March Banzuke Analysis

Neither man has reason to smile after the release of the rankings

The March rankings have been released. Let’s take a look at how they compare to the forecast I posted a week ago.

The upper ranks are exactly as predicted, with one glaring exception. That, of course, is the yusho winner M1w Daieisho (13-2) being ranked K2w instead of S2w as everyone expected. It’s difficult to know how to explain the snub. No yusho winner ranked M4 or higher had ever failed to make Sekiwake, nor had any M1 with a record of 13-2 or better. Since no one has ever been promoted to Ozeki from a rank below Sekiwake, is this perhaps an unnecessarily harsh reminder that the NSK does not consider Daieisho to be on an Ozeki run?

My prediction had the upper maegashira ranks (M1-M6) exactly right. However, I had reason to worry about the mid-maegashira ranks. While I expected the trouble area to extend from M7w to M10e, it in fact covered M7e to M11w, where the only prediction I got right was the absent Chiyonokuni and Chiyotairyu maintaining their positions at M9e and M11e, respectively. Among other oddities, this part of the banzuke is characterized by historically lenient demotions: only 3 ranks for Tochinoshin after a 4-11 record, and only one rank for Kagayaki and Tobizaru after their 6-9 performances.

From there, my forecast got back on track, getting all the ranks from M12 to M16 right and only placing Hidenoumi and Yutakayama on the wrong sides at M15. In particular, Tokushoryu will indeed join Sadanoumi and Akua down in Juryo, with Hidenoumi, Tsurugisho, and Daiamami taking their places in the top division.

Despite getting the middle of the banzuke completely wrong, your humble prognosticator now holds the top rank in GTB, based on a weighted average of the last 6 predictions.

Recruit Profiles: Tokiwayama Beya

Following up on Josh’s commentary about the SNS ban, I wanted to bolster the idea with a few tweets from Tokiwayama-beya (formerly Chiganoura) about their two new recruits. Social media is a great way to introduce fans to the wrestlers, particularly when they’re just starting out or in the lower divisions. But these official accounts will rarely feature the unpopular wrestlers and certainly will not allow us a glimpse into their personalities and the lifestyles of the stable. Their own personal accounts would.

Takashoki

First up is fifteen year old Takashoki, born Fujiwara Ikuto, who is graduating from Middle School in Toyota, Aichi prefecture. He likes tonkotsu ramen and is a pretty tall middle schooler. Your humble correspondent broke the 5-foot barrier his freshman year but young Takashoki is already 6 foot 2 and will have a distinct size advantage on Hattori… excuse me… Shonanzakura in May.

Surely that’s a typo? He’s 6’2″? Wow…

Yes, that Toyota is headquartered in Takashoki’s home town. Nagoya is also in Aichi prefecture so he will be going home for tournaments in July. Aside from the ninja-infested castle next door to the stadium, there’s an amazing museum there which I highly recommend for visitors to Nagoya, called the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.

Click the image for a link to the Toyota museum website
Click the image for a link to the museum website

It guides visitors through Toyota’s past as it produced textiles and textile equipment (under the founder, Sakichi) and then added automobiles (under his son, Kiichi). The econ geek in me is eager to go back. There’s also great entertainment and games for young kids. My son didn’t quite figure out that he could change gears. Oh well.

Takatairiku

Next up we have Takatairiku. His name is Ito Riku, a fan of salmon sushi from neighboring Gifu prefecture. (Seriously, who doesn’t like salmon sushi? Mmmmm….) His hometown is Mizunami, a rural area with many luxurious-looking onsen and golf courses. Why on Earth is he leaving?

I do not (yet) have pictures of Gifu. However, I will — hopefully soon.

He just met the minimum height requirement for 15 year olds but as he’s so young, he’ll grow with his sumo. I’m eager to see both Takatairiku and Takashoki on the dohyo in May! As I’ve mentioned, I’m pretty bummed that these guys will miss out on the opportunity to wear kesho mawashi and participate in maezumo. I hope that changes in May.

Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

The new rankings will be announced and mailed to supporters on March 1. In advance of this much-awaited event, let’s take a look at how they are likely to shake out.

