Handicapping The Natsu Banzuke – Part 3

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The Fish Tank & Fresh Faces

*Updated after reader lksumo pointed out that my spreadsheet had somehow skipped special prize winner Takakeisho. This caused a complete re-compute of the lower 8 ranks.

In the last of our series prognosticating the banzuke for Natsu, we take a look at the lower half Makuuchi, including the rikishi who are likely to be demoted down to Juryo and promoted out of Juryo to the upper division.

As stated in the prior posts, the records at the end of Haru left a chaotic mess for predicting the Natsu banzuke. There were a number of strong finishers in Juryo, and a lot of losing records in Makuuchi. In fact the lower Maegashira suffered a preponderance of losing records, and in fact it was difficult this basho not to promote rikishi with losing records, simply because there were so few winning records, and most of those had already moved up the banzuke into upper Maegashira.

Gone from the upper division is Nishikigi, who had been a lower Maegashira for some time. He will go back to Juryo to adjust and try again. His rank velocity was a horrific -7.5, as he went 5-10 in March. Also back to Juryo is Chiyoo, who was injured and withdrew on day 11, after already having secured his make-koshi. We hope he has recovered and is ready to dominate in Juryo.

Also gone from Maegashira is Sadanoumi who had a 4-11 record in March. His rank velocity was -7, and he was tagged for a return to Juryo fairly early on. Joining him is Mongolian Kyokushuho, whose 5-10 record from Maegashira 14 was his ticket back to the second division.

Joining Makuuchi from Juryo is a set of hard charging rikishi ready to compete in the top division. Chief among these is Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki, who returns after a single basho in Juryo. Tachiai also predicts that veteran Chiyotairyu’s winning record will return him to lower Maegashira as well.

We also predict that Onomatsu beya’s Onosho will be making his Makuuchi debut. This up-and-comer has been in Juryo for 13 tournaments, and finally appears to be ready to join the top division. When filling in the banzuke, it was clear that there needed to be one more name kept in Makuuchi, or brought up from Juryo. I am going out on a limb here, but I am going to predict that Osunaarashi will make his return once more to the top division.

Running everyone’s scores through the magic computations gives us the following list:

East Rank West
Hokutofuji Maegashira 8 Shohozan
Arawashi Maegashira 9 Ichinojo
Kagayaki Maegashira 10 Ura
Tochinoshin Maegashira 11 Toyohibiki
Ishiura Maegashira 12 Onosho
Kotoyuki Maegashira 13 Tokushoryu
Chiyotairyu Maegashira 14 Kaisei
Daishomaru Maegashira 15 Oyanagi
Osunaarashi Maegashira 16

First up at Maegashira 8; Hokutofuji, who drops 2 ranks after turning in his first career losing record. Hokutofuji displays significant skill, strength and fighting spirit. I am going to assume that he will start Natsu with a burning desire to continue his march up the banzuke. At 8 west we find Shohozan, who is part of Kisenosato’s dohyo-iri team. He drops 5 places from Maegashira 3, after receiving a brutal pounding in March.

At Maegashira 9 we find Arawashi who suffered a 5 rank demotion after going 4-11. Arawashi has a lot of potential, but for some reason he was out of his element in Osaka. Joining him is Mongolian giant Ichinojo, who drops from Meagashira 7. In spite of a strong losing record, he was actually less terrible than some of his peers, so his demotion is less severe.

Journeyman Kagayaki, who is still struggling to put together a winning plan for surviving his Makuuchi bouts, holds the east slot for Maegashira 10. Ura was one of the few bright spots in March’s lower Maegashira, and he rises 2 ranks to take the west slot of the 10th rank.

Leading Meagashira 11 is Tochinoshin, who has been seriously hurt for a few tournaments now, and is a shadow of his former self. Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki joins in the west slot, and we predict he will feel right at home resuming his Makuuchi duties after a single basho in Juryo.

Ishiura has been struggling to put together a consistent winning strategy for Makuuchi. His compact size, excellent speed and outstanding strength supply him with a lot of building blocks, but we wait for him to come up with a knock-out combination that shows us what he is really capable of. I suspect he may be getting ready to bounce back from a pair of somewhat disappointing tournaments. Joining him, Onosho makes a strong Makuuchi debut at the rank of Maegashira 12.

