“He’s Got My Number!”

I’ve got a new book about sumo, specifically sumo terms in Japanese, and I’ve been loving it. One new term for me is “Aikuchi ga warui” (or, conversely, Aikuchi ga ii). In Japanese it looks like this: 合い口が悪い. The term is used for a difficult opponent, one whom at your level you should be able to beat more frequently but you just can’t do it. In English, I think I’d equate it to someone who’s “got my number.” As an example, Kotoeko appears to have Wakatakakage’s number, as we can see in these tweets below:

Their rivalry is pretty young, having faced each other 7 times with Kotoeko winning 5 of their bouts. When I started drafting this article a few months ago, Wakatakakage was down 5-to-1. Wakatakakage actually claimed victory this July. And wouldn’t you know it, he also beat the other example I was going to use, Mitakeumi. Until July, he had gone 0-4. Even with this terrible July, he somehow figured out a way to beat Mitakeumi and Kotoeko, two rikishi he’d had difficulty with previously.

So, what’s another example? Let’s take a look at Shodai. He has beaten Takarafuji 14 times in 17 bouts. But Kaisei, of all people, has his number. Shodai has never beaten Kaisei, not counting fusen. The first visualization that I’m releasing here is the heatmap. The size of the box indicates the number of bouts they’ve faced each other, with the most going from top-left to the least at the bottom right, with a minimum of three bouts. That minimum kicks out a lot of the young guns and low rankers. More red means a worse win/loss ratio (aikuchi warui). Darker blue means a better ratio (aikuchi ga ii). I’m still working on ways to visualize trend or other “rivalry” metrics to see who’s been winning lately, that kind of thing. To prevent having this load every time someone visits the site, continue reading below to see…

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Oitekaze Beya’s No Good, Very Bad May

Feel free to play with the visualization.

I updated the Heya visualization. Along with a map of the stables, it’s got a table of various metrics. One key metric is the “Kachi Koshi Ratio” for the May tournament. The table at the bottom has the raw numbers. But in the visualization, we see that Makuuchi Powerhouse Oitekaze stable had a terrible tournament and lies near the bottom with a .25. Only two small stables, Kagamiyama and Kataonami had a lower ratio (0). The darkest purples come from another small stable, Nishikido. Among the bigger stables, Mitakeumi’s Dewanoumi (.6875) and Kasugano (Aoiyama/Tochinoshin) did better than .6667.

Inspired by Josh’s article about a hypothetical rikishi, hoping to select a stable, I added the “Student/Teacher” metric. As a parent, the student/teacher ratio of local school districts is always of interest when seeking a new house or when making the decision to look at private schools. With a sumo-context, Kasugano-beya has a powerhouse of 7 coaches available to help develop their 18 wrestlers, including recently retired Tochiozan (Kiyomigata-Oyakata). To keep from loading every time you view, you can find the live visualization by clicking through the link below…or clicking on the picture above.

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Keiko Peers

A few days ago I posted a visualization about Heya. I gave it the “Banzuke Dashboard” slot under the Data Tools menu above. I will also embed it at the end of this post but I wanted to play around with an idea reader Bbbut had in the comments section. This visualization digs further into the issue Herouth raised about worthy practice opponents for the heya-gashira (部屋頭), or top-ranked rikishi of a stable.

I set two baselines, one at approximate Juryo level, the other at approximately the Makuuchi level. A few interesting things come out. While Sadogatake stable doesn’t have any sanyaku wrestlers and seems to have faded a bit with the decline of Kotoshogiku and the yo-yo rise and fall of Kotoeko and Kotoyuki, the stable has a slew of fairly even ranked wrestlers. Kokonoe stable is also duking it out with Sadogatake and Oitekaze for “The Dawg Pound” moniker as the dog-eat-dog internal competition for status must be fierce.

With the default setting I used for the visualization, Ishiura is a peer of Hakuho and Hoshoryu is a peer of Meisei. In the latter case, we get a sense of the difference in quality from Herouth’s tweet below. Use the slider feature at the bottom to tighten or relax that “peer buffer.”

This is also useful to look into competition at stables with no sekitori, like Otake, Shibatayama and Naruto. I’m interested in what feedback you all may have for how to tweak the buffer. Looking at Sakaigawa, for example, I got the idea for a “veteran boost” calculation. Toyohibiki has been in makushita division for a while now but he has serious sekitori experience, having won three Juryo titles and spending nearly a decade in the top ranks. Despite the injuries and lack of mobility, he will still have a wealth of technique pointers to offer many of the youngsters. Myogiryu is a grizzled vet himself, though.

I have not updated this for the Natsu banzuke or with the various retirements. Toyonoshima, for example, is still in my Tokitsukaze listing. Even in retirement, though, he will still have a lot of experience to offer Shodai and Yutakayama.

Sumo Fan Survey!

Our friends over at GSB have created a survey (link here and in the embedded Tweet below) to learn more about rikishi popularity. We all know Ikioi is the greatest but NOW is when you fill it in to a survey and see it actually reflected in data. As people may be aware with the Tableau dashboards around the website, Leonid’s prognostication and the encyclopedic knowledge of Bruce, Herouth, and Josh, we love data. Metrics are good. Sometimes it’s just because they make pretty pictures but often there are interesting things to learn. Mostly, I just like pretty graphs that move when I click and I expect the numbers will shift quite a bit next year when Terunofuji returns to Juryo…and hopefully Makuuchi soon after!

Seriously, though, who wouldn’t love a stats-based approach to running a heya? Even if it is just my armchair heya? I’m particularly interested in the heya popularity data.

The Empire Strikes Back is always the best Star Wars movie, and Terunofuji is Lord Vader. When he beat Kisenosato…or perhaps when he beat Kotoshogiku…and knelt to accept his kenshokin, was anyone else struck by how his oicho-mage evoked Vader’s kabuto-inspired mask? Or maybe it was the evil of the victory…I dunno. He’ll always be Vader to me and now he’s back! Dun, dun, dun…

Wow. Post-basho delirium is in full swing. (Send help.) Thank God for that amateur tournament in a few days.