Impossible to predict what will happen. Reconversion from a reliever to a starter has happened a few times in the past, but I don’t think it’s ever happened with a pitcher as old and as accomplished as Smoltz.
Smoltz is 55th on the career saves list. Of the pitchers ahead of him, reconversion projects were attempted on Randy Myers, Rick Aguilera, Goose Gossage, Dave Righetti, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Danny Graves. The only one of these to be successful was Wilhelm, but for any number of reasons that doesn’t seem comparable. On the other hand, none of these guys had the record of being a long-term successful starter that Smoltz has. Aguilera had been a starter about ten years before, as a young pitcher, and had been average. Righetti had about two and a half years of being a fairly successful starter, but that too had been nearly a decade before his reconversion, and he hadn’t been pitching well as a reliever. The rest were career relievers, often from their minor league days, who had fallen on hard times and were trying to find a way to help. That’s what most of these attempts had in common — they were trying to get something out of a player in decline. John is old, but there was little sign of decline last season. He’s only five years removed from being a good starting pitcher.
I think that if John stays healthy, he will pitch well, if not be as dominant as he’d been as a reliever. It’s suspected that the Braves will try the Pedro Martinez usage pattern with Smoltz, limiting to six innings/100 pitches, maybe getting him more long rest. If Hudson is healthy, that may be possible, because he can be a workhorse. I don’t know how Smoltz will take that, because he’s thrown a lot of innings in his career and is used to at least getting close to finishing what he started. (He’s tenth among active pitchers in complete games.) He can be stubborn sometimes, but I think they need to keep some firm limits on him, and not just early in the season but throughout it.
Smoltz is all over franchise leaderboard, as you’d expect. Seventh in franchise history in wins with 163; Burdette is ahead of him with 179. Third in appearances to Niekro and Spahn, first in saves, fifth in innings (far behind Glavine in fourth). Third in strikeouts, and if he lasts the season will pass Spahn for second. He’d probably have to pitch at least three seasons to catch Knucksie at the top. Sixth in starts, will pass Maddux for fifth with his third. He’s listed in most of the negative counting stats as well, no surprise for a guy who’s pitched as much as he has.