Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 2

This post is the follow-up to Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 1.

Lower maegashira

M5 Chiyoshoma Tochiozan
M6 Ichinojo Onosho
M7 Daieisho Aoiyama
M8 Takanoiwa Ishiura
M9 Tokushoryu Chiyotairyu
M10 Okinoumi Shohozan
M11 Daishomaru Chiyonokuni
M12 Arawashi Takarafuji
M13 Takekaze Sokokurai
M14 Sadanoumi (J) Chiyomaru (J)
M15 Nishikigi (J) Kotoyuki
M16 Kaisei/Gagamaru (J)?

Make-koshi at Natsu in red; kachi-koshi in green; (J) = promotion from Juryo.

That looks like a lot of red. So I counted, and 14 of the rikishi in this part of the banzuke had losing records at Natsu. I guess that’s why they’re here. Only 6 of the wrestlers here who were in Makuuchi at Natsu had winning records, most notably Onosho, who jumps all the way from M14 to M6. It’s probably to Onosho’s benefit that he takes a big jump up the banzuke but gets more experience before having to face the highest ranks. Conversely, Chiyonokuni tumbles all the way from M1 to M11 (see “meat grinder, the” in the previous post; everyone but Endo finds themselves here: Chiyoshoma, Tochiozan, Daieisho, Aoiyama, Okinoumi).

I learned my lesson from Natsu banzuke prediction and stuck entirely to the order dictated by my computed ranks. So the only decision was how to break ties. In general, I gave the nod to the rikishi ranked higher at Natsu. But in a few cases, I bumped up wrestlers with kachi-koshi above those with make-koshi: Tokushoryu and Chiyotairyu above Okinoumi and Shohozan, Daishomaru above Chiyonokuni and Arawashi, and Chiyomaru and Nishikigi above Kotoyuki.

Finally, Kaisei/Gagamaru seems like a complete toss-up. Kaisei went 7-8 in Makuuchi. His 7 wins include 2 over Juryo opponents and a fusen “win” over Kotoyuki. Gagamaru went 9-6 in Juryo, including 1-1 against Makuuchi opponents. Their recent performances don’t give any reason to expect anything more than a mediocre performance by either at the bottom of Makuuchi, with a good chance of demotion to Juryo after Nagoya. But someone has to fill M16e…

Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 1

Following mixed success in predicting the Natsu banzuke, I’m going to take a shot at Nagoya.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Terunofuji Goeido
O2 Takayasu  

The ranks here are determined by performance at Natsu, with the exception of Shin-Ozeki Takayasu, who will need to work his way up from O2e. Although we no longer have three sekiwake, Andy’s OCD will have to cope with three Ozeki instead.

Lower San’yaku

S Tamawashi Mitakeumi
K Yoshikaze Kotoshogiku

I would not be shocked to see Shodai at K1w in place of Kotoshogiku–will the NSK favor the popular up-and-comer or the grizzled vet?

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4 ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition. When none of the rikishi in the San’yaku ranks are kyujo, there are currently 11 of them, so they need  to face 5 wrestlers outside the San’yaku to make up their 15 bouts. This takes us down to M3e. But as commenter Asashosakari noted, M3w has to face at least Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Kisenosato and Takayasu, who can’t face a wrester from the same heya. At Natsu, the numbers of San’yaku opponents for the M1-M4 ranks was 11, 11, 8, 9, 9, 5, 6, 2. So there was the expected drop-off at M3w (Aoiyama), but he and Tochiozan (M4e) still faced quite a few San’yaku opponents as a result of the combination of same-heya wrestlers and withdrawals of Kakuryu and Kisenosato. Shodai faced 3 San’yaku opponents (and defeated two of them!), and no one else ranked at M4w or lower faced more than 2.

Why “the meat grinder”? Well, as a group, these rikishi went a horrific 8-51 against their San’yaku opponents, a 0.136 winning percentage. The only one with more than one win was Endo, who sort of held his own at 4-7. Excluding his performance, the rest of this group went an abysmal 4-44 (0.083 winning percentage). Not surprisingly, the M1-M3 ranks will turn over completely, as they did after Haru, and most of this group will fall far down the banzuke, although Endo should hang on at M4.

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura
M4 Endo Kagayaki

Shodai will probably just miss out on a komusubi slot; one more victory would have sealed the deal. He and Ikioi and Endo are no strangers to this level of competition. Neither is Tochinoshin, who is dangerous if healthy. It’ll be interesting to see how Takakeisho and Hokutofuji acquit themselves at this level. I’m afraid Nagoya will be a “learning experience” for Ura, just like Natsu was for Daieisho. Kagayaki is just here to balance the columns and not needlessly trigger Andy’s OCD.

