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Kozaru

Chances of making sekitori, sanyaku, etc.

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I often feel that the guys who hang out in low-mid maegashira don't get much respect for their abilities. I also have seen people refer to a rikishi as a "lifetime maegashira" in a derogatory manner. So I wanted to take a look at what percentage of rikishi will ever make maegashira, and found myself checking out the Doitsubase for new recruits from 1994 to 1996. I recorded the number of new recruits in each basho in those years, and the number that eventually made juryo, maegashira, sanyaku and ozeki. I chose those years because they're relatively recent, but if one of those guys was going to make juryo, they'd almost definitely have done it by now. There might be some exceptions, but the number will be very small compared to the number of new recruits.

Anyway, here is what I found:

- total # of new recruits from 1994-1996 is 447

- number that made juryo is 22, or 4.9%

- number that made maegashira is 13, or 2.9%

- number that made sanyaku is 7, or 1.6%

- number that made ozeki is 2, or 0.5%

I know every year is different, but these can be taken as rough averages, I suppose. So only 1 in 20 new recruits will ever make sekitori, 1 in 35 make maegashira, 1 in 63 make sanyaku, and 1 in 222 make ozeki (the ozeki figure is especially error-prone because of the small numbers involved). Note that these numbers are cumulative, so if a guy made sanyaku, he got counted in the juryo, maegashira and sanyaku categories.

I guess my point is that for a guy to spend a career in maegashira is quite an accomplishment, and they deserve a little more respect for rising that high. The vast majority will never even approach that level, and of those who do make it, some will get only a brief sniff of the division before demotion.

Comments? Anybody have any issues with my results or methods?

Edited by Kozaru

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Comments? Anybody have any issues with my results or methods?

Very interesting. I had heard (several years ago) that only 1 in 10 ozumo rikishi could ever expect to make sekitori, but your figures suggest it is an over-estimate.

If you would like 'criticism', then perhaps your sample is too small. The data is available for many, many more relevant years. Perhaps expand the sample size?

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The data is available for many, many more relevant years. Perhaps expand the sample size?

I might do that. But if I do, or if anybody else does it for me (*wink*), we should work backwards from 1994, as opposed to forwards from 1996. The later we choose our years, the more chance we have of missing a couple of late-bloomers. The vast majority of the rikishi in my study were already retired, so the numbers are pretty solid (unless I had some massive lapse of intellect).

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Since 1934 (complete banzuke available) there were 8961 rikishi who have their career completed.

105 (1.1%) didn't get out of Shinjo/Mae-zumo.

1209 (13.5%) had a career high in Jonokuchi.

3004 (33.5%) had a career high in Jonidan. That is, almost half of all rikishi (48.2%) never get out of the bottom two divisions.

2182 (24.3%) had a career high in Sandanme. That is, only 27.5% of all rikishi get into the top three divisions.

1711 (19.1%) had a career high in Makushita. That is, 91.6% of all rikishi stay toriteki, and only 8.4% make it to sekitori.

299 (3.3%) had a career high in Juryo. That is, exactly 5% get into the top division.

257 (2.9%) had a career high as Maegashira.

63 (0.8%) had a career high as Komusubi.

73 (0.9%) had a career high as Sekiwake.

29 (0.3%) had a career high as Ozeki.

29 (0.3%) had a career high as Yokozuna.

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Good work, thanks! Seems that 1994-1996 was a bit below average for sekitori production. Still, the numbers weren't that far off, and my original point can still stand.

I honestly expected a much higher number to make it to juryo for at least one basho, so the results were surprising. Seems that a career in sumo is not a very good gamble for a young person. You've really gotta want to do it.

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People who play down a perennial Juryo-ian who has stints in the top flight, a football player who spends a decade or more for an average team and don't won any major trophies or a tennis player who peaks at 50# in the world and so on forget how hard it is to stand out in a field, no matter which one, and the effort it takes to last. Likewise, they do not take into account that these "mediocre" athletes are being such at the tip of the iceberg, and that 95% or even more we will never see...

