Rank Changes Through The Years

While we put together our own predictions of the next banzuke, inevitably we’ll come across some real head scratchers. Tim gave me some insight on Twitter that kyujo complicates this banzuke guessing-game by robbing us of our zero-sum game. There will be absences, like those of Terunofuji, which will not have corresponding wins among the rest of the field. So, inevitably, we get some wild swings especially in the mid-maegashira ranks. I’ve attempted to visualize those swings.

I’ve been toying around with a way to visualize this in a way that will be helpful for trying to predict the banzuke. So what I’ve got right now is a little dynamic heatmap that takes each wrestler’s starting rank (going back to 1958 and the modern 6 basho, 15 match-day calendar), and plots it along side where they end up on the next banzuke.

I don’t have 2022 data in here yet and that’s not really a priority at the moment. In fact, you may want to filter the years to exclude the “Covid Years” because this shows the effect of Covid Kyujo. The histogram of wins shows that there’s a bit of skew, a fat tail there, for wrestlers with zero wins as we see that instances of full kyujo occur more often than wrestlers getting one or two wins in a tournament. Click on that 0 win bar, and the outliers are apparent as some wrestlers preserved their rank with zero wins, while most dropped dramatically. Around M5, they’re all dropping to Juryo but we can see that even wrestlers in the joi have fallen out of the top division by posting zero wins.

Zero Wins: Narrow Band of Possibility, Unless Covid Kyujo

“Well, what does this mean for my predictions, Andy?” There are several things we can learn. For example, if a wrestler has 6 or 7 wins, or even 11 or 12 wins, there’s a very narrow band of probable ranks to put that wrestler. However, if a wrestler has 8 or 9 wins, this appears to be where the art comes into play. With 8 wins, a wrestler at Maegashira 11 has been promoted anywhere from Maegashira 2…to staying on that same 11th rank. The heatmap shows us they tend to fall around M8 but specific circumstances can make for wild swings.

Wider Bands for 8-win Kachi-Koshi

We’d expect a relatively normal distribution of wins but there’s actually fewer instances of 7-wins than expected, even fewer than there are 6-win records. There’s also a bit of a larger-than-expected spike for 8 wins. When filtered for 2012-2021, the distribution appears more normal. There’s still a spike at 8 wins but with the importance of that 8-win threshold on a sekitori’s career and income, it is to be expected, especially if one is possibly injured; Get that 8th win and then go kyujo. But is this evidence that yaocho has been rooted out of the sport, or at least that the situation is better than it was decades ago?

Less Pronounced 8-Win Spike

My Guess

Now, how did this help (or not help) my banzuke guess? Well, we won’t really know until the banzuke comes out but I feel like I did my best. I wasn’t as leery of over-promoting wrestlers with 8 and 9 wins, of which there were several. It was still very difficult to place Takayasu. From his position he could very well contend for a sanyaku position but I had to settle him at Maegashira 2 East. This would be a historically low position for M7 with 12 wins. He was in this same position after Hatsu 2013 and was promoted to M1. Unfortunately, I think Ichinojo and Kiribayama will just pip him to those top rank-and-file slots since Takayasu was out of the joi-jin.

I think this did help me feel more confident in how I placed the Juryo promotees, and who I picked, as well. But there are definitely several who I am really not sure about. I had Shimanoumi as high as M5-6 for a while but I am more comfortable with this version. Tobizaru gets a decent bump but he’s certainly not far out of the ordinary.

I have published the visualization below here, just click the “Read More” link if you’re on the homepage. If you clicked through directly to the article from Twitter, it should show up by default, I believe. Anyway, I don’t want it to always load for everyone because I know the Tableau vizzes can churn for a bit. So for those just browsing on the home page, this won’t kill anything.

Anyway, if you click through and play with it, I would advise clicking the button to view it full screen, down toward the bottom right of the visualization. It makes it much easier to work with.

I’m also planning some updates. In particular, I want to include a parameter for the number of kyujo bouts in makuuchi. And I’ve got the data to do this for the lower divisions.

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March Banzuke Posted

The starter’s gun for the Osaka basho has sounded, when the Haru banzuke was published early Monday morning in Tokyo. It comes as no surprise to Team Tachiai that our own lksumo has once again scored many direct calls on the new rating sheet. Well done sir!

Some highlights

  • First appearance of Mitakeumi at the rank of Ozeki, showing up as O2w.
  • Kadoban twins Shodai and Takakeisho share O1e / O1w
  • Wakatakakage making a debut at Sekiwake 1e – Big up to him
  • Abi back in san’yaku, taking up a new career-high rank of S1w – hell, that didn’t take long at all. kadoban Ozeki, prepare your countermeasures to Abi-zumo now. You may need it
  • Hoshoryu makes his san’yaku debut, at Komusubi 1w – going to be a big challenge for him, but he’s taking a nice, incremental path upward.
  • Ura at Maegashira 1w, his highest ever rank
  • Ishiura at Maegashira 5w, his highest ever rank
  • Kotoshoho, after taking the Juryo yusho, he blasts his way back into the top division at Maegashira 14e
  • Kotokuzan joins the top division at M16w, he had an excellent 10-5 finish in January, and we hope he can keep it going in Osaka.
  • Nishikigi’s 9-6 January finish was enough to put him at Maegashira 16e, his first top division ranking since July of 2020.

Feel free to include your favorite in the comments. We are quite excited that the next tournament is less than 2 weeks away.

Kyushu Banzuke Weekend

The glorious weekend sumo fans adore, it’s time for the November ranking sheet, due to be release Sunday afternoon US time, Monday morning Japan time. With Hakuho, “The Boss” no retired, it may lead one to assume that its time to turn the old guard out for good. But just to defy those expectations, we expect none other than Kyushu brawler Shohozan to return to the top division.

This will be the first time since 2019 that the tournament will actually be held in Fukuoka, and I am hoping that the fans in Western Japan turn up in force and with as much enthusiasm as is permitted to cheer on what could be a big basho for lone Yokozuna Terunofuji.

Team Tachiai will post the banzuke as soon as it’s available, so be ready for a storm of sumo fandom in a bit under 48 hours.

Banzuke Notes

Now that we’ve had a day to digest the May banzuke, I wanted to note a few things. I also couldn’t resist an opportunity to throw together a visualization. I’ve used the Kyokai’s data from Sumo.or.jp to color-code the banzuke by Height, Weight, and BMI. With Ikioi sadly relegated to the depths of Makushita, Kaisei is the ranking giant on the Makuuchi list.

Now, on the the ranking list itself. It is our first without Kakuryu in a Yokozuna slot in seven years and Hakuho is alone, again, for the first time since 2012. We discussed this at a bit more length in our podcast but, in sum, part of me is glad that the chronic kyujo drama is finally over and I look forward to him setting up his own stable…while we wait on pins and needles for the other shoe to drop.

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