Part 2 will cover the lower maegashira ranks.

Looking toward Nagoya

What a great tournament we just had! To me, what stood out is the large number of outstanding performances throughout the banzuke, from Hakuho‘s zensho yusho all the way down to Onosho‘s 10-5 record in his Makuuchi debut. Terunofuji got his Jun-yusho, and would have been in contention on the final day if not for his early hiccups on days 1 and 2. Takayasu handled the pressure and will be ozeki in Nagoya. Tamawashi may have started his own ozeki run, and has been fighting at that level. Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze held their own in San’yaku, and Shodai, Takakeisho, Tochinoshin, Hokutofuji, Ikioi, and Ura all put up great numbers in the maegashira ranks.

We don’t get the official Nagoya banzuke until June 26, but here are some early thoughts on the top and bottom of the banzuke.

The yokozuna ranks should get reshuffled as follows:

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu

We will have 3 ozeki: Terunofuji, Goeido, and Takayasu.

Tamawashi will keep his sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi should join him.

Yoshikaze will keep his komusubi rank, and I think Kotoshogiku did just enough to only drop down to the other komusubi slot.

We should have a strong new crop of upper maegashira, who may even fare better than their predecessors at these ranks:

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura

At the other end of the banzuke, Yutakayama, Myogiryu, and Toyohibiki will find themselves in Juryo, replaced in Makuuchi by Sadanoumi, Chiyomaru, and Nishigiki. I think Kaisei will just barely hang on to the top division at M16. They could swap him with Gagamaru, but what would be the point?

Full banzuke prediction to come once I’ve had some time to digest Natsu.

Natsu Banzuke Prediction Post-mortem

Two key criteria for developing good predictions are: (1) quantitative evaluation of the prediction and (2) accountability. With that in mind, I take a look at how my banzuke prediction performed.

Upper San’yaku was “chalk” as expected. In the lower San’yaku, I (and other predictions on this site) correctly had Yoshikaze filling the komusubi slot vacated by Shodai. I don’t understand the order of the three sekiwake ranks, as it appears unchanged despite the very different performances at Haru that had all of us predicting the order as Takayasu 1E, Kotoshogiku 1W and Tamawashi 2E.

In the maegashira ranks, of the 31 predictions, I had 11 “bulls-eyes” (correct rank and side” and 3 more correct rank predictions. This is way fewer than I expected or would have liked. The 17 misses were mostly not too bad: 13 missed by one rank, 3 missed by two ranks, and I had Osunaarashi (J1) moving up to M16 and Myogiryu (M15) dropping to J1.

There are three parts to the prediction: the computed ranks, tie-breaking among rikishi with identical ranks, and the departures I make from the computed ranks based on past banzuke patterns. Let’s look at these in turn.

The computed ranks were quite accurate: the official banzuke departs from these in only a couple of places. The computed rank would have Takarafuji at M3, but because of his make-koshi at that rank at Haru, the prediction and the banzuke moved him down to M4. Shodai (one of my two-rank misses) should be down at M7, and I still feel like the NSK cut him way too much slack after his 4-11 performance. And Arawashi and Ishiura would switch sides (but not ranks).

My tie-breaker was higher rank at Haru. This largely resulted in both of my other two-rank misses, as Takanoiwa should have been ranked above Tochiozan (and Aoiyama) by this rule. Presumably his 6-9 record at Haru led to his being dropped further down, although this is not necessarily consistent with past banzuke patterns. In a number of other cases, the tie-breaker got the relative order right, and I will need to look closely to see if the tie-break part of the prediction can be improved.

So, on to the departures from the computed rank order. One rule that resulted in many of my misses was to drop rikishi with 7-8 make-koshi records one spot from their rank at Haru, even if the computed rank would have them retaining their rank. This has often (but not always) been done in past banzuke. Although this rule correctly placed Takarafuji at M4, it placed Kagayaki, Tochinoshin, Ishiura and Daishomaru one slot too low, which also led to one-rank misses in the other direction for Ura, Arawashi, Kotoyuki and Onosho. It seems that the NSK is inconsistent in this scenario, and I’ll have to see if any pattern can be identified.

So overall, I am happy with my computed ranks, need to think more about the tie-break procedure, and need to be more careful with subjective departures from the computed ranks (this also includes demoting Myogiryu in favor of promoting Osunaarashi, even though Myogiryu had a better computed rank).

Others can chime in with how they fared. There will be another opportunity to predict the Nagoya banzuke after Natsu is the in books, and in the meantime we’ll have some actual sumo to watch!