Kotoyuki, falls 4 ranks given his dismal 5-10 results from the Haru basho to Maegashira 13. Computationally, I suspect that Kotoyuki will be further down the banzuke, but at the present my calculations are a bit fuzzy on where the Juryo promotees will be inserted into Makuuchi. At 13 west, Tokushoryu, who was one of the few kachi-koshi sumotori from March. He gets a bump up 2 ranks and hopefully can turn in a second winning record in May.

For Maegashira 14, Chiyotairyu returns from a single basho in Juryo. He achieved a winning record from Juryo 1 rank, and will return to Maegashira for May. On the west, we find Kaisei still hanging on to a bert in the top division. Kaisei sat out several days of Haru with injuries, and then joined and had a miserable time of it. Somehow this guy is able to evade demotion to Juryo every time, and I predict that he will somehow survive yet again, albeit at a much lower rank.

Daishomaru drops two ranks to Maegashira 15, after a 7-8 result in Osaka. If he has another losing record he will likely return to Juryo to tune himself up. Bring promoted from Juryo is Oyanagi. This will only be his 8th basho! Oyanagi has experienced a meteoric rise, and is now in Makuuchi after only 3 tournaments in Juryo.

Bringing up the final slot in Makuuchi, is my wish-casting of yet another return of the sandstorm, Osunaarashi, to Maegashira. His last Maegashira appearance saw Osunaarashi become injured, and unable to compete strongly. I will be surprised to see him actually re-joing the top division, but as stated earlier, the lower end of Makuuchi ranking was very difficult this time.

That’s Bruce’s guess for Natsu 2017. As always, please feel free to post your ideas too!

Haru Day 10 Preview

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Act Two Closing Day

Today we saw Ozeki Terunofuji dismiss his kadoban status in a thunderous fashion. He has been totally dominating his matches and has, beyond a shadow of a doubt, earned his way back to good standing. Sadly today also marks the day that Ozeki Goeido goes kadoban. Due to his withdrawal from the Haru Basho, today was marked as his 8th loss. With his make-koshi now secure, Goeido is facing a challenging time in the May tournament in Tokyo.

Day 10 could also be kinboshi day, as there are 2 Maegashira facing off against the Yokozuna corps today. Hopes are always high that Yoshikaze can blast his way though any opponent, and it would be magical to see him score yet another gold star win against Kakuryu a day after his birthday. Not to be discounted is Endo facing off against Harumafuji, who gives up kinboshi more than any other active Yokozuna today. They come to their day 10 bout with matching 6-3 records.

The Haru leader board is little changed, except that several rikishi feel out of the Chase group, and the pack of men who have the records to put them within Yusho connection has shrunk to 6. Both Takayasu and Kisenosato would need to lose at least once for Terunofuji or Tochiozan to have a shot.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan
Chasers – Kakuryu, Chiyoshoma

6 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Chiyoo vs Ura – Ura has been a lot of fun to watch, but make no mistake he is focused on one thing – getting to 8 wins. Going into day 10, he is at 4-5, and needs 4 more wins out of the next 6 days to guarante his remaining in Makuuchi. He has been Chiyoo in 2 of their prior 3 meetings, and Chiyoo is likewise struggling to clinch a winning record.

Takakeisho vs Ishiura – Takakeisho has been having a solid basho, and comes into day 10 with 6-3, more or less assured that he will find a way to pick up the last two wins. His opponent is the compact battle-mouse Ishiura, who can likely survive a losing record this one time. I expect there to be some furious action, as Ishiura never fights at half speed.

Daishomaru vs Tochiozan – With only one loss, Tochiozan already has his kachi-koshi, and he is set for May. But I suspect he is looking for a solid move up the banzuke. Daishomaru brings his 6-3 record into day 10, looking to give himself some buffer for the last 5 days. Daishomaru won their only prior meeting.

Tokushoryu vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma needs one more win for his kachi-koshi, and may get it on day 10. While Tokushoryu comes to the dohyo with a strong winning record, Chiyoshoma is ranked higher, and is much more capable this basho. He has also won all 4 of their prior matches.

