Chase Utley was a defensive genius whose ability to always be in the right place wasn't appreciated. He wasn't quick, and he didn't have the surest hands but he was always positioned incredible well. He was shifting on every player, before that was something that was being discussed, I'm biased but it seemed obvious to me, even in an era before value stats were used effectively. There may been more talented defenders, but Utley was the best, or among the very best for a huge chunk of his career.
This article explains it better and in more detail than I could.
I looked up his defensive metrics compared to the eventual GG winner a few years back. We know defensive metrics aren't perfect - so I pulled defensive metrics from various sources to get an idea. I don't know if defensive metrics change retroactively the way WAR can sometimes do if the formula is updated so as a heads up I pulled these numbers in 2 years ago and haven't checke do see if they are the same today.
Starting with Fangraphs Defensive rating
2005 - Luis Castillo wins with 12.1 to Utleys 19.1
2006 - Orlando Hudson wins with -3.0 to Utleys 9.9
2007 Orlando Hudson wins with -0.2 to Utleys 14.4
2008 Brandon Phillips wins with 14.3 to Utleys 21.8
2009 Orlando Hudson wins with -0.7 to Utleys 13.4
2010 Brandon Phillips wins with 10.4 to Utleys 12.1
2011 Brandon Phillips wins with 13.4 to Utleys 10.7
2005 - Luis Castillo wins with 7 to Utleys 20
2006 - Orlando Hudson wins with 13 to Utleys 18
2007 Orlando Hudson wins with 18 to Utleys 18
2008 Brandon Phillips wins with 13 to Utleys 30
2009 Orlando Hudson wins with 6 to Utleys 12
2010 Brandon Phillips wins with 11 to Utleys 17
2011 Brandon Phillips wins with 7 to Utleys 7
Baseball Reference dWAR
2005 - Luis Castillo wins with 1.0 to Utleys 2.7
2006 - Orlando Hudson wins with 1.7 to Utleys 2.1
2007 Orlando Hudson wins with 2.0 to Utleys 2.1
2008 Brandon Phillips wins with 1.6 to Utleys 3.5
2009 Orlando Hudson wins with 1.0 to Utleys 1.6
2010 Brandon Phillips wins with 1.4 to Utleys 2.1
2011 Brandon Phillips wins with 1.2 to Utleys 1.1
2005 - Luis Castillo wins with 6.3 to Utleys 2.7
2006 - Orlando Hudson wins with 4.9 to Utleys -3.1
2007 Orlando Hudson wins with -0.8 to Utleys 7.2
2008 Brandon Phillips wins with 2.6 to Utleys -1.5
2009 Orlando Hudson wins with 5.7 to Utleys 8.3
2010 Brandon Phillips wins with 6.1 to Utleys 11.2
2011 Brandon Phillips wins with -7.6 to Utleys 6.5
Thats four different ratings by three different publications. BP seems to be the outlier, and they have some large fluctuation Year to Year for each of these players, and especially compared to the other publications. If I ignore BP for the moment the other three ratings give Utley the lead or the tie for the lead in 19 out of the 21 possible ratings. The two he doesn't come out on top are 2011 to Phillips, and when you consider Utley only played in 103 games compared to Phillips 150 then you have to say he is doing pretty well especially as the ratings are all pretty close. He actually would rate higher on a per game basis, but if you aren't on the field you can't help your team win so I would be inclined to give the 2011 GG to Phillips. The rest? Utley should have won all of them. Thats SIX gold gloves he should have won.
Lets go back to BP for a moment, Utley rates higher than the eventual winner in 4 of the 7 seasons, including by a massive margin in 2011, but I've already conceded award to Phillips. If I only give Utley the Gold Glove in years in which he is either the unanimous leader, or tied for the lead across these four ratings then he still wins THREE gold gloves.
Its possible that there are other candidates who should be considered for these awards, but the fact that Utley never won a gold glove devalues the award in my mind. Especially when you look at Derek Jeter winning five despite never being a good defensive player, it is very clear that Gold Gloves were given out based on reputation and fame.
I fell in love with baseball watching Chase Utley throw himself around the infield putting his body on the line. I didn't know anything about the game at the time, but I could tell he was special right away. Phillies phans loved him for the same reason, but he didn't make the flashy plays so he didn't get the hardware.
Is it fair that when it comes to hall of fame voting the lack of understanding of his defensive value in 2005-2011 is held against him today? Hes probably a marginal case based on his injuries and late start, but the fact that managers and coaches (honestly I thought it was journalists) didn't vote for him at the time should not be the reason he doesn't get in.