Guess the Natsu Banzuke 2.0

In my previous guest post, I made predictions for the Natsu banzuke right after the conclusion of the Haru basho. With the release of the official Natsu banzuke only 10 days away, I thought I’d update my predictions, based partly on the feedback I received from Tachiai readers. In addition to pointing out the inherent unpredictability of the banzuke due to subjective NSK committee decisions, commenters noted that the committee tends to favor higher-ranked rikishi over lower-ranked ones to a greater extent than my predictions did. With that in mind, here is a second attempt at the Natsu banzuke.

Rank East West
K Mitakeumi Yoshikaze (3)
M1 Chiyonokuni (3) Endo (4)
M2 Okinoumi (3) Chiyoshoma (4)
M3 Daieisho (4) Takanoiwa (5)
M4 Takarafuji (4) Aoiyama (5)
M5 Takekaze (6) Ikioi (6)
M6 Tochiozan (5) Hokutofuji (6)
M7 Shodai (7) Takakeisho (6)
M8 Shohozan (8) Sokokurai (9)
M9 Ichinojo (10) Ura (11)
M10 Kagayaki (10) Arawashi (13)
M11 Tochinoshin (11) Kotoyuki (14)
M12 Ishiura (12) Tokushoryu (14)
M13 Toyohibiki (14) Onosho (15)
M14 Daishomaru (14) Chiyotairyu (16)
M15 Kaisei (17) Oyanagi (17)
M16 Osunaarashi (18)

I rank-ordered the rikishi by a score based on their rank in the previous basho and their win-loss record. This score, given in parentheses, roughly corresponds to the rank the wrestler “deserves,” (i.e. 3 = M3), though of course the actual rank is affected by the ranks of others and the need to fill all the slots. So for instance, this time around, even though nobody below Mitakeumi had a score above 3, the KW, M1 and M2 slots still needed to be filled.

I then generally simply filled in the ranks from K1W to M16E in this order, with ties broken in favor of higher rank at Haru. The main consistent departure from this order is that those with make-koshi must drop a rank; this affected Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Tochinoshin, Ishiura, and Daishomaru, who otherwise might have been placed a rank or two higher. Takanoiwa, Ura, Arawashi, Kotoyuki, and Onosho benefited by being ranked a bit higher as a result of this rule.

I’ve indicated other deviations from this rank order by italics. I gave the nod to Endo over Okinoumi for M1W given Endo’s popularity and higher rank. I placed Tochiozan at M6 instead of M5 so that Takekaze and Ikioi, who had identical Haru performances at the same rank, would remain at the same rank. And I brought Osunaarashi back to makuuchi in favor of Myogiryu, who drops to Juryo, along with Sadanoumi, Kyokushuho, Nishikigi, and Chiyoo.

Differences in rank from my previous prediction are in color, red for higher and blue for lower; bold indicates differences of more than one step in rank. These predictions are more sensitive to assumptions about how rikishi with identical or very similar scores are ranked relative to each other, and therefore have lower confidence.

Have at it with your own predictions! I might try to compile how we did after the banzuke is released.

Andy’s Mock Banzuke, Part Deux: The Upper Maegashira

Here’s my prediction for the top half of the March 2017 banzuke. I have Tochinoshin plummeting to Maegashira 8. It’s been hard to find any recent examples of winless komusubi but Kotoyuki had an awful two-win record in Nagoya last year, ending up at Maegashira 8 for the Fall Tournament back in Tokyo. If we go back to Haru 2015, Okinoumi lost four and then went kyujo. He fell to Maegashira 10 in the next tournament. So, it’s not unprecedented to have a massive drop like this.

Given the strong performances by Tamawashi, Takayasu, and Mitakeumi, I don’t see how Shodai’s losing record keeps him in sanyaku. The kyokai needs ozekis so they need to bring the good performers up the banzuke. I like Andrew Michael Daley’s “nozeki” term. Only the Kyokai likely know how serious the situation really is, but it appears pretty dire from my armchair heya in DC.

Ikioi was the only maegashira with a winning record among the gauntlet ranks. His wins over Terunofuji, Giku, and Kakuryu were not that impressive given their own terrible records and catalog of injuries. But, those wins seem emblematic of the issues facing our champions. Add in there the fusen victory from Harumafuji’s injury and I think we’ve got a flavor for what we can expect in March: many white stars and even a few gold stars for the young challengers.