Kotoshogiku vs Takekaze – 4 more wins in 6 days. It means 2 wins for every loss over the rest of the basho. Kotoshogiku can do this, but it’s going to be tough, even starting day 10 with a 6-3 record. Kashi-koshi is not good enough, it’s 10 wins or bust. Day 10 he faces off against the henka master, Takekaze. Their prior matches are split evenly 14-13

Takanoiwa vs Takayasu – Takanoiwa is having a tough basho at 2-7, but as always he is capable of surprising even the mightiest Yokozuna with his explosive, attack-oriented sumo. But he’s facing Takayasu, who is on a mission from the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan itself. A win today would put Takayasu in double digits, and would be a big boost for any special prizes and his ongoing Ozeki campaign. Their prior bouts split 3-2 with advantage to Takayasu.

Shodai vs Terunofuji – Shodai is plagued by being too high in his tachiai – it seems he has a driving need to protect his face. Terunofuji does not care about his face. I am not sure Terunofuji cares about Shodai except as a meat popsicle that he can defeat on the dohyo. Terunofuji is a man possessed, and I am curious to see how far he will go with his current streak of powerful, winning sumo.

Yoshikaze vs Kakuryu – If there is one rikishi that can upset anyone on any day, even on the street right after lunch it’s the amazing Yoshikaze. It’s safe to assume that the Berserker will retire some time in the next few years to become a coach or stable runner himself, but on the way towards that next career, a few more kinboshi mean more money for him and his family. Kakuryu is a slippery, reactive warrior of the first order, and he will not be easy to beat. But Yoshikaze has beat him 5 times during their 15 career matches.

Harumafuji vs Endo – I am predicting nodowa attack festival, mini-henka, death spin or a combination here. Endo can surprise Harumafuji, who seems to be a bit more hurt every day of this basho. But it should be noted that thus far Endo has never beat “The Horse”, so a victory day 10 is a tall order.

Haru Day 8 Preview

Homemade White Chocolate Japanese Birthday Cake in Shape of Happy Bear Face

I Visited Tachiai, And All I Got Was This Preview…

Sunday is Yoshikaze’s birthday. I would love to bake him a cake and buy him a bottle of fine whisky for a gift, but alas there is no way to send it to him. The last person I tried to email a cake to said it never showed up, so I can’t help to think what would happen trying to email or fax a cake to Japan. You would think that with a long and glorious career they would have a party on the dohyo for him. Instead he gets to battle a giant Bulgarian guy with significant man-boobs.

Some rikishi won today, an equal number lost. But interestingly enough, everyone seemed to have a good time. But tomorrow, I am told, is the half way point. We have an interesting Yusho picture, but the final battle is still one week away

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan
Chasers – Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Tamawashi, Kotoshogiku, Takarafuji, Chiyonokuni, Chiyoshoma, Okinoumi, Tokushoryu

8 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Tokushoryu vs Kyokushuho – even 5-5 history between these two. Tokushoryu looked solid day 7, and I am picking him to have an edge here. Dare we hope for another long running battle of pushing and thrusting? Remember it’s all fun and games until someone’s head falls off.

Myogiryu vs Ishiura – These two have only met once, and Ishiura won. I am going to the small bundle of muscles again, or as my wife calls him “Scary Guy”. Her assessment was not improved by his day 7 bout where he crumpled Nisikigi like an empty beer can.

Chiyoo vs Tochiozan – This is their first meeting, and I have concerns that Tochiozan’s winning streak was snapped on day 7. I do hope he does not fall into a losing streak funk, as Maegashira 10 should be an easy ride for him.

Ura vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has been doing a lot of crowd surfing this basho, and I am sure that the shimpan corps are on the lookout for his next attempt. I doubt Ura will supply that much velocity off the dohyo, so RoboCop should be safe. Ura is desperate to get comfortable fighting the Makuuchi guys, and so this Kotoyuki match will be a good indicator of where his mind is.

Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi is holding up quite well this basho, I am happy to report. He needs 3 more wins for Kachi-koshi, and he may get another one of those on Sunday. Okinoumi won their only prior match.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – A troublesome bout, as Endo will likely go for technique focusing on the mawashi. Hokutofuji showed on day 7 he can make that work. Endo is flaky enough that he might lose this one. One word – Gamberize!

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – Birthday match for Yoshikaze. I just hope that his face survives more or less intact given Aoiyama’s habit of trying to test how well people’s dental work is holding up.

Chiyoshoma vs Takarafuji – Lots of potential in this bout, I see Takarafuji as wanting to regain momentum after his day 7 loss. Likewise it’s time for Chiyoshoma to step on the gas and get his sumo into higher gear for the second half of the basho.

