Successful investing requires us to think independently and stick to our convictions.

That's difficult enough with stocks that are popular -- after all, in the stock market, there's a seller for every buyer. But it gets even tougher with stocks that can't find good press or bullish investors anywhere. Of course, defying popular opinion has led many contrarian investors to great returns.

In that spirit, I've headed to Motley Fool CAPS to dig up some unloved stocks that have delivered big gains to shareholders over the past month. Our community of investors has put these companies on the bottom rungs of the CAPS rating scale:

Stock

30-day return

One-year return

Current CAPS Rating

AtheroGenics (Nasdaq: AGIX)

109.7%

(91.0%)

*

Big Lots (NYSE: BIG)

31.6%

(11.9%)

*

Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM)

14.0%

36.8%

*

Delta Petroleum

13.8%

36.8%

**

The New York Times (NYSE: NYT)

12.2%

(18.1%)

*

Seabridge Gold (AMEX: SA)

11.4%

77.5%

**

Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI)

10.9%

(20.9%)

**

Data provided by Motley Fool CAPS as of March 5.

Now, given CAPS' knack for accurately gauging winners and losers, I'm not recommending that you run out and buy these stocks! An index set up to short CAPS' least-liked stocks has outperformed nearly 98% of all other CAPS players. That said, CAPS players have been overly negative on high-performing stocks such as DryShips. Are any of the stocks in the table above the same sort of undercover rockets?

Providing the pep
You don't have to look too far to find out why Salesforce's stock has been flying. As fellow Fool Rich Smith noted in his coverage of the company's fourth-quarter earnings, the combination of a great quarter and buyout rumors was enough to provide some nice combustion behind the stock. The company not only booked 50% more sales than the prior year, but it handily beat Wall Street's expectations.

And even if Rich doesn't think the buyout rumors are particularly believable, the prospect of Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) or SAP swooping in on little ol' Salesforce certainly added to investors' excitement.

The report isn't likely to quell the conflict between the bulls and bears on either side of the Salesforce debate. Bulls are certain to use this as ammo to back up their position that this is an up-and-coming industry leader that still has plenty of headroom. Bears, on the other hand, won't find much evidence to convince them that the valuation and growth expectations for Salesforce aren't out of whack.

Combing CAPS
The CAPS community has largely aligned itself on the "can you believe this valuation?" side of the Salesforce debate. Even though many admit that this is a quality company, collectively they balk at the astronomically high price-to-earnings ratio that Salesforce carries. Salesforce bear Gtrinvestor commented:

Forward multiple of approx. 186, on a company that already sports a $6 B market cap? Unless CRM stands for "Cancer Remedy Medicine" I'm not sure in this coming recession this momentum stock will hold up ... especially once the other big boys start to attack.

Some investors on CAPS are fighting the tide though. Last December, CAPS All-Star hey4ndr3w gave Salesforce a thumbs-up and said:

Most blue-ribbon stocks in the Software as a Service category ... are trading below their 52-week highs, and the market is somewhat soft at the moment. If you are looking for things to buy, SaaS is a great category to load up on. I am pretty sure that the growth in these companies will continue over the next 3-5 years. What's more, we should see some very interesting M&A activity in 2008.

So what's your take? Is there good reason to get more bullish on Salesforce right now? Head over to CAPS and let the community of more than 85,000 Fools know what you think. And while you're there start your research on any of the stocks listed above or any of the other 5,400 stocks on CAPS.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer didn't see these particular moves coming, but he's rarely surprised at Mr. Market's tomfoolery. You can check out Matt's CAPS portfolio here, or visit his blog. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned.

The Fool's disclosure policy is never going to give you up, it's never going to let you down, and it's definitely never going to run around and desert you.