OK, Takekaze’s not a young challenger – and neither is Sokokurai. These dudes are seasoned vets who are probably salivating as they get a whiff of ozekidom. Both wrestlers had 10+ wins last tournament. Add in to this Takanoiwa sitting on 11 wins. They can actually hope to get 10 more this time around. If they put together strong performances like that at M3, they will be in sanyaku with 20+ wins under their mawashi. This would be a worst-nightmare situation for the Kyokai. It will be interesting to see how they dance around elevation talk if either of them put together 33 wins now, even with 20 or more of those coming as rank-and-file wrestlers.

Terunofuji’s pre-promotion win-count included one tournament at M2. But he also had a yusho. Will they strengthen the requirement seeing as how their most recent ozeki promotions (Goeido and Terunofuji) have been busts? Can they even afford to with the nozeki situation looming? Right now, I’m sure the answer floating in their heads at the moment is, “This is fantasy. These guys can’t pick up double-digit wins ranked this high. Besides, Takayasu and Mitakeumi will be the next ozeki.” I actually agree but it’s fun to think of the possibilities. If Sokokurai puts up another 12, I’m going to enjoy the show, especially given his history, getting wrongly caught up in the yaocho scandal and then being reinstated after a two year banishment.

Yoshikaze is a sleeper. He’s not going to advance but he does pose a constant danger for serious upsets. Arawashi’s success may have been a fluke but it will be interesting to see where he’s seeded. I’ve got him falling out of the ranks where he’ll pose a danger to any sanyaku opponents. Rather, the  rest of these wrestlers should provide some great highlight bouts. The three heavyweights, Aoiyama, Ichinojo, and Kaisei will be great matchups (hopefully). They can be lethargic, inconsistent, and underwhelming but I’m thinking positively here.


Rank East West
M1 Shodai Ikioi
M2 Takekaze Sokokurai
M3 Takanoiwa Yoshikaze
M4 Shohozan Hokutofuji
M5 Chiyonokuni Aoiyama
M6 Ichinojo Takarafuji
M7 Arawashi Endo
M8 Kaisei Tochinoshin

Andy Takes a Crack at Mock Banzuke

I like Bruce’s systematic, mathematic approach to the banzuke. Mine, though, is based on gut. In my sanyaku projection, you’ll notice few differences. I flip Harumafuji and Kakuryu. Rather than basing it on wins, I based it on losses. Six losses for a yokozuna (Kakuryu)? Even injured it’s hard for me to put him in the top rank — so I didn’t. I preserve the two Sekiwake standard rather than making room for Takayasu. Also, I drop Shodai from the senior ranks and let him fall into the rank-and-file.

The Ozeki situation is just bizarre. Terunofuji is kadoban, again, and should be demoted. If by some (cough, cough, yaocho) miracle he wins eight and retains his rank, I command the NSK to sit his ass for two tournaments. Let him go kadoban after 0-0-15 in May, get demoted after 0-0-15 in July, and come back healthy with a shot to regain his rank in September. Meanwhile, Goeido’s injury appears very serious as well. He has the luxury of sitting out this tournament and coming back kadoban in May.

Given the apparent seriousness of both rikishi’s injuries, it is possible that we will not have any ozeki by July. Add in the injuries to two yokozuna, this opens the door very wide for a *new crop* (新米) of champions in sumo. The three at the top of my list are the three junior sanyaku rikishi: Tamawashi, Takayasu, and Mitakeumi. I believe there’s a 75% chance for new ozeki this summer, 100% chance of new ozeki (likely 2) by year end. If I’m wrong, I will eat a raw wasabi root – marinated in yuzukosho – and post the video on YouTube.

Key to any promotion is health. I will find that article my wife sent me which mentions Kisenosato’s anti-injury training this weekend and post again after the banzuke. He’s been incredibly resilient through his career. I seem to recognize a “tawara-awareness” where he doesn’t risk a nasty fall for a win on the edge. He fights but remains in control and on the dohyo.

Endo used to go for it all to try to pull off a win. I’ve noticed he’s trying to stay in control. If the opponent has position and isn’t off-balance (thus susceptible to a quick pivot) the best course of action is to step out. Don’t go out to a careless knee or back injury from an uncontrolled fall. If possible, tumble in a controlled fashion.

If I were to start a heya, controlled falls from the dohyo would be the first thing I’d teach my rikishi. I’d bring in Hollywood stunt doubles and Chinese tumbling acrobats to show my wrestlers how to brace and control their falls from any position. Then I’d say, if you can’t win with a pivot on the tawara, don’t destroy your knee. Just step out and beat the fucker gentleman over the head next time.

Below is my take on the sanyaku for March:

Rank East West
Y Hakuho Harumafuji
Y Kakuryu Kisenosato
O Goeido Terunofuji
S Kotoshogiku Tamawashi
K Takayasu Mitakeumi