Kotoshogiku vs Sokokurai – 5 wins to go for the human bulldozer to reclaim his Ozeki rank. Will Sokokurai make the same mistake as the last two rikishi and go chest to chest with this guy?

Ikioi vs Takayasu – will Ikioi deploy the henka, or will Takayasu blast him into the cheap seats?

Mitakeumi vs Terunofuji – After what Terunofuji did to Takekaze, this should be an interesting match. Will Mitakeumi go for the belt and face the dishonor of the curb-side recycling can maneuver, or will he go run and gun and try to get Terunofuji off balance?

Harumafuji vs Takanoiwa – It’s not a proper basho without a Harumafuji death-spin. I am counting on the Horse to produce the wondrous move as soon as he is feeling up to it. Hopefully today.

Shodai vs Kakuryu – Shodai comes in too high at the tachiai, Kakuryu slaps him once and backs up, Shodai chases, Kakuryu pulls him to the clay. *SCENE*

Shohozan vs Kisenosato – Captain Bicep vs the Great Pumpkin. The question everyone is asking, will Kisenosato even really get excited about this match?

Handicapping The Haru Banzuke – Part 3

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The Fish Tank & Fresh Faces

In the last of our series prognosticating the banzuke for Haru, we take a look at the lower half Makuuchi, including the rikishi who are likely to be demoted down to Juryo and promoted out of Juryo to the upper division.

The action during Hatsu in January saw some incredible winning records among rikishi ranked below Maegashira 4, several of whom racked up double digit records. This resulted in some dramatic shifts up and down the banzuke, with some names familiar to Tachiai readers poised for some of their lowest ranking in many tournaments.

Gone from the upper division are Chiyootori, who was only at Maegashira 14, but had a terrible rank velocity score of -3.3, which is identical to his stablemate Chiyotairyu. One of them is going back to Juryo most likely, and a flip of a coin gave me Chiyootori. The overwhelming swarm of Kokonoe beya wrestlers in January caused fits for scheduling, and frankly it will be good to thin the ranks a bit.

Likewise we can wave goodbye to Gagamaru, the massive Georgan turned in yet another terrible performance in January, with a rank velocity score of -5.5 from his 5-10 result. Sadly we are also losing Osunaarashi, who gave it everything he had but was just too injured to compete in January. His last demotion was brutal, and I have no idea how far down the banzuke he is going to drop.

Joining Makuuchi from Juryo are 3 favorites who have worked hard to win their upper-division slots: Juryo yusho winner DaieishoKyokushuho, and Tachiai favorite Ura.

Running everyone’s scores through the magic computations gives us the following list:

East Rank West
Chiyoshoma Maegashira 8 Kaisei
Okinoumi Maegashira 9 Kotoyuki
Tochiozan Maegashira 10 Kagayaki
Ishiura Maegashira 11 Myogiryu
Takakeisho Maegashira 12 Daishomaru
Sadanoumi Maegashira 13 Daieisho
Ura Maegashira 14 Nishikigi
Kyokushuho Maegashira 15 Chiyoo
Chiyotairyu Maegashira 16

First up at Maegashira 8, Chiyoshoma dropping 2 ranks from Maegashira 6. Chiyoshoma had a fairly decent performance at Hatsu, including wins over Maegashira 4 Endo and Maegashira 5 Takekaze. He is joined on the west by Kaisei, who has been struggling for several tournaments, but managed to get his kachi-koshi with a win over Gagamaru on the final day.

Leading up Maegashira 9 is the injured and struggling Okinoumi, who could only find 4 wins in January. He drops 6 ranks in a fairly brutal demotion that is more a testament to his injuries than his sumo skill. Joining him is Kotoyuki, another veteran who had a terrible tournament in January. He falls 3 ranks to take up the west position.

Tochiozan falls 6 ranks as well to take the Maegashira 10e slot. He managed only 3 wins in January and is really having trouble recapturing his former power and strength. Joining him is Kagayaki, who rises 1 rank on the back of his 8-7 kachi-koshi from January.

After an impressive debut performance in Kyushu, Ishiura struggled during Hatsu, managing only 6 wins. He drops two ranks to take up the Maegashira 11e slot. Myogiryu had a horrific Hatsu, with a 4-11 result. He drops 4 ranks to occupy the Maegashira 11w slot at Osaka.

