• Fantasy Basho

Evaluating the Wild Predictions for Aki 2022

Before the Aki basho, I decided to put down a guess of win totals for all 42 makuuchi rikishi. Now that the basho is done, and we know it was Tamawashi's second yusho, a Maegashira-dominated basho, and a disaster for most of the top-ranked men, we shouldn't let that be. A wild prediction should be evaluated. Here is how that went.

The following chart shows the rikishi, their predicted win total, the actual win total, and the difference between the two. I sorted this by the biggest difference between my predictions and actual performance. Honestly, it could have been much worse.

The biggest misses were: Terunofuji, who pulled out with injuries; Tobizaru, who had double-digit wins and a kinboshi at a career high rank; and Tamawashi, who pulled a surprise Maegashira yusho as the oldest man to win in the modern era. Those three misses don't feel like things that would have been easy to nail. The Yokozuna, in particular, seemed like he could have pushed through the pain like he had before. Yet his injuries were worse than even he seemed to think they were.

More interesting are the quintet of rikishi whose win total I nailed. Endo, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Chiyotairyu, and Terutsuyoshi performed like I thought they would on September 10th. (So did Abi, but the news was already out he would be missing for Aki.) This is a group of veteran rikishi. Terutsuyoshi is the youngest, at 27, and has been in Makuuchi for more than three years. Essentially, they are guys who had been hanging on to their ranks, without surprising anyone recently. That's who I could predict.

Actually, the overall record isn't terrible. The average is just less than one win off for each rikishi. In sumo, that can be one misstep in a basho. Also, 15 predictions were actually one win or less away from the actual record. Another 16 were two wins off. Two wins can make a huge difference. Two more wins would have given Takakeisho a yusho shot, while it would have given Okinoumi, Oho, and Kotoshoho kachi-koshi. But the general shape of who would have been good or bad was there.

The less over the top surprises to me were Mitakeumi, Wakatakakage, Nishikigi, Wakamotoharu, and Onosho. I said Mitakeumi and Onosho would be much better, while Nishikigi joins the Onami brothers as men I thought would be much worse. That kind of balance is apparent throughout this evaluation of the predictions.

This gets to one of the basic facts about sumo: it's a zero sumo game. If one rikishi wins, then another must lose. If one rikishi gets five more wins than expected, those extra losses are put elsewhere on the banzuke. For future predictions, I hope I do better. But then again, surprise yusho are part of what makes sumo fun. I'll keep doing these predictions and evaluations of those predictions, but part of me hopes I'll keep having some misses.

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