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Kyushu 2023 Power Rankings

We're coming down to it, with sumo starting in a few days! Sign up now on Fantasizr for the Aki basho.


It is that time again: Power Rankings. These are a snapshot of what the sumo world looks like coming into a basho. They are not wonderfully predictive, thanks to injuries, sumo's zero sum nature, and that predicting sumo is a fool's errand. (Check back on Saturday for when I try that!) This is an attempt at being descriptive about the state of Makuuchi before Kyushu 2023.

You don't need a blunt instrument to know the state of Makuuchi right now is a little weird. We have one Yokozuna, and his availability is a giant question mark. There are three Ozeki, two of whom only got the promotion in the last few months. The third is coming off a yusho, which sounds exciting. But Takakeisho's 11 win playoff victory was lackluster and capped by a debatable henka. Why is it debatable? Because a henka should probably indicate more dedicated movement. Takakeisho was sort of sideways against a young bull in Atamifuji, and he took advantage.

That's what we're coming into Kyushu with. In the Aki Power Rankings, Takakeisho was in the middle of the pack after not competing in July. Atamifuji, his playoff opponent, was 11th from the bottom. That's because he had just been promoted from Juryo, and his previous Makuuchi experience was one disastrous basho a year before. The current state of sumo's top division is that an Ozeki with a mixed recent track record can beat a Juryo promotee in a disappointing playoff match for the yusho.

If someone came back to you from December 1st to say that Tomokaze surprised everyone and faced Terunofuji in a playoff, how shocked would you be? 2023 has repeatedly seen surprise yusho contenders in a number of ways. We've had extreme youth (Hakuoho and Atamifuji) and rejuvenated veterans (Takayasu, Nishikigi, and Hokutofuji) with yusho hopes in the dying days. Hoshoryu, Kirishima, Daieisho, Wakamotoharu, and Kotonowaka are the prime veterans who are always nearby. That means the absolute rankings are not the best thing to look at. The overall numbers have a few key clusters.

The Power Rankings for Kyushu are below. Below them are notes on the rankings. Here is the formula used to create them:

  • Take the Fantasy Basho score (2 points for each win, 1 point for a kinboshi, 1 point for a Special Prize) for a tournament, adding 10 points for a yusho and 5 for a Jun-Yusho.

  • Add up the last five scores with a modifier. Multiply the most recent basho score by 5, the next most recent by 4, the third most recent by 3, the fourth most recent by 2, and the fifth most recent by 1.

  • For basho in Juryo, take the win total for that tournament and multiply by 1.5. For basho below Juryo, take the win total from that basho.

  • Add a bonus score, which is the budget number for that rikishi in the upcoming basho.

  • Hoshoryu, Kirishima, Daieisho, Wakamotoharu, and Asanoyama were the top five in the Aki Power Rankings. They hold that here as well, except Wakamotoharu and Asanoyama have switched spots. Thanks to the uncertainties mentioned above, these shouldn't be thought of as "Title Favorites." They are, however, the most consistent rikishi throughout the year.

  • Hoshoryu is atop the Power Rankings not through dominating, but through being an Ozeki who has not had a significant slip up in 2023. His last losing record was in November of 2021. Since then, he's won his first yusho and made it to Ozeki. The Power Rankings say he is the best rikishi in Makuuchi, and the scary thing is he has serious room for growth.

  • Atamifuji's Jun-Yusho places him just on the cusp of the top pack. He was also well ahead of his fellow promotees before Aki. Getting 11 wins, a Jun-Yusho, and Special Prizes means he has proven he can compete with anyone. Expect some growing pains, because a straight shot to the top is rare. But this is a future star, who might be growing into a current star.

  • The Juryo promotion sextet (an idea that is still wild), is clustered towards the bottom. That would suggest they are all in a similar position, but note Tomokaze being above everyone else. He is coming off 11 and 10 win performances in Juryo, plus he has serious Makuuchi experience. Without his horrific injury a few years ago, he'd be a long-serving Maegashira mainstay at a minimum.

  • Below the Juryo promotion group are Tamawashi, Nishikifuji, and Terunofuji. Tamawashi is now 39, and his time may finally be running out. At Maegashira #12, he has some room before a Juryo demotion, but continuing poor performances could endanger his Makuuchi career. Nishikifuji is a young rikishi who should be in his prime, but only avoided a drop last time because many other rikishi performed much worse. Terunofuji, of course, is the only rikishi with the benefit of being able to sit out basho without getting demoted. The safest assumption is he can't mount the dohyo, but we should all hope he upends this ranking.

We're just a matter of days from live sumo. It should definitely be interesting.

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