The named ranks

These should be very straightforward. The absent Yokozuna will keep their positions, with Hakuho on the East side and Kakuryu on the West. As a consequence of his dismal 2-8-5 performance, Takakeisho will fall to East Ozeki 2, behind East Ozeki Shodai and West Ozeki Asanoyama, who will stay in their current order after identical 11-4 performances.

Just like in September, we will have 3 Sekiwake, and also like in September, the extra rank will go to Daieisho after his yusho-winning 13-2 performance from M1. He should be ranked behind the successful incumbents, East Sekiwake Terunofuji (11-4) and West Sekiwake Takanosho (9-6), with the slight wrinkle that his rank will be West Sekiwake 2 to balance out the solitary East Ozeki 2 rank on the banzuke.

Finally, East Komusubi Takayasu and West Komusubi Mitakeumi both went 9-6 and will stay at their ranks. Since the number of wrestlers in the top division is fixed at 42, 10 san’yaku ranks leaves room for only 32 maegashira, meaning that we won’t see an M17 rank for the first time since November 2019.

The rank-and-file

Scroll down if you just want to see the projected banzuke. I’ve written about my process for arriving at the predicted rankings before, so I won’t belabor it here, but I will make a few notes on this particular set of predictions.

  • I left the five maegashira absent due to COVID outbreaks in their heya at their current ranks, as this did not seem unfair to any of the participating rikishi and in several instances helped avoid even bigger under-demotions or over-promotions.
  • I’d be surprised to see any major departures from the official banzuke for the M1e-M7e ranks (Takarafuji through Kotonowaka), where the only decision I wrestled with was how to order Shimanoumi and Kiribayama.
  • The trickiest area of the banzuke for me was M7w-M10e, especially the M7w rank. Placing the next available kachi-koshi rikishi here, M14e Hoshoryu, which is what I ended up doing, represents an extremely generous promotion of 6.5 ranks for someone with a 9-6 record. On the other hand, giving the slot to the best-positioned make-koshi rikishi, M6w Kagayaki, would mean only a one-rank demotion for a 6-9 record. Kagayaki has received some very lenient treatment recently, but this seemed like a step too far, so I placed him at M8e, splitting Hoshoryu and M14w Midorifuji (also 9-6). With Chiyonokuni locked in place at M9e, I have M4e Tochinoshin (4-11) at M9w, just ahead of M7w Tobizaru (6-9), but flipping these two wouldn’t surprise me, nor would any number of more extensive rearrangements among these rikishi.
  • One rikishi is unquestionably going down to Juryo: M17e Sadanoumi (5-10). Highly likely to join him is M13e Akua (5-10). The Juryo promotion picture is complicated by a whopping 7 COVID-related absences in the top 10 ranks, but three rikishi made credible cases for promotion: the yusho winner J8e Tsurugisho (12-3), Tobizaru’s big brother J6w Hidenoumi (11-4), who is looking to return to the top division for the first time in three years, and the highest-ranked man competing, J1w Daiamami (8-7). I project that all three will be in Makuuchi in March, which means that I needed to find another demotion candidate, and I’ve gone with last January’s unlikely champion, M8e Tokushoryu (3-12). He could survive, but I’d hate to guess at whose expense. The only other remotely plausible promotion candidate is J8w Daishomaru (11-4), but he is clearly behind the other 3, and I don’t think his case is strong enough to push down M15e Yutakayama (7-8).

With all that out of the way, here’s the projection. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Hatsu Basho Kensho-kin Roundup

Once again, I need to give a huge “Thank you” to Herouth for the kensho data she has been sharing on Twitter. I have published a few visualizations that I hope you will enjoy. In November, with three Ozeki competing for almost the entire tournament, there were more envelopes up for grabs (a 20% bump). There were also fewer opportunities lost due to kyujo, since Takakeisho’s kyujo was the only one during the tournament. Almost all makuuchi bouts had kensho on senshuraku and there was a 33% payout increase over November’s final day…though the thrilling Takakeisho/Terunofuji playoff was certainly more exciting.

To prevent the visualization from loading for EVERYONE who visits, click through to read more and to see the visualization or click this link to go directly to the visualization. I apologize for the scrunched view, so I would advise scrolling to the bottom-right side of the visualization and clicking on the “Full Screen” icon.

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