Maegashira 12 seems to be a strange rank this tournament. Both occupants, Takakeisho in the east and Daishomaru in the west, were at this same rank for January, and ended up with 7-8 records. But because of the downward velocity of some other rikishi, they ended up here. Be aware that they may end up lower in the final, NSK banzuke.

Sadanoumi improves to Maegashira 13e for Haru after being Maegashira 15 in January, his 8-7 kachi-koshi record was enough to bring him forward 2 ranks. He is joined by the Juryo yusho winner, Daieisho, who is making his return to Makuuchi after 3 tournaments in Jury.

At Meagashira 14e, making his Makuuchi debut – none other than Ura. Only time will tell if he can survive in the top division, but many fans (including myself) are hopeful we can finally get a steady digest of Ura’s sumo acrobatics in our video feed. At 14 west, we find the hapless Nishikigi. Nishikigi’s record was worthy of demotion by the “rank velocity” formula, but it was necessary to round out Maegashira ranks, so being slightly less damaged than some of the others, I have him staying.

Also up from Juryo, Kyokushuho re-joins the top division, after spending Hatsu in Juryo. Also at Maegashira 15 is Chiyoo, who was chosen by coin toss from the 3 demotable Kokonoe wrestlers.

if there is a need for a single Maegashira 16 to even out Makuuchi, Tachiai predicts Chiyotairyu survive demotion back to Juryo in order to balance the banzuke. This will come down to how many of the injured rikishi actually state they will be able to compete, and may be decided at the last minute.

That’s Bruce’s guess for Haru 2017. As always, please feel free to post your ideas too!

Hatsu Day 14 Summary – The New Talent Continues to Excel

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Sumo’s Bright Future On Display

The second to last day of the January tournament turned in several thrilling matches, as low ranked Maegashira paired off against senior Sekitori to test their potential at future higher ranks. In general the new talent gave a very good showing, and in some cases surprised their senior opponents.

First there were visitors from Juryo today in the upper division, starting with Ura. Clearly Ura liked his first taste of Kensho, and was looking for more. Sadanoumi had a straight ahead approach, but a match with Ura requires improvisation. Juryo Daieisho also showed a great deal of poise and balance in his win over Takakeisho, having him his make-koshi (ouch!). The battle looked all Takakeisho until Daieisho executed a stunning thrust / throw at the tawara.

Ishiura’s dirty henka over Osunaarashi was demeaning, and Osunaarashi’s icy glare post match told the whole story. It was not like Osunaarashi had the strength in his lower body to offer much of a challenge. This was purely an insult. Chiyoo looked very good handing Kotoyuki his make-koshi, and survived a lot of really well place thrusts from Kotoyuki. Chiyoo eventually got a belt hold and gave Kotoyuki a nice hug-n-chug to exit him from the ring.

Takekaze displayed yet another fantastic, crowd pleasing Judo style throw in his win over Chiyootori, who sadly is now make-koshi and may be headed back to Juryo. Kaisei seems to have finally remembered his sumo, and will possibly save himself from further demotion. It does beg the question of why it seems to take him so many bouts in a tournament to get warmed up. His limited box of moves is “I am enormous and weight more than a side of beef”, so it limits him.

Mitakeumi gets to double digit wins in his blistering match against Hokutofuji, who is certainly fighting strong this basho. Keep an eye on Hokutofuji, as he has yet to turn in a losing record in his sumo career. Much as I worried, Takayasu was surprised by Sokokurai, who executed a fantastic move at the tawara that seems to have embarrassed Takayasu. This should be a lesson to the joi – don’t underestimate Sokokurai.

I felt a bit sorry for Ichinojo taking on Kisenosato. Here is a Maegashira 13 facing the dai-Ozeki, and clearly he is as nervous as can be. After a false start, you can clearly see his composure crumple and drift away. On the second attempt, Kisenosato easily escorts him out. If Ichinojo can stay healthy, and stay at this weight or lower, he has potential. But I fear he may end up like Terunofuji, where his body fails him after a few years. Ikioi picked up his kachi-koshi against poor Kotoshogiku who now carries a double-digit loss, and has nothing left.

Lastly, once again, Takanoiwa defeated Yokozuna Hakuho convincingly. The Yokozuna was driven back, raised up and Takanoiwa applied a series of hip-pumps to push Hakuho out. It was a shocking upset, and re-awakens concerns over Hakuho’s post-surgery strength and endurance.