That became very clear last week as the Japanese outfielder catapulted into the record books, securing his 10th consecutive 200-hit campaign, a new Major League record. In the process of setting that mark, Ichiro earned honors as Bank of America Player of the Week for the American League, joining the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez, the National League winner.
Ichiro notched a hit in every game last week, including four games in which he tallied multiple hits. He kicked off the week with a 4-for-4 day against the Blue Jays, his first four-hit day in over a year. Ichiro's day didn't escape the notice of Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston.
"I really believe he hits the ball where he wants to," Gaston said. "He just picks a spot. If there's nobody there, he'll hit it there. That's pretty amazing. He's a pretty amazing player."
The 10-year league veteran has never finished a Major League season with fewer than 200 hits. With his 200th hit against the Blue Jays on Sept. 23, Ichiro broke Ty Cobb's American League record for most career 200-hit seasons and tied Pete Rose for the Major League mark.
"I think you can imagine how happy I am," Ichiro said through a translator. "I know how tough it is to accomplish 200 hits every season, and it's been another tough one this year, so that's how happy I am inside."
Ichiro, who has tallied over 2,200 career hits in the Majors to go with 1,278 more in Japan, doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon, even as his 37th birthday approaches.
"When you look at my rookie year, no one expected me to have 200-plus hits," Ichiro said. "I think if I [had been] at .260 or .270 with 180 hits, [everyone] would have said, 'Good job.' Now being in my shoes, I have to accomplish this. Because if I don't, people will say, 'How come you're not hitting anymore?'"
Pirates rookie Pedro Alvarez may not be putting up the eye-popping numbers that Ichiro posted his first year in the league, but the third baseman has caught the attention of the baseball world over the past week with monster numbers at the plate. His numbers earned him the first Player of the Week Award of his young career.
Alvarez hit .417 over the week, while tallying a Major League-leading 13 RBIs. The Vanderbilt University product has reached base in 14 straight contests entering play on Monday.
More importantly to Alvarez himself, his recent surge at the plate helped spark a five-game win streak for the Pirates as they try to finish with some positive momentum.
"It's important for us to finish strong," Alvarez said. "We can help it carry over to next year and start where we left off."
Continuing to build toward next season is a goal that carries over to his personal performance as well. The rookie has made a strong impression during his first season in the big leagues and doesn't plan to stop here.
"I'm still trying to learn as much as I can for next year," he said. "Then I'll keep learning next year and start off strong."
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.