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Thanks. I did search, I swear. Couldn't find the right keywords. I tried "chance rikishi juryo", "new rikishi maegashira", etc., but no matches.

No problem. I probably couldn't have found it by keyword either, I just remembered who the thread-starting member was. (BTW, if you're looking for multiple keywords you have to put "and" between them, or it will be treated as a single phrase. Do note that it has to be "and", not "AND" or "And" or any other way...)

Anyway, I pretty much agree with everything shumitto wrote. I've read anecdotes by people who happen to be playing baseball or softball in recreational leagues with guys who once played in high-quality college conferences and/or professionally in the low-level minors - and of course, it usually turns out that even players who, performance-wise, were years away from ever reaching the major leagues are still insanely talented compared to the average joe.

Edited by Asashosakari

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I was wondering whether it would be possible to split the stats into three....

1) Foreigners. (I would guess that your chances greatly improve of reaching the top two divisions, if you are foreign. 5 of the top ten and 10 of the top twenty are currently 'foreign' - including Kyokutenho).

2) Rikishi starting at ms15. Again (partly because of their amateur pedigree, but also because of their initial starting rank), I would imagine that this group of rikishi has much greater chances of reaching the top two divisions.

3) All the rest. I.e. Japanese born who start in Jonokuchi. I think that once the figures for foreigners and ms15ers are removed, the figures for these poor plebs will look even more dismal.

The stats (for the 3rd case) would need to be taken after the ms15 rule was first introduced, and after foreigners had made some significant forays into Ozumo (perhaps from Konishiki's starting basho?), otherwise the stats would be 'drowned' by the many previous years.

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2) Rikishi starting at ms15. Again (partly because of their amateur pedigree, but also because of their initial starting rank), I would imagine that this group of rikishi has much greater chances of reaching the top two divisions.

I've written about the tsukedashi status for Sumo Fan Magazine and there have been discussions here about it as well. The ms15td came in in 2001 for those that win one of the four select tournaments (and let's not forget the ms10 provision as well). Prior to that there was a much wider tsukedashi status available for performances of reaching the semifinals or last eight (or whatever) in a group of amateur tournaments. Tsukedashi at that time was at ms60, so I guess the thinking was being able to take in some quality amateur rikishi and see if they sink or swim, rather than the very elite and promoting them higher. A number came in this way in the 90s due to solid careers at college level, in particular Nichidai guys such as Hayateumi, Dejima and Kotomitsuki.

Edited by Sasanishiki

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Since 1934 (complete banzuke available) there were 8961 rikishi who have their career completed.

105 (1.1%) didn't get out of Shinjo/Mae-zumo.

1209 (13.5%) had a career high in Jonokuchi.

3004 (33.5%) had a career high in Jonidan. That is, almost half of all rikishi (48.2%) never get out of the bottom two divisions.

2182 (24.3%) had a career high in Sandanme. That is, only 27.5% of all rikishi get into the top three divisions.

1711 (19.1%) had a career high in Makushita. That is, 91.6% of all rikishi stay toriteki, and only 8.4% make it to sekitori.

299 (3.3%) had a career high in Juryo. That is, exactly 5% get into the top division.

257 (2.9%) had a career high as Maegashira.

63 (0.8%) had a career high as Komusubi.

73 (0.9%) had a career high as Sekiwake.

29 (0.3%) had a career high as Ozeki.

29 (0.3%) had a career high as Yokozuna.

Excellent job! Few comments below.

If we sum sanyaku (Komosubi to Yokozuna) using your numbers:

194 (2.2%) had a career high in sanyaku

The number is surprisingly close to Maegashira which means sanyaku is not that distinctive "division" as it seems.

Almost half (43%) of Makuuchi rikishi end with sanyaku career high. I would expect this number to be lower.

