairly arbitrary choices for these cases, I get the guess below (with Kotoyuki at M18e, which doesn’t work on the template I used). The main differences from Timothée’s are: Shodai ahead of Hokutofuji, Kagayaki ranked lower, and quite a few changes among the lower maegashira, including Meisei and Kotoyuki edging out Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi for the last two spots in the top division.

We’ll find out the results in a couple of weeks! In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments.

M3w Kotoyuki 0-0-15 M18

Juryo Banzuke Forecast

Now that we know which rikishi will be moving up to the Juryo division in March, we can speculate on what the second-division banzuke will look like. My projection is based on the assumptions that there will be only two promotions from Juryo to Makuuchi (Nishikigi and Daiamami), only one demotion to Juryo (Kotoeko), and four demotions to Makushita: Sokokurai, Sakigake, Toyonoshima, and Irodori.

Green: Juryo kachi-koshi. Red: Juryo make-koshi. Blue: Makushita. Black: Makuuchi. Bold: career-high rank.

I feel pretty good about the top half of this projection (down to Mitoryu), but the bottom half was tricky to put together, and may be way off. The challenge is that there are simply not enough rikishi with sufficiently good records to fill the remaining ranks, even with 5 promotions from Makushita, subject to the provision that those with losing records don’t move up. I had to leave the 7-8 rikishi (Kyokutaisei, Takagenji, and Asagyokusei) at their current rank, but this still meant huge over-promotions of the lowest-ranked men with winning records (Churanoumi and Hoshoryu), as well as very high positions for the top two promoted Makushita wrestlers, Wakamotoharu and Midorifuji. (Kizakiumi and Yago get very lenient demotions).

I’m curious to see how some of the highly touted up-and-comers—Kotonowaka, Kotoshoho, Hoshoryu, Midorifuji— will fare at their new career-high ranks in Osaka. There are lots of other storylines to look forward to in the second division. Can Wakatakakage and Terunofuji continue their comebacks all the way to Makuuchi? How will Daishoho respond after his late-basho collapse that cost him what looked like a near-certain promotion? Can Kotoeko bounce back from a disastrous January performance? Will Ichinojo look any better in his second tournament back after sitting out much of Aki and all of Kyushu?

Let me know in the comments what you think of the projected rankings and which Juryo rikishi you’ll be watching in March.

UPDATE: Banzuke guru Asashosakari has a similar and probably more accurate guess over at Sumo forum. The main differences are dropping Chiyoshoma a rank and Yago a rank and a half, and moving Tomokaze up a rank.

New Juryo for Haru

The latest “Ones to Watch” graduate, Midorifuji

The banzuke committee meets on Wednesday after each tournament to hash out the rankings for the following basho. However, most of the results are not announced until several weeks later (February 24, in the case of the upcoming March tournament). There are two exceptions, both involving major changes in status that require extra time to prepare for. One is promotion to the two highest ranks: Yokozuna and Ozeki. The other is promotion to the salaried ranks, or sekitori, which in practice means a move from the third division, Makushita, to the second division, Juryo.

We have no new Yokozuna or Ozeki this time, however much we need some, but we do have several rikishi moving up to Juryo. As expected, these are Ms1w Wakamotoharu (6-1), Ms2 Midorifuji (5-2), Ms3w Chiyonoumi (5-2), Ms4e Akiseyama (4-3), and Ms4w Hakuyozan (6-1). This represents a return to sekitori status for all but Midorifuji, who will be making his Juryo debut. Among those missing out on promotion is Ms5e Naya, who lost a de facto playoff for the last slot to Akiseyama.

The corresponding demotions from Juryo to Makushita are not announced, but are mostly easy to guess. I expect that the following rikishi will be dropping down to the third division: Sokokurai, Sakigake, Toyonoshima, and Irodori. Goeido’s retirement and a lack of additional promotion candidates in Makushita means that the two bubble rikishi, J12w Chiyootori (6-9) and injured J1e Tomokaze (0-0-15), should be ranked in Juryo on the Haru banzuke.