The conclusion here is "once in Makuuchi there's 43% chance to go above M1".

Another interesting thing is there are more rikishi who end with Sekiwake career high than with Komusubi:

73 (0.9%) vs 63 (0.8%) That's the only point with reverse trend within the given numbers.

There are probably other similar break points at certain levels in across all ranks, but that would require analyzing all ranks separately.

There is one big break point however and it's between Juryo and Makuuchi:

299 (3.3%) had a career high in Juryo

451 (5.0%) had a career high in Makuuchi

The main conclusion is:

It's relatively easy to reach Makushita (19.1% do it) and then crosing the border to Juryo is much more difficult

8.4% make it to sekitori as Randomitsuki says.

Now when I see these numbers the big difference between sekitori and non-sekitori status makes much more sense. It's another question why do I need numbers to realize that (I am not worthy...)

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There is one big break point however and it's between Juryo and Makuuchi:

299 (3.3%) had a career high in Juryo

451 (5.0%) had a career high in Makuuchi

The relative difference can be explained by the sizes of the two divisions. Juryo - 28, Makuuchi - 42. In fact, the percentages are relatively proportional to the sizes for all divisions.

Edited by Sokkenaiyama

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Another interesting thing is there are more rikishi who end with Sekiwake career high than with Komusubi:

73 (0.9%) vs 63 (0.8%) That's the only point with reverse trend within the given numbers.

I find that not surprising at all. To make it to Komusubi you have to hit the numbers exactly, for Sekiwake you have to do either that or better.

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I find that not surprising at all. To make it to Komusubi you have to hit the numbers exactly, for Sekiwake you have to do either that or better.

Not quite....

Some rikishi make komusubi through a lot of banzuke luck (i.e. without getting the numbers). Fewer rikishi make it to sekiwake through banzuke luck. Plus some rikishi are denied a sekiwake slot despite having the numbers due to bad banzuke luck.

I'd say that 2 out of 3 cases that if you are good enough to be komusubi, you are probably good enough to get to sekiwake too.

No doubt if someone did a thorough check of Doitsubase, they'd be able to find the stats to prove me wrong (I am not worthy...)

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Let me rephrase: The category of former Sekiwake encloses both guys good enough to hold the rank for 10+ basho (while never good enough to be Ozeki) and guys who hit the rank just once or twice only to fall back to healthier regions. Rikishi peaking at Komusubi are, on the other hand, one hit wonders. Therefore, it seems logical to me that the second group may be smaller, even if it is technically a little bit more difficult to reach Sekiwake in the first place.

A cursory look at the lists at Sumo Reference is supporting my point. Former Komusubi with 4 or more basho at the rank are very rare. The more freakish exceptions were in the Stone Age.

I also cannot quite grasp your banzuke luck reasoning. I think it is quite possible to miss Komusubi, too, for that reason (Homasho til now).

Without having the motivation to check this myself, I predict that the group(s) of people peaking at M1, M2, or M3, respectively, should be about as big as the former Komusubi bunch. Reaching top 15, falling back for good.

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Without having the motivation to check this myself, I predict that the group(s) of people peaking at M1, M2, or M3, respectively, should be about as big as the former Komusubi bunch. Reaching top 15, falling back for good.

Not quite so (as I quickly assumed from the maegashira/komusubi percentages above). From 1950 until now, we had 70 career high komusubi compared with 44 at M1, 28 at M2, 17 at M3 and typically between 10 and 15 on the other ranks (M7 freakishly has only 4 members, and Mokonami still can get higher).

I think the reason for that indeed is the banzuke luck argument. There often are holes in the banzuke opening up in high maegashira where rikishi jump in due to good banzuke luck, and apparently the ceiling for that is at komusubi. The problem with the sekiwake rank is the great barrier to become ozeki, so many rikishi get stuck there, resulting in more sekiwake than komusubi.

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